Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD
A drugless form of health care that has long been used in man and animals, chiropractic works by restoring the spine, the spinal motor units, and joints of the extremities to normal function. When spinal motor units are functioning normally, the patient's innate healing powers are allowed to repair tissues and thus return the body to a state of physiologic balance, in turn, helping to restore and maintain overall holistic wellness.
Chiropractors consider disease to be the result of neural malfunction and use manipulation of the spinal column and other bodily structures as the preferred method of treatment. The term subluxation is used to describe a specific problem or disease of the spinal column manifested by a misaligned vertebra that is "stuck" or unable to move correctly. Note that a chiropractically "subluxed" hip (a hip that is improperly aligned with the sacrum) is different from the luxated hip in regular veterinary terminology. Normal veterinary terminology defines a hip luxation as a specific condition when the femoral head is luxated or displaced away from the acetabulum (socket joint) of the hip.
When movement between two vertebrae is restricted, the animal will not have total flexibility of the spine and stiffness, resistance, and lack of functional ability results. Misaligned vertebra can also result in pain—pain that is either directly observable or seen as slight changes affecting movement or performance success. In addition, subluxations between spinal vertebrae may also inhibit the normal flow of important neuronal information to areas peripheral to the spinal cord.
Subluxations in the spine may cause the animal to compensate in movement or posture. The animal may attempt to avoid the pain of a subluxation by shifting weight or by avoiding certain movements. When the spine is not functioning correctly in one area, stress is placed on other vertebral joints. This is when secondary subluxations can occur in other areas of the spinal column, further complicating the problems of the animal.
So when is chiropractic treatment, the realignment of vertebrae and joints to repair subluxations, most effective? The following are some of common problem areas where chiropractic may be especially helpful:
The following explains which animals are likely to benefit from chiropractic treatments:
You'll want to see your animal-chiropractic practitioner to help you evaluate your animal's pain and soreness. Pain can be difficult to evaluate for a number of reasons including when it persists in animals that can't tell us where it hurts. Also, animals have different levels of pain tolerance and different ways to express pain.
Even though all dogs and cats probably have about the same threshold for pain (the amount of painful stimulus it takes before the animal feels the pain), different individuals have different levels of tolerance (the ability to tolerate a level of pain before they react to it). Some animals may scream and cry at the slightest hint of pain, while others, with a high tolerance for pain, are more stoic—even when subjected to painful stimulation.
It is often difficult, even for the experts, to detect an obvious limp in an animal that travels on four legs, and determining exactly which leg hurts can be an even bigger challenge.
There are signs, however, that can help you deduce information about an animal's pain. Animals in pain tend to be either more restless or withdrawn; they often don't sleep or eat well. They may be up and down all day and night, trying to get comfortable. Cats may be able to hide their pain most of the time. Since many of them spend a good share of the day curled up on the couch, it may not be evident that they hurt when they move. In my experience, however, a high percentage of cats have spinal vertebrae and joints of the extremities that are "stuck" or that are arthritic, and therefore painful. So many cats, especially the older ones, can definitely benefit from chiropractic adjustments.
Animal chiropractors use a variety of methods to evaluate musculo-skeletal and joint function and you should rely on a qualified animal chiropractic practitioner to do the final pain evaluation of your pet. In addition to evaluating the gait and stance of an animal, chiropractors will palpate the animal's body for relative cold or warm areas, for pain on movement, and perhaps for "energy flow" through the body. True chiropractic involves the ability to detect the mobility of the spinal vertebra or joint, to be able to detect when the mobility is abnormal (or stuck) and to properly adjust the joint so that it becomes "unstuck".
In addition to chiropractic adjustments, natural or alternative medicines may be used along with chiropractic to help the patient. They include:
The following are tips that will work well in concert with chiropractic treatments:
Chiropractic can help many of your pet's ailments, but you should seek out a qualified practitioner. If your pet needs some extra care for sore or creaky joints, pick a qualified animal-chiropractic practitioner who has the necessary training and expertise. I'll talk about how to do that in Pet Chiropractic - How to Select an Animal Chiropractor.
Article courtesy of Pet360