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Equine Chiropractic and Osteopathic Therapy

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

The history of chiropractic medicine goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks when the principles of medicine were laid down by Hippocrates. In the modern era, it was Daniel Palmer who began the chiropractic profession in the United States at the turn of the century.

Chiropractic therapy is based on the belief that disease is due to abnormal positions of the segments of the spine. When the vertebrae of the spine are in an abnormal position, they put pressure on the nerves which come out of the spine, thereby causing pain. The therapy involves manually adjusting the abnormal segments such that they are put back into normal position.

Today the vast majority of people seeking the help of chiropractors go for lower back pain. The most common method of treatment involves a direct and very rapid movement or thrust by the chiropractor in order to release or reposition a joint which is in an

abnormal position. When this is done the pain is quickly eliminated.

Osteopathy is very similar to chiropracty. The basic difference is that osteopathy emphasizes the blood supply to the area as being the most important cause of spinal disease, while the chiropractor believes that pressure on the nerves is more significant. The chiropractor uses direct manual thrusts to the affected area and the osteopath utilizes the less severe massage and rhythmic movements in order to achieve the adjustment.

The chiropractic adjustment in the horse is not new to the veterinarian. The difficulty is usually in finding the person who can perform the technique. In performance horses, it is primarily used for lower back problems. The 'dropped hip' syndrome is one of the most commonly treated with chiropractic technique. Generalized lower back pain also seems to react well to adjustment.

The strongest criticism of the therapy is its duration of action. There is little doubt that an adjustment will remove pain from the lower back. The problem is that the pain usually returns after 2-4 weeks. Commonly the animal will perform/race well after the manipulation for 2 or 3 starts/events and then the problem will start over again. Where other therapy has failed however, this technique is a useful alternative.

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