What is Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic Care is a manual therapy that focuses on repairing biomechanical dysfunction of the joints of the spine and extremities. Biomechanical dysfunction affects the entire nervous system including balance, propreception, muscle strength, neuro-coordination, organ, endocrine gland and immune function. Since the nervous system controls the whole body and 80% of the input into the nervous system is from motion, a decrease in spinal and extremity motion decreases whole body function. In chiropractic manipulation a very specific, high velocity, low amplitude or distance thrust is used to try to return the joint or motion unit back to its normal functional range of motion. Chiropractic care is complementary to traditional veterinary medical care and is more effective when performed early in a disease process or as a preventative to the development of some disease processes.
How can Chiropractic Care work?
In order to understand how chiropractic care can correct some disease processes, we need to understand a little of the horse’s anatomy and physiology. Most chiropractic care is performed on the spine, a complex network of vertebra, ligaments, muscles and most importantly nerves. The spinal column acts as a framework to support the body, the attachment point for many of the body’s muscles, protection unit for the spinal cord and nerves, and protection unit for the internal organs. The nerves exit the spinal cord through boney tunnels at the location of the movable joints between the vertebras. The motion of these joints helps with the function and integrity of the nerve. However when a vertebral subluxation complex (VSC) occurs which is a fixation of the motion unit, the function of the spinal column and nerve is diminished. A VSC is a very specific condition or disease of the spinal column in which one or more of the joints are not moving properly. You could say the bones are “stuck” and this condition causes the nerve to be “physiologically pinched” or compromised. The “physiological pinching” occurs with the accumulation of edema or water in the bony canal through which the nerve exits the spinal column. The water takes up space so consequently compresses all other structures in the canal including the nerve. A chiropractic adjustment is used to restore the joint to more normal range of motion and functionally driving the edema or water from the canal.
What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?
A chiropractic adjustment is a low amplitude, high velocity, specific angle thrust into a joint to return joint function to normal. What does this mean? We have already touched on the why the need for joint movement, so let’s discuss the aspects of joint motion, so we can understand the definition of the chiropractic adjustment. All joints have a normal full range of motion as depicted in the diagram below. The functional range of motion goes from one physiological barrier to the next. At the ends of the range of motion beyond the physiological barrier is the paraphysiological space. After the paraphysiological space is the anatomical barrier. Ligaments, tendons, joint capsule and bone create the anatomical barrier. Crossing this barrier will result in damage to one or all of the previous mentioned structures.
Therefore a low amplitude thrust is used. Low amplitude means the thrust is for a short distance, generally 2 – 3 mm in length. The need for speed is very important for a chiropractic adjustment. You might recall from a high school science course Force = mass × acceleration. Since we cannot significantly change our mass, we need to have quick acceleration to produce enough force to push the joint into the paraphysiological space, but still have control of the amplitude of the force. The final aspect of the adjustment is a specific angle of the adjustment. The angle of the adjustment is determined by the plane of the joint surface. When a chiropractic adjustment is done the joint is moved into the paraphysiological space which allows the joint to return to normal full range of motion. When the joint is in a normal range of motion increased input into the nervous system occurs which results in improved function of the nervous system and whatever kind of biomechanical, organ, endocrine or immune end-structure the nerve is innervating.