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Veterinary Chiropractic is the science, art and philosophy concerned with good health through restoration and maintenance of a properly functioning neuromusculoskeletal system. This is accomplished by a trained specialist using their hands to apply a high velocity (i.e. quick) but low amplitude force (i.e. short movement) to a specific joint In the spine or limbs.
It is important to understand that while we are working on bones in chiropractic the big benefits of chiropractic come from the changes we create in the nervous system. We are essentially using the bones as levers to communicate with the nervous system. The changes in the nervous system are what bring about the profound effects that can be seen with chiropractic adjustments.
Chiropractic is most commonly used to help address neck and back pain in horses but can be helpful in a wide variety of situations. Since chiropractic is improving functioning and communication of the nervous system it can have benefits beyond pain management such as improved gastrointestinal motility, improved blood flow and improved athletic performance.
It is important to note that chiropractic is most effective as a preventative measure. That is to say this therapy is not limited to an injured or sick pet. Healthy and athletic animals are ideal candidates for chiropractic examination and care. Maintaining proper structural alignment permits optimal function of the muscles, nerves and tissues supporting the joints, resulting in improved movement, stance and flexibility. This alignment promotes increased agility, endurance, and overall performance.
We at Blue Oak Veterinary in a balanced, holistic approach to veterinary care. This means that a combination of traditional “western” medicine as well as integrative treatment modalities (chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, etc) produce the best results. Therefore it is important to stress that chiropractic is not meant to replace traditional veterinary care. It is not an alternative treatment, but rather an integrative method that when used in conjunction with good traditional veterinary care, will produce optimal performance and years of happy, healthy living. It is an effective and valuable means of restoring and maintaining their strength, vigor and well-being.
The single most common misconception about chiropractic revolves around a bone or joint being “out of place” or “out”. In chiropractic this is known as the “boop” theory (bone out of place = “boop”). This is a bit of a misnomer because when dealing with a chiropractic subluxation the bone is still in its normal range of motion, its just not moving through the full range of motion. If a bone is truly out of joint (known as a medical luxation or subluxation) it is NOT a chiropractic problem and you should seek care from your regular veterinarian immediately. For this reason I prefer to use the term “restricted” - the joint is restricted and not moving through its full range of motion. The chiropractic adjustment is resolving the restriction allowing the joint to return to its full range of motion.
Another common misconception is that you must be very strong to adjust something the size of a horse. With good chiropractic technique the force needed to adjust comes from being very quick and not from using brute force. Even though horses have a very large, thick muscle mass over the spine the vertebral joints are flexible and relatively easy to manipulate with minimal force. If the correct technique is used the ligaments are not adversely affected.
Your horse can be ridden prior to the adjustment but it is best they not be worked hard. The horse should be done working no less than 1 hour to the appointment so that they are fully cooled out and relaxed at the time of the appointment. Please make sure they are reasonably clean (they do not need to be immaculate) and dry.
As with every good medical exam we will start with a discussion of the horses history and any problems/concerns you may have as well as what you may be feeling under tack.
After that we will perform a baseline exam which involves watching the horse walk, palpation of the spine for pain or heat as well as scanning the horse for areas of sensitivity.
The actual chiropractic adjustment takes 15-30 minutes.
Depending on how much history is discussed and the extent of the problems most appointments take 30-60 minutes total.
It is good for them to move around after the adjustment so we encourage that they be turned out or at least be hand walked for 10-15 minutes soon after the adjustment.
After the adjustment your horse should be given approximately 24 hours off with a lighter work (i.e. long and low) for the next 2-3 days gradually bringing them back to their normal work.
This question must be answered on an individual basis for each patient. In most cases, a single treatment is not enough to eliminate the problem. Most animals show significant improvement after 1 to 4 treatments 2 to 4 weeks apart. Chronic problems usually take longer to resolve requiring more chiropractic treatment, whereas animals with acute problems often respond more quickly.
Preventative or “maintenance” adjustments depend on the horses problems, work load and performance level but are typically once every 4 to 6 weeks.
The goal of chiropractic treatment is to address neurological dysfunction in the spine and restore mobility. It is then the task of muscles and ligaments to support the spine and maintain this new realigned position.
This process and the role of the chiropractor is similar to that of an orthodontist. The orthodontist applies a brace to the teeth and over a period of time makes regular adjustments and corrections to realign the teeth, so that in time they will maintain their correct position. A chiropractor will also adjust and correct the animal a number of times, until the body accepts the new position of the spine as normal and the muscles and ligaments support and maintain this position.