The Animal Cracker - Vol. III: Phase I - Scenario in a Nut Shell
July 08, 2015
Phase I - Scenario in a Nut Shell
Phase I is usually the initial phase of care for an animal that has not previously been under any type of effective chiropractic care, and is suffering from biomechanical malfunction, with compensatory adaptive physiology. The following is a very common scenario regarding the presentation of an animal that has been referred to me by a veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.
I think that it would be helpful for your understanding of Phase I failed quadrupedal biomechanics for me to first set the stage of the scene that has typically occurred prior to my being called into a case.
The initial causation factors that I find are more frequently related to the absence of an event, than to the occurrence of an actual traumatic event. In other words, inactivity or greatly reduced activity can bring one of these athletes out of condition quickly. This is similar to decubitus ulcers or “bedsores” found in humans, including athletes that are inactive in hospital beds. We are designed for motion and mobility. Life is motion, without it we begin to atrophy and our tissue wastes no time before it begins to break down. Our muscles now adapt to the new level of reduced work or inactivity. In horses, this reduced activity can be due to; stall rest during the rehabilitation of an infirmity, or turnout to a new life of grazing after a previous lifestyle of consistently heavy work. In short, stalls can be job security for animal chiropractors.
Following this period of reduced activity and muscle use transitions from mobilizers to stabilizers, one day the horse, just being a horse, detonates in a bucking episode, which can causes its pelvis to rotate toward extension. If the hind muscles have transitioned, it may allow the pelvis to “stick” or become fixated in this extended position. A pelvis “locked” in extension can be very painful for our equine friends, so they frequently attempt to correct themselves by bucking even more. This can cause the pelvis to go further into extension or hyperextension, causing even greater pain for the horse. Bucking can eventually release endorphins, which can give the horse some relief and may even cause the horses to think that they are correcting or helping themselves, but in reality, they may only be driving the pelvis into further trouble.
When the pelvis is fixated or subluxated in extension or worse yet, hyperextension, not only can the horse tend to experience back and pelvic pain, but it can also begin to suffer from imbalanced weight bearing abilities. A pelvis fixated in extension is like an unloaded spring that cannot load. It causes weight-bearing difficulties for the horse to proportionately support its own weight, not withstanding, the weight of a rider. A pitch to the rear may become apparent as the horse no longer has four legs perpendicular to level ground, and now assumes a posture resembling a “goat on a rock.” Riders often describe this sensation to me as their horse being “heavy on the forehand.” This is because it must initiate gait by plunging forward from this rearward pitch. (See Volume VI)
As the horse shifts its weight forward to get off the hind, before long, symptoms can begin to arise in the front end, because it is only designed to sustain 55% of the horse’s weight. Eventually something has to give. This may cause front-end lameness or soreness in the shoulders and eventually the horse may excessively use its head and neck as a counter-balance to facilitate the rearward pitch, eventually causing fixations in the neck and poll.
At this point, typically a veterinarian is called in to perform a lameness evaluation. Unless there has been direct trauma, or over-utilization injuries due to pitch compensation, the lameness evaluation may prove to flex within normal limits. With other pathologies ruled out, this is when I typically receive a referral from the veterinarian. Frequently, this is the presentation of Phase I.
Thank you for your continued interest in animal chiropractic.
Dr. Lance E. Cleveland
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