ChiroACCESS Article

Animals and Chiropractic

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ChiroACCESS Editorial Staff



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February 17, 2010

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There have been many favorable articles in the lay literature describing the value of chiropractic care for animals but scientific publications have been sparseThere have been many favorable articles in the lay literature describing the value of chiropractic care for animals but scientific publications have been sparse.  The first article indexed by the National Library of Medicine appeared in the early 1960s and many years passed before the next indexed entry. During the last decade the quantity and quality of the research supporting the value of chiropractic care for animals has improved.  This is an area that needs much more research but there are a few studies that provide at least low level of evidence supporting chiropractic effectiveness in the management of painful conditions that affect animals (e.g. horses with low back pain).  There are also studies supporting the use of chiropractic care to improve animal biomechanics.  Owners involved in horse racing are particularly interested in optimizing animal performance.  Several quality programs are now available to educate chiropractic and veterinary professionals so that they can work together to improve animal care.   

Case Study: Conservative Manual Chiropractic Management of a Recurrent Medial Luxating Patella in a Dog

Chiro J of Aust. 2009 MAR Vol. 39(1) pp. 27 - 28


Objective: The intended purpose of presenting this case is to report the favorable outcome of manual therapeutic intervention in a case of grade 2 recurrent medial luxating patella in a dog. Procedure: The dog, a Pomeranian companion animal, was presented with a right recurrent grade 1-2 luxating patella with a history and subsequent surgical correction of a similar presentation in the left. The dog was found to most notably have restriction in the sacro-illiac joint and hypertonic sartorius and psoas muscles ipsilateral to the involved patella. The dog was given chiropractic adjustments to the restricted joints and myofascial release was applied to the named muscles. Results: Response to treatment was favorable, lowering the incidence of luxation eventually to the point of absence and decreasing the level of the dog's disability. The duration of relief is however unknown. Conclusion: Management with manual therapeutic intervention may represent a cost effective and noninvasive solution to the management or recurrent luxating patella. Though similar findings would have to be found in other cases to warrant certainty.

The effects of chiropractic, massage and phenylbutazone on spinal mechanical nociceptive thresholds in horses without clinical signs.

Equine Vet J. 2008 Jan;40(1):14-20.

Sullivan KA, Hill AE, Haussler KK.
Valley Central High School, Montgomery, NY 12549, USA.

REASON FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Common methods used to treat back problems in horses need to be assessed objectively.

OBJECTIVES: To measure spinal mechanical nociceptive thresholds (MNTs) and evaluate the effects of chiropractic, massage and phenylbutazone, compared with active and inactive control groups.

METHODS: Baseline MNTs at 7 sites within the thoracolumbar and sacral regions were measured in 38 healthy mature horses exhibiting no clinical signs of lumbar pain. Horses were assigned to one of 3 treatment groups: instrument-assisted chiropractic treatment, therapeutic massage and phenylbutazone; or 2 control groups: ridden exercise (active control) or routine paddock turnout with no ridden exercise (inactive control). MNT measurements were repeated at 1, 3 and 7 days post treatment. The percentage change from baseline MNT values was calculated within groups.

RESULTS: On Day 7, the median MNT had increased by 27, 12 and 8% in the chiropractic, massage and phenylbutazone groups, respectively. MNT changes of <1% were seen within the active and inactive control groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Chiropractic treatment and massage therapy increased spinal MNTs within horses not exhibiting signs of lumbar pain.

POTENTIAL RELEVANCE: Pressure algometry provides an objective tool to evaluate the effects of commonly used, but currently unproven treatment modalities on spinal MNTs. Future studies need to evaluate combined treatment effects and longer-term MNT changes in horses with documented back pain.

Effect of chiropractic manipulations on the kinematics of back and limbs in horses with clinically diagnosed back problems.

Equine Vet J. 2008 Mar;40(2):153-9.

Gomez Alvarez CB, L'ami JJ, Moffat D, Back W, van Weeren PR.
Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 112, NL-3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands.

REASON FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Although there is anecdotal evidence of clinical effectiveness of chiropractic in treatment of equine back pain, little scientific work has been reported on the subject.

OBJECTIVES: To quantify the effect of chiropractic manipulations on back and limb kinematics in horse locomotion.

METHODS: Kinematics of 10 Warmblood horses were measured over ground at walk and trot at their own, preferred speed before, and one hour and 3 weeks after chiropractic treatment that consisted of manipulations of the back, neck and pelvic area. Speed was the same during all measurements for each horse.

