How do I know if my horse needs a chiropractic adjustment?

Common complaints that may respond to chiropractic work include stiffness and/or inability to bend, difficulty with leads, not wanting to use the hind end or “track up from behind,” head tilt or twist, throwing the head and/or swapping leads before fences, and subtle lameness. It is also used frequently in the overall maintenance regimen of performance horses as a method of keeping them in the best condition possible and preventing performance related injuries. If you would like additional information about equine chiropractic care or to schedule a consult with Dr. Katy Cilinski or Dr. Sarah Jo Luby, please call or email us today.

What is Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy (“VSMT”) anyway?

VSMT is the technical name for performing chiropractic adjustments on animals. It involves assessing the alignment of the spine, the movement of each joint within the spinal column, as well as the movement of all of the joints of the limbs. If abnormalities are found with either the alignment or the range of motion of the joints, spinal manipulation techniques are used to restore normal alignment and function.

How are these “spinal manipulations” done? Does it hurt? How many treatments will my horse need?

The spinal manipulation, or adjustment, is a very specific, quick thrust of the bone that is out of alignment to return it into the correct angle of the joint. It is not done with excessive force or by using other equipment to “get more leverage”. Normally, these adjustments do not hurt at all. However, if excessive scar tissue has formed around that joint, then there may be a moment of discomfort. During a session, the entire spine and limbs will be assessed and the joints will be treated as necessary. Follow up visits are usually recommended because “muscle memory,” scar tissue in the joint, the horse’s conformation, and the use of the horse will all affect the duration that the adjustment will last. Over time, the interval between treatments will be extended as long as your horse is comfortably holding the adjustments.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves placement of tiny needles at specific sites on the body to cause local, regional, and whole-body responses. At the local level, acupuncture increases blood flow, recruits immune cells, and relaxes muscles. At the regional level, stimulation of acupuncture points blocks pain transmission to the brain. Finally, acupuncture causes release of endorphins throughout the body and serotonin in the brain, which provides feeling of pleasure, decreases pain, and can increase appetite.

Would my horse benefit from acupuncture?

Because acupuncture has effects on many different body systems, it can be used to treat many conditions! Back pain is a common malady in riding horses, and traditional anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants sometimes fall short when it comes to alleviating this kind of pain. Acupuncture can be a highly effective treatment for such pain. Other conditions that can be treated with acupuncture include laryngeal hemiplegia (“roarer”), anhidrosis (“non-sweater”), facial paralysis, large wounds, and infertility in mares. Along with traditional therapies, acupuncture can be useful in management of navicular disease and equine asthma. Finally, many clients use acupuncture in their sport horses to increase overall performance and increase length of time between joint injections.

What should I expect in an acupuncture session?

Most horses enjoy the experience! Typically we see them lick & chew, yawn, and take a snooze during their sessions. The needles are very small and most horses do not react when they are inserted. Light sedation may be required in needle-shy horses. Electroacupuncture, passing an electric current through specific points, is often performed to enhance the effects and may take an additional 10-20 minutes. Depending on your horse’s particular problem, 2-3 weekly or monthly sessions may be recommended initially. Follow up sessions can be done on an as-needed basis.

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