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Basics of chiropractic medicine (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2009

Chiropractic is a form of health care that has long been used in man and animals. It is a method that works by restoring the spine and the spinal motor units 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, helping to restore and maintain overall holistic wellness.

What is chiropractic?

Chiropractic care is a holistic, alternative approach that helps correct many of the dis-eases and performance problems of animals. It is a drugless method of health care that focuses on the health and proper functioning of the spinal column (and joints of the extremities).

Chiropractic care is directed toward returning a vertebral motor unit to normal function. Chiropractors use the term subluxation to describe a specific problem or disease of the spinal column. A subluxation is defined as 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 (femoral head luxated from the acetabulum).

When movement between two vertebra is restricted, the animal will not have total flexibility of the spine. Stiffness, resistance, and lack of ability results. Misaligned vertebra can also result in pain — pain that can be directly observable or that is seen as slight changes affecting performance success. In addition, subluxations between spinal vertebra may also inhibit the normal flow of 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. Secondary subluxations can occur in other areas of the column, further complicating the problems of the animal.

A brief history of chiropractic

Although chiropractic adjustments have been used for thousands of years, chiropractic in the U.S. is considered to have started with D.D. Palmer in the late 1800's. (Palmer later founded the still-active Palmer Chiropractic College in Davenport, Iowa.)

Since its early beginnings in Iowa, chiropractic has spread across the country, and today — with at least several dozen specific methods of chiropractic — it has become a highly diversified healing method. All of the many chiropractic methods available, however, are directed toward one goal: To make the spine and its motor units functionally healthy ... so that the body's innate ability to heal itself can be utilized.

How are subluxations identified?

In veterinary chiropractic we first examine the gait and stance of the animal. Abnormal posture is noted, as are any restrictions to the animal's normal motion. For example, pain in the right sacroiliac joint causes an animal to shift forward onto its left forelimb. This same animal would likely resist turning to the right and would be restricted in the extension phase of the right hind leg...or it might actually limp on its right hind.

Muscle areas are then palpated for tenseness, laxity, heat, coolness, and/or pain. The above animal with sacroiliac pain, for example, would likely have muscle heat, tenseness and pain in the gluteals and lower lumbars, and might have pain in the opposite hamstring muscles — and possibly compensatory pain somewhere further up along the thoracics or in the opposite side foreleg.

Finally, the joint itself is palpated. The joint (or vertebra) is first palpated in its static position to feel if it appears to be out of its normal anatomic alignment. Then the joint is motioned through its normal range of motion, feeling for a normal -vs- a "stuck" range of motion.

When a joint is determined to be subluxated (using a combination of all the methods above), that joint is chiropractically adjusted to return it to its normal state.

What is an adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment is a short, rapid thrust onto a specific anatomical part of a vertebra in the precise direction that will replace the vertebra into a normal position.

Chiropractic is very specific, and adjustments are made on vertebra directly. Jerking on legs or tails, use of pieces of two-by-four and a hammer, etc. are not, in my opinion, chiropractic adjustments ... and I consider them brutal and inhumane. Chiropractic, correctly done, uses a controlled force, applied in a correct angle. Incorrectly applied "adjustments" can be more harmful than helpful.

The purpose of a chiropractic adjustment is to release the "stuck" vertebra and restore alignment, thus eliminating nerve pressure. The body can then repair tissues and restore function.

Why so many adjustments?

One of the common complaints against chiropractic is that it may take several adjustments to get the vertebra back into normally functioning motor units. Remember that the purpose of an adjustment is to realign the spine. The muscles and ligaments of the patient must be able to maintain the correct spinal alignment. When an orthodontist works to straighten the teeth, he applies a rigid brace directly to the teeth. Chiropractors cannot do this for the spine.

Several adjustments may be needed until the body accepts and maintains the correct alignment of bone, muscle, tendon and ligament. Animals seem to respond quicker than do most humans, and oftentimes three or four adjustments are all that are required for most cases. Chronic and severe cases may take longer.