Sheldon is a good acupuncture patient. He stands quietly while Dr. Carol inserts the needles, letting her insert them deeply (Freedom can’t take that — when he gets acupuncture the needles are only inserted a small amount). Sheldon has absolutely huge releases in the shape of yawns, neck stretches and shakes, and his muscles twitch like crazy.
It’s hard to believe that the needles shown to the left were straight when the were inserted. Believe me, they were. It’s also hard to believe that just the twitching of his muscles could cause this Interestingly, it was the needles in his back and loin area that were bent the most after treatment.
In fact, Carol removed them first because his body was vibrating from them.
According to Carol, what Sheldon experienced is called the De-Qi response (the arrival of vital energy), which occurs when the Meridian transmits the acupuncture stimulation from one point to other parts of the body. It’s described as the oscillation of the meridians — which is a very apt description when you see it happen.
In veterinary medicine it manifests as muscle twitching and flinching; humans typically report heaviness, tingling, soreness or pressure.
My guess is that Sheldon felt tingling. We could certainly see it! You could see the arrival of that energy for sure — it was a marked difference from most of the acupuncture treatment that I’ve witnessed where the result is usually relaxation. For Sheldon, that came after we removed those four needles.
Sheldon is getting acupuncture to help him release some of the stiffness and tension that he holds in his body. As an ex-racehorse, he’s a bit one sided and I can feel the stiffness in him during massages. The acupuncture gets a bigger response and hopefully a bigger and longer lasting release. He has stiffness and tension up near his poll, around his SI joint, and in his hamstrings. They are consistent with a horse who is learning to use his body differently as we ask him to rebalance and learn to step under himself and lighten his forehand. One of the big challenges with restarting an OTTB is that they can become quite sore as their body changes. Acupuncture is a great way to treat this.
I’ve also found that after acupuncture treatment, my horses are more receptive to acupressure and massage. It makes it easier for me to help them relax.