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Exploring Core Principles of Chiropractic Veterinary Care Through the Eyes of an Equine Veterinarian

Updated: Apr 23

In the realm of equine health and performance, chiropractic care emerges as a beacon of hope for horse owners and enthusiasts seeking to optimize their horse's mobility and performance. In this blog post, we'll delve into the core principles of equine chiropractic care, shedding light on its fundamental concepts and their profound implications for treating back pain and and improving mobility in horses.


Chiropractic Fundamentals and Concepts

At the core of equine chiropractic care is a commitment to promoting smooth, coordinated movement of all spinal segments to optimize brain to body neuromuscular function. The brain communicates with the body via the spinal cord and associated spinal nerves. The spine surrounds the spinal cord, and if the joints along the spine are not moving correctly it will cause loss of brain to body connection. Through manual, high-velocity, low-amplitude force adjustments targeted at specific joints or anatomical sites, practitioners aim to restore alignment and function, facilitating the horse's natural ability to move with ease and grace. Motion palpation emerges as a crucial diagnostic tool, allowing practitioners to assess joint mobility and identify areas of restriction or dysfunction, guiding targeted interventions to support equine wellness.


Why Does the Spine Need to Move?

The pathophysiology of vertebral segment dysfunction (VSC) lies at the heart of equine

chiropractic theory. Characterized by asymmetrical or loss of normal joint motion,

diminished pain thresholds, and abnormal muscle tension, VSC represents a complex interplay of injured tissues. Chiropractic manipulation aims to correct VSC, freeing restricted joints and improving the range of

horse lumbar vertebral segment

motion of affected motion units. By addressing compression of nerve roots from inflammation and restoring normal neurophysiology within the intervertebral foramen (IVF), chiropractic therapy facilitates healing and promotes overall equine well-being.


Clinical Research

A pilot study conducted to evaluate the effects of chiropractic adjustments on equine spinal motion during locomotion revealed promising results. The study found that chiropractic adjustment forces induced substantial spinal motion beyond the normal range of segmental motion and activating a therapeutic reflex responses. This suggests that chiropractic treatment has the potential to improve spinal flexibility and mobility in horses, ultimately contributing to enhanced performance and comfort.


Another aspect examined in these studies is the impact of chiropractic treatment on back pain in horses. Mechanical nociceptive thresholds (MNTs), which serve as indicators of pain sensitivity threshold, were measured using pressure algometry. The findings showed that chiropractic treatments, led to a measurable increase in MNTs in various vertebral locations. Moreover, a combination of chiropractic treatment, and massage therapy resulted in a significant 27% increase in MNTs in horses , highlighting the potential pain-relieving effects of chiropractic care.


Furthermore, manual chiropractic treatment was found to induce notable improvements in equine spinal flexibility and tolerance to pressure. Studies observed a 15% better movement between spinal segments and a 20% increase in applied forces along the back following chiropractic adjustments compared to control groups. These findings underscore the positive impact of chiropractic care for treating back pain in horses.


Beyond its effects on spinal motion and back pain, chiropractic care offers complementary benefits in equine health and performance. Studies have documented significant decreases in muscle tone and electromyographic activity within the longissimus muscle immediately after spinal manipulation Additionally, chiropractic evaluation and treatment of the spine have been shown to restore normal spinal mobility without pain or muscle spasms, particularly following primary lameness in the distal limbs.


Identifying Clinical Indications for Chiropractic Evaluation

Recognizing the signs that may warrant chiropractic evaluation is the first step in providing comprehensive care for our horses. Common indications include acute or chronic neck, back, or pelvic pain, joint stiffness, and poor performance. Additionally, alterations in gait or body posture can serve as red flags for underlying musculoskeletal issues. Complaints such as discomfort with saddle placement, girth tightening, or changes in attitude or behavior should also prompt consideration of chiropractic evaluation. Horses recovering from traumatic incidents, undergoing post-surgical rehabilitation, or experiencing foaling complications may also benefit from chiropractic intervention to aid in their recovery process.


In summary, equine chiropractic care offers a complementary approach to conventional veterinary medicine, providing additional diagnostic and therapeutic options for achieving optimal clinical outcomes. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Investing in maintenance care will create less problems for your horse down the line.

By addressing mechanically related issues of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, chiropractic care offers a conservative treatment and prevention strategy for spinal problems in horses.



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