Veterinarians think outside the box with alternative equine therapies

Dr Natalia Novoa performs acupuncture on a horse.
Dr Natalia Novoa performs acupuncture on a horse. © Palm Beach Equine Clinic

When properly applied by a trained practitioner, Alternative Medicine can be used in conjunction with traditional sports medicine to provide sport horses with a winning edge.

Alternative methods do not replace conventional veterinary medicine or surgery, but can be useful in maintaining top performance levels in the horse.

Veterinary acupuncture specialist Dr Janet Greenfield-Davis.
Veterinary acupuncture specialist Dr Janet Greenfield-Davis. © Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Chiropractic and acupuncture therapies are complementary treatments for lameness problems, and both can help a horse to remain supple and move with more ease. These therapies help the musculature to work efficiently and may help to maintain minor chronic issues.

Veterinary Chiropractic Manipulation is thought to optimize equine health by restoring normal joint motion, reversing mild pathology, and helping to slow the progression of degenerative joint and spine disease. Over the years, this therapy has become a valuable adjunct for competition horses.

Chiropractic Manipulation is also a treatment option for horses who suffer from neck and back pain, nerve damage, poor performance, behavioral problems, muscle spasms, localized or regional joint stiffness, unexplained lameness, gait abnormalities, asymmetry/muscle imbalance/atrophy, injuries resulting from falls, trauma (such as slips, getting cast in the stable, or missteps), or poor fitting equipment.

Two veterinarians who specialise in Alternative Equine Medicine are Dr Janet Greenfield-Davis and Dr Natalia Novoa, both from the Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) in Wellington, Florida. Dr Novoa performs chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture, and Dr Greenfield-Davis focuses specifically in acupuncture treatment with her clients.

“Chiropractic is an excellent complementary modality that can be used for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of selected neuromusculoskeletal disorders,” Dr Novoa said.

“The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primary spinal column) and function (coordinated by the nervous system) to restore it. The goal is to treat soft tissue injuries or articular dysfunction to optimize health through manual therapy and to detect and treat abnormalities and alleviate pain.”

Acupuncture stimulates particular points to relieve pain in the horse.
Acupuncture stimulates particular points to relieve pain in the horse.

Acupuncture is a form of treatment used in both traditional and classical Chinese medicine. It is based on the principle that there are energetic pathways, or channels, throughout the body that influence associated internal organs and structures. Energy from these pathways surface at various points on the body, identified as acupuncture points. Extremely fine gauge needles are inserted at selected points, stimulating these points and thereby activating the body’s natural healing abilities.

“With acupuncture, we stimulate particular points that can relieve pain, increase endorphins, calm, and improve health and body function in horses. These specific points have a high capacity of nerve endings, lymphatic vessels, and blood vessels, as well as hormone stimulation,” Dr Greenfield-Davis says.

Clinical trials indicate that acupuncture may be an effective adjunct therapy for musculoskeletal problems, such as muscle soreness, back pain, disc problems, osteoarthritis, and degenerative joint disease. Acupuncture may help neurological disorders, such as laryngeal hemiplegia, and facial and radial nerve paralysis. It can help with gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhea, gastric ulcers, colic, and impaction. Respiratory diseases, metabolic and endocrine diseases, and other chronic conditions, such as anhidrosis, heaves, asthma, cough, uveitis, and behavioral problems may also be helped with Acupuncture therapies.

Article courtesy of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

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