Understanding the integral relationship of spinal nerves and vertebrae is essential to understanding animal chiropractic therapy. The spine, though made to protect the spinal cord, was also designed to allow for a wide range of motion. Each joint within the spine moves very little, but when they all move as one, the spine is incredibly flexible.
The nervous system is the main control system for the body. It controls the functions of the entire body by sending out spinal nerves. These nerves exit between two adjacent vertebrae to innervate the body. This anatomical arrangement is the focus of chiropractic treatments.
When two adjacent vertebrae aren't moving properly or are misaligned, they can cause detrimental effects on the spinal nerves and disrupt the free flow of information to and from the brain, spinal cord, and body. This situation is called a vertebral subluxation complex (VSC). The loss of normal flexibility of the spine and subsequent creation of a VSC causes a disruption in the flow of necessary stimuli and can cause a variety of neurological dysfunctions.
The goal of chiropractic therapy is to relieve the VSC by fixing the subluxation. Animal chiropractors treat subluxations with an adjustment, which is a very specific maneuver that encourages the affected joint to return to its normal range of motion. Adjusting the subluxated vertebrae relieves the pressure and inflammation around the spinal nerves helping to alleviate the VSC and return normal function to the nerves.
Vertebral subluxation complexes occur for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is repetitive motion. All animals tend to do repetitive motions every day, especially animals in work or training. As repetitive movements are performed, the vertebrae can become maligned and become accustomed to being in an incorrect position.
The most common symptom of a VSC is pain. It may be manifested as general stiffness, reduced performance, abnormal posture or gait, reluctance to play, reluctance to be saddled or ridden, a behavior change, decreased flexion (commonly seen at the poll) or muscle atrophy.
Chiropractic therapy is a tool to treat biomechanical dysfunction. It should be used regularly as a preventative measure as well as a treatment for current or chronic problems. Ongoing chiropractic care can help prevent future problems. Ideally, maintaining spinal cord health with chiropractic adjustments should be an integral part of any wellness program. The first chiropractic exam should be performed as early as possible on all puppies, kittens, foals, etc, to insure that the young animal has the best chance to grow properly and in correct alignment.