1986 - Volume #10, Issue #6, Page #23[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Painkiller for HorsesTying a knot around a horse's nose and pulling it tight is an effective way to keep an animal quiet for minor veterinary operations. Many horse owners have known for years that the method has a tranquillizing effect closely related to that of Chinese acupuncture. Researchers in the Netherlands recently discovered that "twitching" the horse's nose in this manner causes the horse's brain cells to produce morphine-like substances.
Until recently the tranquillizing effect has been explained as a redirection of pain. In other words, like kicking a stone wall to get rid of a headache. But researchers noted that horses don't behave as if they're suffering from the twitch. They're not as sensitive to pain, they look dreamy and they take very little notice of their environment. In short, they look drugged. There is now evidence that the animal is producing minuscule amounts of its own painkiller.
This explanation of the effect of nose twitching on horses is the same explanation for the effect of acupuncture on humans. Pain caused by needles has been found to release morphine-like chemicals in the blood and in brain fluid.
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