What is Chiropractic?

LogoChiropractic means done by hand.  It is a manual medicine, which helps to restore function to the neuromusculoskeletal system, sort of like a coach for the body.  Even animals use their bodies incorrectly.  I evaluate the body by watching the animal move.  Then I motion and feel each joint in the body.  If a joint gets injured, many of the muscles in the region will spasm to prevent further injury. 

In the joint, each joint surface is covered by hyaline cartilage.  Unfortunately, there is no blood supply to the hyaline cartilage.  The only way the joint gets nutrients is by motion.  When the muscles spasm and the joint stops moving, the cartilage stops getting fed and over time this can lead to degeneration. 

As a chiropractic doctor, I motion each joint and feel for restrictions.  Where I find restrictions I adjust.  The adjustment is a quick thrust through the vector of the joint line, which puts a quick stretch on the tight muscles and resets the muscles.  The adjustment also stimulates the control system of the muscle, the nervous system.  The re-set muscle will allow the joint to move again and nutrients will squish through the cells, feeding the cartilage.  The adjustment increases range of motion and decreases pain levels.  Chiropractic stimulates the body to normalize function.  Stretching can allow muscles to function correctly and increase elasticity and performance. 

What is the goal (or goals) of your therapy?  The chiropractic adjustment attempts to normalize the horse's neuromusculoskeletal mechanics therefore allowing for a pain-free and productive life.

How does it work? How is the goal achieved?  A joint needs motion to stay healthy.  Every day, animals move their bodies incorrectly sometimes due to posture, conformation, neurological or muscle imbalance.  Incorrect saddle fit is another major cause of pain and restriction in the horse.  Over time and incorrect motion, microtrauma can occur in the joint.  When injured, the muscles surrounding the region can spasm to try to stabilize and protect the joint from further injury.  This causes a restriction of motion in the joint, splinting of muscles in the region, and pain.  Other regions then have to compensate for this loss of motion. This leads to altered biomechanics. 

Animal Chiropractors place a quick manual thrust through the specific vector of the joint line. This adjustment works on the muscle, the nerve and the cartilage. 

The muscle spindle cell is a stretch receptor in the muscle.  The muscle spindle cell determines how long each muscle in the body is, therefore telling the brain where each joint is in space- it’s proprioception.  The adjustment resets this receptor and allows the muscles surrounding the joint to begin moving again. 

Motion is the only way to get nutrients into hyaline cartilage.  This cartilage (the shiny end to the chicken bone) has no blood supply to it and therefore no food without motion.  Hyaline cartilage’s food squishes through all the cells by something called imbibition.  Without motion, the joint gets no food, cannot heal itself and begins to deteriorate.  The chiropractic adjustment resets the muscles, jump-starts the nerves, and helps to normalize the joint, allowing the body to heal the injury. 

A typical Visit: I take a thorough history, asking about current concerns, past injuries, diagnoses, medications, imaging, and labs. I perform static and motion palpation to each joint in the body feeling for restrictions in the joints. To motion and adjust the horse I stand on a special bale, which allows me to reach the correct regions for the adjustments.

I adjust any regions, which feel stuck. The adjustment is an extremely fast, specific force given to the joint. Then I re-palpate the region to determine if the adjustment is successful. The horse should stand in an isle way with a halter and lead rope attached, and cross ties are sometimes helpful. A typical visit will last from an hour to two.

Is there generally a series of treatment sessions to achieve results? And then do you recommend occasional maintenance sessions? Monthly treatments lend the best results though many people use chiropractic for a quick scan to determine the pain levels in their animals.  Depending on age, injury and pain level, it may take different amounts of time to affect change in each animal with a manual therapy. Just think how long the animal has been moving incorrectly.  An older horse may be more difficult to change because they have probably been moving incorrectly their entire lives. The longer the problem has been there, the longer it may take to change.

An onion peel is used as a good metaphor to explain how chiropractic treatments work.  Once the outer layer of pain and restriction is fixed, sometimes other issues can arise.

Monthly treatments also allow me to continually and proactively assess the animal assessing minimal pain levels, restrictions and asymmetries in the animal, which may be a problem down the line, but are not causing obvious lameness presently.

Do you give owners things that they can do for follow-up?  Throughout the session, I also assess the body for muscle imbalances.    I teach a set of stretches to the owners that are specific for the animal.  During the month, the owners can do the stretches with their horse to increase flexibility and influence global balance in their animal.  The next visit I can see which regions have improved and which areas still need work. 

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