Chiropractic care is a manual therapy, which can be used for many health and performance problems. It focuses on the biomechanical dysfunction of the spine and its effect on the entire nervous system throughout the body.
Chiropractic treatment does not replace traditional veterinary medicine: however, it can provide additional means of diagnosis and treatment options for spinal problems as well as biomechanical related musculoskeletal disorders. It can often eliminate the source of acute or chronic pain syndromes.
A horse’s spine is a very complex structure consisting of bones, ligaments, muscles and nerves. It fulfills various functions in the body providing:
- A framework of support
- Attachment for many muscles
- Protection of the spinal cord
- Protection of internal organs
Numerous muscles are attached to the vertebrae enabling the spine to move. Even though individual vertebral joints have little mobility, the back and neck as a whole is very flexible. Without this flexibility a horse cannot move fluently, jump obstacles or perform properly.
Why is this important?
The spinal cord runs through the spine in the centre of the vertebrae. Nerves branch off from the spinal cord and leave the spinal canal in pairs. They transfer information between the brain, spinal cord, organs, muscles and other parts of the body. As the central nervous system monitors and controls all organ and tissue function, the transmission of information to and from it must flow freely to allow proper function.
What happens when it goes wrong?
If an area with reduced range of motion exists, the horse loses normal flexibility of its spine, affecting performance and resulting in stiffness and muscular tension. Reduced mobility between two vertebrae can affect the nerves that leave the spinal cord between these adjacent vertebrae. A decrease in the nerve’s function can lead to interference in the flow of stimuli or information, which is necessary for smooth coordination of body functions and muscle contractions.
Small disturbances are usually only caused by a slight interference; however, they can keep the horse from performing at its best in demanding exercises. Missteps resulting from lack of coordination may cause injury to other joints and tendons or ligaments in the legs. An animal with a more serious subluxation will change its posture to compensate for the restricted mobility of its spine and to avoid pain. This triggers increased mechanical strain on other parts of the spine and extremities, causing secondary problems and deterioration of the condition.
Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine teaching that energy, or qi (pronounced "chee"), courses through the body along channels called meridians; illness occurs when that flow is disrupted. Acupuncture needles stimulate or interrupt the flow of this energy changing the disease process. Scientists are starting to identify some of the physiological mechanisms at work, and there's evidence that the insertion of needles into designated acupuncture points speeds the conduction of electromagnetic signals within the body. These signals may increase the flow of endorphins and other pain-relieving chemicals, as well as immune system cells, which aid healing.
Horses frequently have channel blockages secondary to the repetitive work that they do (like ergonomic stress in human workers). These channel blockages will often cause some amount of discomfort. Over time this may change the way the horse moves and predispose them to repetitive stress injuries.
Acupuncture can be helpful to relieve pain, relax muscles or to remove compensations built up from repetitive movements. It can be helpful in some neurologic conditions and can aid the healing of a variety of conditions.
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