Acupuncture for Foot Pain

As discussed in previous blogs, treatment of the foot includes treating the whole horse, but in this week’s post I will focus on the hoof and limb specific points. Because the horse’s foot is enclosed within the hard hoof capsule, we cannot needle the foot directly as we can do for non-hoofed animals. Therefore traditional acupuncture treatment for equine foot pain involved needle placement around the coronet.

In addition to these classical points just above the hairline, needles can also be placed along the nerve pathway. If your horse’s feet were ever been blocked for a lameness exam, you might remember where your vet placed the anesthetic to diagnose the location of pain. Anesthetic blocks are done at different levels of the nerve that runs along both sides of the limb in the groove between the suspensory ligament and the flexor tendons. The blood supply to the foot also runs along this path. If you check your horse’s digital pulse, you are familiar with the location of the blood vessels in the fetlock and pastern area.

There is no research on equine limb acupuncture so we don’t know yet if one particular point or set of points is most effective. But anecdotal evidence suggests that needles around the coronet and along the nerve pathways can help horses with foot pain or disease. Needles placed around the foot and up the limb near superficial nerves work at different levels in the body. There is a local effect of increased blood flow directly around the needle. We can’t see changes in skin color through the horse’s hair, but the local effect is easy to see on human skin. Just like after you get a bug bite or other skin scrape, there is increased blood flow that shows up as a red area around the needle.

At the same time as the local effect of increased blood flow happens, a message is sent to the central nervous (spinal cord and brain). The central nervous system receives and responds to all sensory input. The sensory input from an acupuncture needle can dampen pain signals. So if your vet is treating your horse for foot pain, needles may be inserted into any or all of these limb points. And as discussed in last week’s blog, points on the horse’s body will also be used to treat myofascial pain that is commonly associated with foot pain. You can try acupressure on these points. As far as I am aware, there is no research comparing effectiveness of acupressure to acupuncture; but it is certainly safe for you to try acupressure on your own horse.

Lisa Lancaster WDAA Blogger

This photo shows acupuncture needles in coronet points and the palmar digital nerve block point.

Lisa Lancaster WDAA Blogger

This laminitic horse got relief from needles placed into trigger points of the digital flexor muscles.

This horse was being treated for foot pain using the coronet and block points.
Neck and shoulder points give additional sensory input to help normalize posture by relieving muscle spasms.

 

 

Copyright © 2012 ~ Dr. Lisa Lancaster DVM, WDAA Blog Author

 

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