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For thousands of years, the Chinese have used acupuncture as the go-to remedy for virtually every ailment, believing the insertion of fine needles into certain points of the body can relieve pain by resorting the flow of energy in the body.
Acupuncture is now widely used around the world, often as a complementary therapy alongside conventional medicine. Generally it is used only in humans but the recent experience of sickly sea turtles appears to show that the method can also work in the animal kingdom.
More than 400 endangered sea turtles had become stranded on Cape Cop and the shore of southern Massachusetts during an icy blast of wintry weather. The turtles, who are cold-blooded, were suffering from hypothermia and were unable to swim or eat for days, leaving their body floating on the surface of the icy sea before the paralysed creatures were washed ashore.
More than 150 died and vets at the New England Aquarium faced a race against the clock to save the surviving turtles who had pneumonia, inflamed flippers and were malnourished. Conventional treatments such as laser therapy and antibiotics were administered and most of the turtles were soon on the road to recovery.
However, 14 of the tiny creatures did not respond to treatment and at this point acupuncture was considered as a way to alleviate and reduce the inflammation in their front flippers, helping to restore the turtles’ movement and let the creatures recover their appetite. Tiny needles, no bigger than a mosquito, were inserted into the flippers during thrice-weekly therapy sessions to reduce stress, increase blood flow and boost the turtles’ immune system.
Just as with humans, acupuncture has been an effective complementary therapy for the turtles, restoring them to health and allowing them to return to the wild.