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Chiropractic is an age old form of medicine dating back to Hippocrates, “The Father of Medicine,” in 400 BC when he discovered the ability of the body to heal itself. This ability was and is called “Innate,” that is, power that made the body has the power to heal the body, a superior intelligence which every individual has to bring forth healing. In a strict sense of the matter, physicians, veterinarians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other health providers do not “heal the body”, but rather correct problems of the body that hinder or prevent healing to take place. In the normal state (holistic) the body heals itself, but when certain pathogens or disease states enter the body, this healing is compromised. Chiropractic in the form which we understand today was first discovered in the U.S. by D.D. Palmer in 1895. Since then many human schools of Chiropractic were established.

Chiropractic is the applied science of spinal and extremity adjustment to achieve maximum nerve conduction. In order for the body to function in a normal (holistic) state, the nervous system must be intact and viable. To achieve maximum healing, the body relies on the nervous system to supply energy and get feedback to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) as to the state of the body. Pain is often a sign of a chiropractic issue, but also loss of function and compromised healing are also closely associated. Chiropractic in animals first became available when Dr. Sharon Willoughby (Veterinarian, Chiropractor) transferred human chiropractic to animals. She also started what is now referred to as the “American Veterinary Chiropractic Association” or AVCA.

In order to understand how and why Chiropractic works, it is important to understand the role of the nervous system. Simply put, it starts in the brain encased in the skull; from there it travels down the spinal cord which is encased in the vertebral column. In between the segments of each vertebrae there are notches which nerves from the spinal cord emerge. These nerves have various functions such as sensory, motor, autonomic, proprioception (proper positioning of extremities for normal movement and stride). These nerves send impulses out to different organs, muscles, skin, vascular components and immune related areas for their proper functions. It has been shown in recent years that the nerve impulse is digital, much like cameras and other newer digital equipment we use today.

Interruption of nerve conduction then sends abnormal digital information to the brain (resulting in pain or numbness) and the same occurs to outgoing nerves resulting in improper muscle, organ function. It has also been shown that pressure on a nerve fiber the equivalent of the weight of a dime can impair nerve conduction. This is where chiropractic is important. When a vertebrae becomes “stuck”, that is, loses its range of motion, then inflammation around the joints, ligaments and tendons of that vertebrae occur. Swelling also takes place where the nerve emerges from the notches of the affected vertebrae leading to dysfunction and resulting in pain.

Chiropractic is adjusting the joints in the vertebral column (spine) and extremities to allow and restore normal nerve function. Each vertebrae has four or more joints that articulate with the adjacent vertebrae. Often times the joints get off center and become “stuck” or in technical terms- subluxated. A luxated joint is one that is totally separated from its counterpart and presents a very serious condition. Subluxation leads to loss of normal range of motion. When this happens, swelling occurs where the spinal nerves emerge from the spinal cord through the vertebral notches (spaces between the vertebrae). The result is pain and dysfunction. By adjusting the joints of the vertebral column, then subluxations are corrected, restoring normal range of motion and proper nerve function.

Why is Chiropractic important in animals? Animals have a unique ability to compensate; they have to so they can survive so when they experience vertebral and extremity subluxation, they compensate to allow for that dysfunction. By doing so, they often overload other areas of their body either in front or behind the subluxated area and/or in their extremities leading to leg pathology such as torn ligaments and arthritic changes. A person properly trained in Veterinary Chiropractic and Certified (AVCA) must be a DVM (Veterinarian) or a D.C (Chiropractor). The reason is both professions educate the individual in anatomy, physiology and neurology; all three are required to properly adjust the patient. The vertebrae all contain joints that have different angles. Improper adjustment can and do lead to injury. Also, it is important to be able to diagnose specifically what joints are involved, not just joint segments (areas such as neck, back, pelvis etc.) and adjust specifically those affected joints. The method used by some that have not had extensive training and proper certification, is usually done by use of long leg and neck lever, mallets, ropes, tail pulls etc. Many animals will benefit somewhat from these methods, but often the adjustments are incomplete and in many cases, injury to the patient results. This type of vertebral correction is referred to as manipulation rather than adjustment which infers specific joint adjustment rather than a segment (neck, back, and pelvis) realignment. It is also important to understand that massage is a muscle, tendon and ligament method of treatment but does not normally restore subluxated joints. If massage is employed, it is usually done following chiropractic adjustment to fully restore muscle tone and break down adhesions.

It is also important to note that a Chiropractor (D.C) not trained in Veterinary Chiropractic is not educated in the anatomic and vertebral difference between human (bi peds) and non- human (quadrapeds).  The vertebral impact from the extremities is different as well as the angles of the vertebral joints and extremities is different in humans and animals so trying to apply chiropractic from human anatomy to animal anatomy is often only partially effective. If your pet or horse is experiencing pain when it moves, trouble getting up or won’t turn or stride properly( “is off”), then a Veterinary Chiropractic checkup may be in order. For further information or to see if this would be helpful for your pet/horse, please call us at (503)585-6701 we will be happy to answer more specific questions you may have or schedule an appointment to evaluate your pet/horse.

For further information regarding AVCA please visit their website

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