What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractors diagnose and treat loss of normal range of motion in joints, particularly in the spine. These lesions are known as 'Vertebral Subluxation Complexes' or 'fixations'. The latter term is preferred as it avoids confusion with medical professionals. They do not treat 'bones out of place'- all the joints are exactly in their normal physical location but sometimes they become 'stiff' so that they no longer move smoothly as far as they should do- a bit like a rusty hinge!
When a fixation occurs in the spinal column this not only affects the motion of the affected joint, it also affects all the muscles and tissues around it resulting in pain, muscle spasms and stiffness. The spinal cord passes down the middle of the vertebrae, sending out nerves at each joint. These go to various muscles, organs, sections of skin and limbs depending on the section of spinal cord. If the joint is not moving properly this can affect the amount of nerve signals that get back to the brain and thus the function of all those organs can alter. After a short time the brain registers the new signal patterns it receives as 'normal', thus maintaining the abnormal gait that has been created.
Treatment with chiropractic
If left untreated fixations not only cause pain, but can also result in inflammation and permanent degenerative changes. Because they adversely affect the biomechanics of the horse's movement, they can result in overload of other tissues in the body such as the front feet, tendons, ligaments & dorsal spinous processes. The muscles in the area of the fixation fatigue much more quickly further reducing the horse's stamina and athletic ability. Ultimately these changes lead to decreased performance and injury.
Chiropractors treat fixations using a 'chiropractic adjustment'. These are very specific thrusts applied on the affected joint to take it through it's normal range of motion. This stimulates the nervous system in that segment of the spinal cord resulting in improved movement and function. Prompt treatment should restore normal range of motion to the joint and the normal gait of the horse. The technique is gentle and acts on a very specific vertebrae, so is much less likely to cause injury unlike some other techniques.
Who can carry out Chiropractic treatment?
The IAVC in Germany trains only qualified veterinary surgeons and qualified human chiropractors in animal chiropractic techniques. These people have all studied medical based sciences including anatomy, physiology and pharmacology at university for more than 4 years before embarking on the course. Please click on the link to see further details about the course and qualification. Unfortunately there are people in the UK with less extensive or even no qualifications calling themselves 'spinal healers', 'manipulators' or 'practioners'. They do nothing to help the reputation of properly trained chiropractors and at best do nothing to help the horse, at worst they may cause serious injury or overlook other health and lameness issues.
Non specific, forceful or long lever 'manipulations' may cause serious injury to your horse. Poorly qualified 'manipulators' may mis-diagnose conditions and not realise the need for veterinary intervention.
Always check the qualifications of someone treating your horse. Check that the person has either a veterinary degree, or a full 3/4 year degree in the equivalent human technique (chiropractic, physiotherapy or osteopathy). By law any treatments on animals should be carried out under the care of a veterinary surgeon. ONLY a veterinary surgeon should attempt to prescribe or alter the dosage of any medications given to your horse, or carry out invasive procedures such as injections.
The International Veterinary Chiropractic association have details of all animal chiropractors worldwide who have been independently examined and passed certified exams- please click on the IVCA link for more details.