WHAT IS VETERINARY CHIROPRACTIC?
Chiropractic is a treatment modality that focuses upon the proper movement of all joints in the body, but most especially the joints of the spinal column. Veterinary Chiropractic is an adaptation of the principles of human evaluation and manipulation techniques for use with animals.
The spinal column is a complex system of bones, called vertebrae; ligaments that connect the vertebrae; muscles that move the bones; the spinal cord that is contained within the protection of the vertebrae, and the nerves that emerge between the vertebrae to enervate most parts of the body. The anatomy of the spinal column is similar for all animals, humans included.
1. The spinal column and its associated bony components — the ribs and pelvis — are called the axial skeleton. This structure:
1. Provides a framework and support for the body;
2. Serves as attachment for many of the muscles of the body
3. Protects the nerves and spinal cord; and;
4. Protects the internal organs of the body such as the heart, lungs and
The spinal column – be it human, dog, horse, cat – has more than 175 joints or articulations. These are places where two boney surfaces meet, and move against one another. Each of these joints is a site where a problem can occur if the boney surfaces are not moving smoothly, or there is no movement at all. The loss of movement in a joint is called a Misalignment, and it is often referred to as being “stuck.”
A misalignment results in the loss of flexibility and the ease with which your animal companion moves. If a nerve is “pinched” by the misalignment, pain will result. Uncorrected misalignments can eventually cause severe pain, loss of reflex response, impaired movement that approaches paralysis, muscle atrophy, and organ disfunction. The severity of the pain or other problem depends upon the extent to which the communication between the brain and the affected part is being disrupted.
HOW CAN I TELL IF THERE IS A MISALIGNMENT?
Impaired movement is the first clue. This is immediately obvious in the performance horse or the agility dog; but it may take months to realize that the family cat is no longer chasing birds, the pet dog is finding alternate ways to eat or drink from his bowls on the floor, or the retired horse in the pasture is having difficulty lying down and getting up again. Loss of activity, especially precision activity, is the key to early diagnosis of Chiropractic dysfunction.
Pain is a more obvious clue. Many owners attribute pain to a unseen accident, too long a walk or too hard a work out, too little exercise, or a lack of attention. These may all be true but the underlying cause is probably one or more misalignments that have occurred in the spinal joints. Just as you can turn in the wrong way or bend suddenly and “throw your back out” your companion can do the same with no direct attributable cause such as a slip or a fall.
HOW DO YOU TREAT A MISALIGNMENT?
The allopathic solution to pain, stiffness, and/or lameness is usually a pain pill, muscle relaxant or injection. The Chiropractic solution is examination and adjustment. Sometimes we have to combine all means available to assist your companion back to health.
The Veterinary Chiropractor is trained to note small clues in the way your companion moves and in his/her posture. This is the “looking” portion of the examination. Looking or watching may be repeated several times during the treatment to check for improved movement. During the physical portion of the examination, the Veterinary Chiropractor will palpate, or feel, the muscles for pain, tone, spasm, and symmetry. Then she will move down the spine noting pain, heat, position. She may gently move the head, neck, back, and each of the legs to check for range of motion, or pain upon movement.
Armed with this information she will use her hands to make an adjustment. The adjustment is a quick, directed thrust designed to correct the misalignment or “stuck” portion of the joint. Your companion may react by shaking himself vigorously. After the adjustment there is often a period of time required for rest and limited physical activity.
In this process, the Chiropractor really does not cure anything, she simply restores motion to the stuck joints and the animal’s body moves toward health in the holistic tradition. The animal’s body essentially heals its self. As long as the misalignment persists, the body cannot heal and the symptoms will continue. During the healing period it is important that you limit your animal’s play and activity. Cats are fairly good at taking care of themselves; dogs and horses often forget to stay quiet, especially after the severe pain subsides. Re-injury can occur quite easily.
HOW OFTEN WILL MY COMPANION NEED AN ADJUSTMENT?
That is a hard question to answer. The purpose of the adjustment is to restore function to the joints of the spinal column and to realign or reposition the spine. It is the job of the muscles and ligaments of the axial skeleton to maintain the alignment once the Doctor has restored it. The strength of those supporting structures is what determines how many adjustments are necessary to achieve health.
Dr. Bamford does not like to adjust a patient more than once every two weeks, but several adjustments at two week intervals are generally needed for the body to accept and retain the new corrections. Long standing or chronic conditions tend to take more time and more corrections. Age, occupation, and general body condition are all factors in the process. Of course re-injury will extend the process, because we are essentially starting all over with each re-injury. Senior citizens may need a “tune-up” adjustment every month or so to maintain health and flexibility.
IS CHIROPRACTIC COMPATIBLE WITH OTHER HOLISTIC TREATMENTS?
At Red Rowan we often combine Chiropractic with Homeopathy and with Acupuncture. Homeopathic remedies are often prescribed to decrease the swelling and pain associated with the misalignment and with the adjustment. We often prescribe, heat, cold, and other forms of physical therapy – along with rest – to assist the restoration process.
Acupuncture, used in conjunction with Chiropractic, seems to change the electrical polarity in the tissues, releasing muscle spasms and toning up tissues, as well as reducing pain. We recommend a treatment protocol for many injuries or severe cases, of Acupuncture treatment once or twice weekly combined with Chiropractic treatments every two weeks.
In Summary: Chiropractic is a branch of Holistic medicine that is considered alternative or complementary to the practice of veterinary medicine. Used concurrently with other modalities, musculoskeletal and some internal symptoms, that are often masquerading as disease processes, respond dramatically.