The Healing Arts

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When I went to vet school at the University of Pennsylvania, a philosophy of “one medicine” was stressed, meaning there was much to be learned by comparing and contrasting disorders and therapies used in human medicine and animals. That approach has served me well. But I want to expand the idea beyond medical doctors and veterinarians working together. The “one medicine” I hope to see will incorporate all of the available healing arts.

There is much interest among horse owners in “alternative medicine,” a rather inflammatory term used to lump together everything from nutritional support to voodoo. It’s inflammatory because it creates an “us” vs. “them” atmosphere. Everyone gets a defensive (and/or superior) attitude — regardless of which “side” they are on — and no dialogue is established.

I’ve been helping a devoted owner who has endured a long, painful and expensive journey to find help for her horse’s headshaking. Traditional medicine couldn’t help her. The horse was eventually found to have several dislocations of the vertebrae in her neck. It may sound straightforward, but it wasn’t.

Simply getting the diagnosis made took a year. Despite several opinions, all traditional medicine had to offer was the drug cyproheptadine, and even when it wasn’t working, many of the vets refused to look further. It took a combination of chiropractic manipulations and soft-tissue relaxation techniques (massage, acupressure, myofascial release, electroacupuncture and light therapy) to relieve the pain and overcome the spasm/shortening from the long-term misalignment. Plus, she had sound nutritional support to calm irritated nerves and combat muscle tightness.

Traditional medicine failed, but not from lack of a pill, shot or surgery to give her a quick fix. It failed because the therapeutic tools available to get the job done were not even considered. No single approach to healing had all the answers. Chiropractic alone would likely also have failed, as would any of the other therapies used on its own.

It’s tough enough to get and keep our horses in top form, diagnose and treat medical problems or keep our retirees comfortable. We at Horse Journal remain committed to sticking to the basics. And the most basic evaluation of a treatment modality is whether or not it works. It’s time to give equal consideration and, where warranted, status to all the healing arts.

’Til Next Month,

-Eleanor Kellon, VMD