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Acupuncture Helps Sea Turtle Recover From Injuries At Baltimore's National Aquarium

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A sea turtle that couldn't open its mouth is finally on the road to improved health after undergoing acupuncture treatment at the National Aquarium.

A juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtle nicknamed Bassoon is exhibiting improved health after receiving acupuncture and other treatments from animal health and rescue teams too, according to aquarium staff. 

Bassoon arrived with 29 other cold-stunned turtles from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in November. He was one of the more critical patients in the group given that he couldn't open his jaw and was unable to eat, staff said.

Cold-stunning is a phenomenon in which sea turtles experience medical issues after extended exposure to cold water.

Cold-stunned turtles don't always eat during their first few weeks in rehabilitation. Aquarium staff  said they began administering IV nutrition for Bassoon so that he could get the nutrients he needed after about a month.

A computed tomography scan showed that Bassoon had myositis of the jaw muscles, staff said.

To treat this ailment, staff gave the turtle anti-inflammatory injections, acupuncture treatment aimed at reducing inflammation, and physical therapy exercises to loosen his jaw muscles.

"While acupuncture isn't commonly performed, we have used this treatment successfully in the past with other reptiles like snakes and lizards," Dr. Aimee Berliner, the director of Animal Health and Welfare at the National Aquarium said. "We're so pleased to see Bassoon's progress and look forward to the day when we can return him to his ocean home."

Bassoon initially received daily acupuncture treatments but within the past few weeks his progress has improved to the point where the acupuncture is no longer necessary, staff said.

Now, he is more alert, can fully open his jaw, and is successfully foraging for his own food, according to aquarium staff.

Although Bassoon's health has greatly improved, he is still receiving treatments for pneumonia and not yet ready to return to the wild. The National Aquarium team is optimistic that he will make a full recovery though, staff said.

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