How Do You Know Your Horse Needs an Adjustment?
Here an abbreviated list of symptoms that may indicate that your horse may need an adjustment:
Behavioral changes (i.e. refusals, acting “cinchy,” bucking)
Loss or decrease in performance level
Diagnosed conditions, such as degenerative arthritis
Problems/Difficulty executing desired movements
Muscle imbalance, spasm or atrophy
Gait problems, such as cross-canter, loss of collection, refusal to pick up lead
Injuries resulting from falls, training, or other activities
What is Equine Chiropractic?
Equine chiropractic care is an alternative, drugless method of health care that emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. Humans have enjoyed the benefits of chiropractic care for more than one hundred years. People visit their chiropractor for more than just back pain. Patients enjoy increased energy, improved sports performance, better resistance to disease, and to help insure drug-free lives for themselves and their families. Equine chiropractic also deals in such prevention, rehabilitation and wellness care.
Like human chiropractic, equine chiropractic care also deals with the nervous system and its surroundings, the skull and spinal column. The focus is on the spinal column because the spinal cord carries the nerves that are distributed to every organ and tissue of the body. These nerves exit the spinal column between the bones of the spine called vertebrae. When certain joints or tissues are injured and heal improperly, the biomechanics become distorted. This causes nerve receptors at the injury site to send out inappropriate and conflicting information to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. With this improper information feeding back to the brain, more distorted information is sent back out to the body (garbage in = garbage out). Think of trying to figure out a solution to a math problem with the wrong numbers in the equation. Even with the right equation, you can’t get the right answer.
The science of chiropractic care has discovered throughout the last one hundred years that a misalignment or lack of motion of joints (“subluxations”), especially the vertebrae, adversely alters nerve function from and around those areas. Altered nerve impulses leaving the spinal column can affect the function of organs and tissues supplied by that nerve. This altered function can lead to pain, disease, fatigue, muscle weakness, poor balance, immune suppression, etc.
Equine chiropractic is the art, science and philosophy which uses the inherent recuperative powers of the body and deals with the relationship between the nervous system and the spinal column and its associated structures. We remember that the power that made the body, heals the body.
How Do Adjustments Treat Non-Mechanical Disorders?
The tissues that cause the biggest problems after injury are the vertebrae of the spine. Because the spine constantly adjusts to minute changes in body position and ground surface, the spine is continuously bombarded with proprioceptive information. (Proprioception is the ability to know where any body part is in space at a given moment). Imagine putting your hand out and closing your eyes. You still have a sense of where your hand is because of receptors in your joints that feed back to your brain. The spinal joints are packed more densely with these receptors than, for example, the extremities. This illustrates how much more important the spine is.
You know that nerves that leave the spine go to every tissue of the body. This explains why chiropractic care can have dramatic effects with non-mechanical problems. Colic and other digestive problems, cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and other such problems have been helped by chiropractic care. But please remember that the origins of such problems may be non-mechanical, so check with your veterinarian first to rule out diseases or medical conditions.
Where Does Equine Chiropractic Fit?
Keep in mind that chiropractic does not replace traditional veterinary medicine, but works very well in conjunction with it. When a joint is subluxated it loses motion and sometimes position as well. The chiropractic adjustment is aimed at correcting the subluxation by restoring motion and proper alignment to the vertebral segment complex. In this way, the body can return to its proper working order. This is how chiropractic works to eliminate the cause of the problem and not just simply treat the symptoms.
In this way, chiropractic is a valid, concurrent, complimentary treatment procedure to veterinary medicine for many back and lameness problems. As with any health related problems or conditions that your horse may experience, it is important that your veterinarian be contacted initially so that he or she can assess your horse for any underlying medical condition that could be causing similar symptoms.
What to Expect During a Treatment
Initially, a complete chiropractic examination is performed. This typically includes a case history, including any previous veterinary work performed, posture analysis, gait analysis, static and motion palpation of the spine and its joints, muscle palpation, and checking for any changes in temperature over the spine.
Once the initial examination has been completed, the animal chiropractor will perform an adjustment on the area of the spine affected, so as to return the joints to normal motion, and to alleviate any muscle spasms and pain. A chiropractic adjustment is a very specific, high velocity, low force, controlled thrust by a hand, which is directed in a specific direction on a specific joint.
How Many Treatments Will My Horse Need?
Several factors determine the number and frequency of adjustments required to correct a problem.For example, the horse's age and physical condition are important. Young, healthy horses will generally require fewer adjustments than older horses or those with serious health problems. The severity of the problem is another major factor. If permanent damage has occurred, a return to full flexibility may not be possible, and multiple adjustments may be necessary to achieve the most flexibility possible. The length of time the problem has been present is also a factor. Longstanding or chronic problems frequently require more adjustments to correct than do acute problems.
About AVCA Trained Doctors
Once you realize that chiropractic is right for your animal, the most important thing when choosing your Animal Chiropractor is to make sure they are both licensed as a DVM or DC, and certified through the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. Beware of unqualified people claiming to be animal adjusters. Even licensed chiropractors and veterinarians aren't prepared to adjust animals when they get their DVM or DC degree. Veterinarians receive no training in the art, science and philosophy of chiropractic, whereas Chiropractors receive no training in animal anatomy, physiology or pathology. This is why it is so important to find an AVCA certified practitioner.
AVCA certified doctors are trained in motion and static palpation, gait analysis, and proper animal biomechanics, as well as specific adjusting techniques. They use their hands, not mallets and two-by-fours to adjust your horse. They have also been trained to recognize pathology that may cause chiropractic care to be contraindicated. In these cases, they will work with your veterinarian to return your animal to optimal health.
AVCA certified doctors have undergone an intensive postgraduate course that requires a minimum of 200 hours of study and have passed numerous examinations similar to state licensing exams. After certification there is also continuing education on a yearly basis to keep up on current and new adjusting techniques. This is why you should only have a certified AVCA doctor as your Animal Chiropractor.