Acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for osteoarthritis in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2013 Jul;52(4):475-80.


Acupuncture is an ancient practice that is currently used to treat disorders ranging from osteoarthritis to cardiomyopathy. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles into defined acupuncture points that stimulate physiologic processes through neural signaling. Numerous scientific studies have proven the benefits of acupuncture, and given this scientific support, we hypothesized that acupuncture could benefit the nonhuman primates at our facility. As our chimpanzee colony ages, we are observing an increase in osteoarthritis and have focused our initial acupuncture treatments on this condition. We successfully trained 3 chimpanzees, by using positive-reinforcement training techniques, to voluntarily participate in acupuncture treatments for stifle osteoarthritis. We used 3 acupuncture points that correlate with alleviation of stifle pain and inflammation in humans. A mobility scoring system was used to assess improvements in mobility as a function of the acupuncture treatments. The 2 chimpanzees with the most severe osteoarthritis showed significant improvement in mobility after acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture therapy not only resulted in improved mobility, but the training sessions also served as enrichment for the animals, as demonstrated by their voluntary participation in the training and treatment sessions. Acupuncture is an innovative treatment technique that our data show to be safe, inexpensive, and, most importantly, effective for chimpanzees.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture
  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Animals
  • Ape Diseases / therapy*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy
  • Osteoarthritis / veterinary*
  • Pain Management
  • Pan troglodytes*