Chiropractic Questions

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We didn’t include chiropractic care in our August 2001 article on back problems, and it caused a bit of a stir. Some readers suggested it was an omission worth correcting, while others were openly hostile and defensive.

We’re neither pro- nor anti-chiropractic therapy. However, until some of our problems are addressed satisfactorily and consistently, we’re cautious about presenting it as an option to our readers.

To start, we find that similar — even identical — terms are used in different ways in this field. For example, traditional veterinarians, and some chiropractors as well, use the term “subluxation” to describe an actual physical displacement. Others have an intangible definition that allows for no actual physical displacement but means a nebulous dysfunction of some type that is nonetheless amenable to treatment with an adjustment. The problem is, we can’t understand why a horse should be treated by an adjustment for a dislocation that isn’t really there.

It’s also unclear whether legitimate chiropractors still believe spinal manipulation can affect the function of internal organs and whether mallets or spring-loaded instruments should be used. We’ve also asked how techniques that apply to a human or a dog, smaller patients who can be treated while lying down, can be applied to a horse, a large patient that must be treated while standing.

When we ask how to identify qualified practitioners, we’re told about the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association certification process. However, this process is open to both vets and chiropractors, regardless of the fact that anyone other than a licensed veterinarian is prohibited by law from practicing veterinary medicine. We also are not convinced a 150-hour certification process is really enough training.

Our subscribers rely on us to relate our experiences and results, whether it’s with a hoof pick or expensive therapy equipment, in order for them to make informed decisions for their own horses. We’ve followed the response of four horses that had chiropractic manipulations. The one positive result was treated by a human chiropractor who admitted she was still learning how horses might effectively be treated. The other three showed no improvement and were treated by veterinary practitioners who claimed to be certified.

So, yes, we’re fence sitting. We’re unwilling to actually reject this option, but we can’t outright recommend it without more solid information on rationale, techniques, expectations and, perhaps most importantly, how to separate the legitimate practitioners from those who aren’t.

’Til Next Month,

-Eleanor Kellon, VMD