Chiropractic care is an integral part of veterinary medicine. It is a hands-on, insightful tool that assists your veterinarian to evaluate your horse from head to tail. It has allowed veterinarians to provide additional diagnostic and therapeutic options that are not used in western medicine.
A chiropractic examination entails evaluating movement of your horse’s joints, and when decreased movement is recognized, the area is adjusted with minimal force. Dr. Shuster is a 2002 graduate of the Options for Animals College of Animal Chiropractic and she is certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA).
Chiropractic examinations and treatments will help your horse stay aligned resulting in a comfortable, properly moving entity which will ultimately allow your horse to perform at its best. It will decrease potential problems such as resisting collection, not cooperating with the farrier, not taking the proper lead, to decreased injuries such as splints, injured tendons/ligaments, and decreased incidence of lost shoes. For instance, when the horse is properly aligned and moves freely with its optimal range of motion, the incidence of the hind legs reaching and pulling off the front shoes is greatly minimized, if not resolved.
Chiropractic care is another tool in your veterinarian’s toolbox that allows for a more complete and comprehensive exam, which, in many cases, reveals an explanation to your concerns regarding your horse.
Chiropractic — Helpful Information for Your Horse
Chiropractic is defined as:
“... a science of applied neurophysiologic diagnosis based on the theory that health and disease are life processes related to the function of the nervous system. Irritation of the nervous system by mechanical, chemical, or psychic factors is the cause of disease and restoration and maintenance of health depend on normal function of the nervous system. Diagnosis is the identification of these noxious irritants and treatment is their removal by the conservative method." - Dorlands Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 27th Edition
Chiropractic theory: The spinal column houses the spinal cord. The spinal column, a row of vertebrae bones, starts at the base of the head, continues down the neck, back, through the pelvis and ends with the tail. The spinal nerve runs in a channel through the spinal column and is the trunk of the nervous system.
Since the spinal column houses the spinal nerve, it has a great influence on the spinal nerve. If the bones in the spinal column are not aligned appropriately to allow proper movement and support, the spinal nerve will be compromised and not function normally. This is the basis of chiropractic philosophy.
Vertebrae bodies that do not move properly in relationship to each other can cause musculoskeletal issues, such as pain and stiffness. Decreased mobility will occur and this will lead to improper movement and decreased performance. In addition, dysfunction of the spinal cord may cause various medical problems such as colic due to decreased motility of the gut.
Chiropractic goal: The chiropractic goal is to restore proper movement between adjacent vertebrae bodies, reduce pain, and allow the nervous system to function properly.
Chiropractic evaluation and treatment: This entails assessing the motion between two adjacent vertebrae bodies. Where there is decreased movement, an adjustment will be made to restore proper alignment and, thus, proper movement will be obtained. This is done by using a short, rapid and controlled force on a very specific area in the correct angle (direction). Knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, and possible pathology of each segment is essential in order for your veterinarian to appropriately evaluate and treat your horse.
Terminology: A word that is used commonly in the chiropractic world is subluxation. This word has caused a bit of a controversy between the traditional medical world and the chiropractic world.
In the traditional medical world this word can be thought of as “a bone moving out of place." In the chiropractic world, this word takes on a more comprehensive or subtle definition:
“Alteration of alignment, movement, integrity, or physiologic function (or any combination thereof) of motion segment, while the joint surfaces remain in contact.”
- Fundamentals of Chiropractic, Mosby 2003
Medical, behavioral and observational problems that may indicate the need for a chiropractic evaluation and/or treatment:
- Not bending properly
- Resisting collection
- Not taking the “proper” lead
- Not willing to jump (if the horse is normally a jumper)
- Not standing square on all four feet
- Resentment of being brushed or saddled
- Avoiding the bit
- Muscle mass asymmetry
- Not cooperating with the farrier
- Inability to trot in a straight line
Chiropractic care, as other forms of eastern medicine, has become an integral part of veterinary medicine. It is currently used around the world, in all disciplines of equine sports: racing, jumping, dressage, reining, etc. It is also used commonly in animals that are used for breeding.
Chiropractic care provides additional diagnostic and therapeutic options that are not available in traditional medicine. It has allowed veterinarians to treat issues where traditional medicine has been limited. In the horse, chiropractic care has particularly helped address unsoundness issues.
Being aware of all diagnostic and therapeutic options, whether they are traditional (western) or alternative (eastern) medicine, will help you provide the best medical care for your horse.