RESULTS: Chiropractic manipulations resulted in increased flexion-extension range of motion (ROM) (P<0.05) at trot in the vertebral angular segments: T10-T13-T17 (0.3 degrees ) and T13-T17-L1 (0.8 degrees ) one hour after treatment, but decreased ROM after 3 weeks. The angular motion patterns (AMPs) of the same segments showed increased flexion at both gaits one hour after treatment (both angles 0.2 degrees at walk and 0.3 degrees at trot, P<0.05) and 3 weeks after treatment (1.0 degrees and 2.4 degrees at walk and 1.9 degrees and 2.9 degrees at trot, P<0.05). The lumbar (L3 and L5) area showed increased flexion after one hour (both angles 0.3 degrees at walk and 0.4 degrees at trot P<0.05), but increased extension after 3 weeks (1.4 degrees and 1.2 degrees , at trot only, P<0.05). There were no detectable changes in lateral bending AMPs. The inclination of the pelvis was reduced at trot one hour (1.6 degrees ) and 3 weeks (3 degrees ) after treatment (P<0.05). The mean axial rotation of the pelvis was more symmetrical 3 weeks after the treatment at both gaits (P<0.05). There were no changes in limb angles at walk and almost no changes at trot.

CONCLUSIONS: The main overall effect of the chiropractic manipulations was a less extended thoracic back, a reduced inclination of the pelvis and improvement of the symmetry of the pelvic motion pattern.

POTENTIAL RELEVANCE: Chiropractic manipulations elicit slight but significant changes in thoracolumbar and pelvic kinematics. Some of the changes are likely to be beneficial, but clinical trials with increased numbers of horses and longer follow-up are needed.

Effects of vertebral mobilization and manipulation on kinematics of the thoracolumbar region.

Am J Vet Res
. 2007 May;68(5):508-16.

Haussler KK, Hill AE, Puttlitz CM, McIlwraith CW.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To measure passive spinal movements induced during dorsoventral mobilization and evaluate effects of induced pain and spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) on passive vertebral mobility in standing horses.

ANIMALS: 10 healthy adult horses.

PROCEDURES: Baseline vertical displacements, applied force, stiffness, and frequency of the oscillations were measured during dorsoventral spinal mobilization at 5 thoracolumbar intervertebral sites. As a model for back pain, fixation pins were temporarily implanted into the dorsal spinous processes of adjacent vertebrae at 2 of the intervertebral sites. Vertebral variables were recorded again after pin placement and treadmill locomotion. In a randomized crossover study, horses were allocated to control and treatment interventions, separated by a 7-day washout period. The SMT consisted of high-velocity, low-amplitude thrusts applied to the 3 non-pin-placement sites. Control horses received no treatment.

RESULTS: The amplitudes of vertical displacement increased from cranial to caudal in the thoracolumbar portion of the vertebral column. Pin implantation caused no immediate changes at adjacent intervertebral sites, but treadmill exercise caused reductions in most variables. The SMT induced a 15% increase in displacement and a 20% increase in applied force, compared with control measurements.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The passive vertical mobility of the trunk varied from cranial to caudal. At most sites, SMT increased the amplitudes of dorsoventral displacement and applied force, indicative of increased vertebral flexibility and increased tolerance to pressure in the thoracolumbar portion of the vertebral column.

Long-term follow-up of manipulative treatment in a horse with back problems.

J Vet Med A Physiol Pathol Clin Med
. 2003 Jun;50(5):241-5.

Faber MJ, van Weeren PR, Schepers M, Barneveld A.
Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

In order to objectively quantify the effect of manipulation on back-related locomotion anomalies in the horse, a recently developed kinematic measuring technique for the objective quantification of thoracolumbar motion in the horse was applied in a dressage horse that was suffering from a back problem. In this horse, clinically, a right-convex bending (scoliosis) from the 10th thoracic vertebra to the second lumbar vertebra was diagnosed. As a result, there was a marked asymmetric movement of the thoracolumbar spine. Functionally, there was severe loss of performance. Thoracolumbar motion was measured in terms of ventrodorsal flexion, lateral flexion, and axial rotation using an automated gait analysis system. Measurements were repeated before and 2 days after treatment, before the second treatment 3 weeks later, and at 4 weeks and 8 months after the second treatment to assess long-term effect. At the same time, performance of the horse was assessed subjectively by the trainer as well. Symmetry of movement improved dramatically after the first treatment. After this, there was a slight decrease in symmetry, but 8 months after the last treatment the symmetry indexes for the various joints were still considerably better than during the first (pre-treatment) measuring session. Subjectively, the trainer did not notice improvement until after measurement session 4. Between sessions 4 and 5 (at 4 weeks and 8 months after the second treatment) there was a change of trainer. The new trainer did not report any back problem, and succeeded in bringing the horse back to its former level in competition. It is concluded that manipulation had a measurable influence on the kinematics of the thoracolumbar spine. However, it is recognized that an improvement in symmetry of motion is not equivalent to clinical improvement and that other measures, such as changes in management, may be more decisive.

Use of complementary veterinary medicine in the geriatric horse.

Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract
. 2002 Dec;18(3):631-6, ix.

Boldt E Jr.
International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, PO Box 271395, Fort Collins, CO 80527, USA.

The use of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine continues to grow within the veterinary community. As more clients seek out complementary and alternative medicine for their own health care, they begin to seek out these forms of therapy for their animals. For the equine practitioner, this includes those clients with geriatric animals. It is hoped that this article provides some insight into what conditions may be helped with CVM (complementary veterinary medicine) and when an equine practitioner may want to consider CVM as a form of therapy for the geriatric horse.
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