Equine Acupuncture and Chiropractic

What is chiropractic?

"Chiropractic refers to the practice of manipulating the spine to treat disease."

The term chiropractic comes from the Greek words "cheir" which means 'hand' and "praxis" which means 'practice' or 'done by', and refers to the practice of manipulating the spine to treat disease. Chiropractors base their theories of disease on the connections between various body structures and the nervous system via the spinal column and on the role of the spine in biomechanics and movement. Therapy is directed at the spine in order to modify the progression of the disease.  


Who practices veterinary chiropractic and do I need a referral?


     Chiropractors who work on animals must have specific training in both chiropractic theories and animal anatomy so that they are knowledgeable about the differences in biomechanics and neuromusculoskeletal function between humans and animals. In North America, a certification process is in place to ensure that practitioners possess the appropriate knowledge and skill to treat animals. The organization responsible for this certification is the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, with specific designation of its members depending on their level of training, as follows: "Animal Chiropractor" is a Doctor of Chiropractic with AVCA certification; "Veterinarian Certified in Animal Chiropractic" is a DVM / VMD certified by AVCA; and "Veterinary Chiropractor" is both a Doctor of Chiropractic and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.   Make sure you use a Certified veterinary Chiropractor!   There are many chiropractors trying to practice on animals and in British Columbia, they cannot legally touch your animal without being under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.  Why use a human chiropractor or worse yet an untrained person for your animal when certified veterinary chiropractors are available in your area.    


What conditions are most often treated with chiropractic?


     Conditions with a neurologic or biomechanical origin are amenable to chiropractic manipulation. These conditions include degenerative joint diseases such as hip dysplasia and spondylosis; cervical instability; acute neck pain; intervertebral disk disease; autonomic nervous system problems such as urinary and fecal incontinence; musculoskeletal weakness or pain that resists conventional diagnosis and treatment; and chronic back and neck pain.  


How can my horse benefit from chiropractic?


     Chiropractic is one of the few modalities in veterinary medicine where results are often immediate and are often seen within minutes of treatment. In general, improvements are defined as an improved gait and an apparent reduction in pain. In orthopedic conditions such as fractures or ligament tears, chiropractic care may not replace the need for surgery but will be useful in correcting secondary problems caused by compensation or overcompensation to the injury.  

Animals used for athletic performance or other working purposes are ideal candidates for chiropractic treatment. By regularly assessing and maintaining maximum flexibility in these animals, injuries may be avoided. Animal athletes include horses used for racing, dressage or pleasure riding, and dogs used in racing, agility training or field trials.


How successful is chiropractic?


Like many holistic practitioners, chiropractors see the patient as a functional whole, rather than as a sum of its parts. Ensuring the normal range of motion of vertebrae helps optimize the function of lymphatics, blood vessels and nerves, which communicate between the spine and various body structures, allowing the body to function optimally to the point that further interventions may not be required. Applied correctly, chiropractic adjustments can alleviate or eliminate the need for long-term drug or hormone treatments. The success of treatment depends upon the degree of pathology present and the duration of the condition.


How safe is chiropractic?


     When performed by an experienced, trained veterinary professional, chiropractic manipulation is generally considered to be safe. If adjustments are performed with the appropriate force, the patient will require a series of treatments, which will gradually result in the restoration of health. However, if the force of an adjustment is excessive or the adjustment is applied at an incorrect angle, time, or location, serious and possibly irreversible damage to the patient can occur. Temporary low-grade discomfort (lasting 24 to 48 hours) may be experienced in a minority of patients following chiropractic treatment.


What is the cost of chiropractic?


     Comprehensive chiropractic treatment involves a thorough history taking and physical examination, followed by a patient assessment and formulation of a treatment plan. It rarely involves a single visit, and costs will vary according to the specific condition being treated and the response of the patient. The fees associated with chiropractic treatment are set by the individual practitioner, and will often reflect the experience and skill of the chiropractor. Chiropractic is usually very affordable and is certainly a cost-effective way of managing and resolving pain and weakness.


Can chiropractic be combined with other types of veterinary medicine?


     Chiropractic therapy is often combined with other forms of traditional and alternative veterinary medicine.

"There appears to be a particularly strong synergy between acupuncture and chiropractic."

There appears to be a particularly strong synergy between acupuncture and chiropractic. When multiple types of treatments are used, it may be difficult to determine the efficacy of a chiropractic treatment, unless the treatments are performed at different times. Certified veterinary chiropractors have the knowledge and skill to understand the interactions between different forms of treatment and to interpret the patient's response to therapy. If your pet is receiving chiropractic treatment from a practitioner other than your regular veterinarian, it is imperative that both individuals are kept updated about the ongoing treatment in order to provide coordinated care of your pet, to allow proper evaluation of treatment and to minimize any avoidable interactions or interferences.  


How can I find out more information about veterinary chiropractic?

The most efficient way to find current reference materials, links, and referral lists is to consult the Alternative Veterinary Medicine website at www.altvetmed.org  or the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association at www.avca.org






     Acupuncture is the treatment of various conditions or symptoms in animals or humans by the insertion of very fine needles into a specific point on the body in order to produce a response.  The acupuncture points can also be stimulated without the use of needles, using techniques known as acupressure, moxibustion ,cupping, or by the application of heat, cold, water, laser, ultrasound, electricity,  or injectable homeopathics or medications. 

     The specific acupuncture points have been well charted for both humans and animals and were initially mapped by ancient Chinese practitioners.  These points were found to be connected with each other and also to various internal organs by pathways or meridians or channels.  Many of these channels trace the paths of the body's major nerve trunks. 

     Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated.  Combinations of points are often stimulated to take advantage of synergistic reactions between them.  Which acupuncture points are stimulated, the depth of the needle insertion, the type of stimulation applied to the needles, and the duration of each treatment session depends on the patient's tolerance, the experience, and training of the practitioner, and the condition being treated.

     In North America, acupuncture as an organized form of veterinary medicine has been in existence since approximately 1975, when the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society ( IVAS) was founded.  IVAS still conducts regular courses, seminars, and conferences in both Canada and the US, and has established high standards for assessing the competency of veterinary acupuncturists through an accreditation program.  When looking for a veterinary acupuncturist, this organization publishes an up to date list of certified veterinarians.  The Canadian affiliate, called AVAC, ( Association of Veterinary Acupuncturists of Canada ) can help you find an acupuncturist for your animal in Canada.  Using one of these certified acupuncturists means that they have passed certification exams and they continue to be active in this alternate field of veterinary practice and attend yearly updating seminars.  



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