How Veterinarians Use Chiropractic to Assess Equine Back Pain

Veterinarians are using chiropractic techniques more frequently to evaluate and treat back disorders in horses. Here, a CSU professor and researcher outlines basic principles.
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How Veterinarians Use Chiropractic to Assess Equine Back Pain
Specially trained veterinarians often use chiropractic to address poor performance or vague lameness, to evaluate the spine, and as a conservative treatment option for musculoskeletal issues. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

Veterinarians are using chiropractic techniques more frequently to evaluate and treat back disorders in horses. These therapies are not taught in vet school, however, so Kevin Haussler, DVM, DC, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, Orthopaedic Research Center faculty at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in Fort Collins, introduced their basic principles at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California.

Chiropractic, derived from the Greek words for “hand” and “to practice,” encompasses a variety of manual therapies, said Haussler, including touch, massage, stretching, joint mobilization and manipulation, and induced spinal reflexes. Specially trained veterinarians often use it to address poor performance or vague lameness, to evaluate the spine, and as a conservative treatment option for musculoskeletal issues.

RELATED CONTENT: Neck and Back Pain in Horses (Podcast)
RELATED CONTENT: Neck and Back Pain in Horses (Podcast)

Researchers have reported back issues in 13-94% of study horses and 23-32% of horses with lameness. Diagnosis, however, is often difficult, and Haussler said the few treatment options veterinarians have include chiropractic, acupuncture, and surgery

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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