April’s Story: Battling Chronic Pain with Acupuncture

By: Kate Running, DVM, CVA

April Morris, a 12 year old Weimeraner, was the first patient referred to me by Dr. Nigliazzo for an integrative medicine consultation. April suffered from anxiety, low-grade seizures, and advancing arthritis pain. She couldn’t use her back legs well anymore, especially her right rear leg, which kept her from going on daily walks in the park with Mr. Morris. Even walking around the house was problematic for her due to pain and weakness. Dr. Nigliazzo had diligently cared for her for several years and had exhausted the traditional veterinary options that could provide relief for April. And, despite Dr. Nigliazzo’s very kind and caring demeanor, April did not enjoy her trips to the hospital!  

Mrs. Morris and April came to see me for the first time in May 2010. April tried her best to be a good patient, but her anxiety and chronic pain made her very fearful. At our hospital, we have a special procedures room which is very large and quiet – not often used for most of our daily appointments and emergencies. This is the perfect place to see and treat our integrative patients because it is a different location for them. (On a side note, this room also includes dimmer lighting and music therapy – more about that in a later column!)

This simple change in location was very beneficial for April and she allowed me to place the acupuncture needles during her first visit. Within a few minutes, after placing needles around her head and ears, April relaxed and found a quiet place she liked … under a desk! Because April is a very stubborn girl, I decided to join her under the desk so I could place the rest of the needles (which she calmly allowed). Mrs. Morris was so pleased. She feared that April wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to examine her well, much less place a number of needles all over her body!

A week later, when April returned for another treatment, Mrs. Morris reported that she could already see improvement in April’s ability to get up and walk. She was also excited about April’s overall demeanor, which was much less anxious. At her second visit, April didn’t crawl under the desk, but chose a spot which was much easier for me to place my needles. This time, she relaxed, stopped panting and even appeared to consider taking a nap.

As the weeks progressed, Mrs. Morris told me that April’s anxiety had really diminished, and that after every acupuncture treatment, she would go home and take very deep, long naps. This is often the case with many chronic pain patients, because when their pain is gone, they can finally rest comfortably. I also began injections of Adequan (a drug first developed for race horses with chronic joint pain, which is now approved for use in small animals) to further help with April’s degenerative joint disease. The Adequan injections, along with regular acupuncture treatments, have helped April so much that Mr. Morris reports that she literally pulls him down the street for their daily walks! People in the park who have known April for years have been amazed at her new vitality and freedom of movement.

April continues to see Dr. Nigliazzo for her traditional veterinary care, and she comes for acupuncture with me twice a month. Dr. Nigliazzo and I are utilizing the best of both traditional western and eastern therapies to make a big difference in April’s quality of life – this month she will begin a prescription of Chinese herbal medication in addition to her acupuncture. Mrs. Morris is happy that April can now get in and out of the car by herself (previously, she had to be lifted). She says that April seems to know when it’s time for her acupuncture treatment because she goes to the door to get ready to leave … and gets upset if she has to wait!

Integrating traditional eastern veterinary medical modalities into the extraordinary care that our doctors and staff provide is giving us new and exciting options for helping our patients — and the people who love them! April is definitely reaping the rewards of having two doctors with two separate, but integrated, approaches to health and wellness.

Next month: You’ll meet Sienna Morse, a cute little dachshund who had severe nerve damage, which prevented her from urinating or defecating without the help of her extremely dedicated owners. Her response to acupuncture and integrative physical rehab have given her (and her owners!) a new lease on life.

Click here to learn more about Hulen Hills’ approach to Integrative Medicine.

Tags: , , , , ,