Do I Need an Equine Chiropractor or Massage Therapist?
This is a common question that many owners ask themselves. Well let’s first discuss each discipline.
Chiropractic is focused on the nervous system and how the muscles are coordinated by the nervous system. Muscles function based on the input from your horse’s sensory system. The sensory system are such things as pressure on the skin, temperature, sounds, sights, and activity from the muscles themselves. All of this sensory activity feeds back into the nervous system where it is interpreted and the correct nerve signals are sent out of the spine to respond to this sensory input. If the muscles are sending information to the spinal nerves and those spinal nerves are pinched within the spine then the information received by then spinal cord will be faulty and a poor response will be sent out, this is like the computer analogy of “garbage in – garbage out.” You can exercise and work your horse till the cows come home but nothing will change until the chiropractor removes the nerve interference. Many times an owner will have their horse worked on by the massage therapist and see a difference in the horse’s movement and proclaim that is all the horse needed. In many instances this could not be further from the truth. If a horse has muscle imbalance or tightness causing performance issues a massage will loosen those muscles but if there is a nerve pinch then those muscles will only temporarily function better. The symptom of a nerve pinch may only be tight muscles. Having your horse checked by a chiropractor is the only way to know if a pinched nerve exists. The standard Vet. tests cannot detect a pinched nerve at the spinal level; palpation by the chiropractor is the best method to detect this problem.
Massage Therapy is focused on the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage is a wonderful way to help loosen tight muscles and improve bodily movements and function. There are many methods of massage therapy and they all have their benefits. The massage therapist will always evaluate your entire horse’s movement and direct the treatment to the blocked and compensated muscles. Muscles are made up of fibers that work in harmony with each other to produce movement. These muscles are powered by the nervous system. When a muscle is strained or over worked it will develop toxic knots called trigger points which can literally poison the muscle fibers around it and cause poor movement. These trigger points will also send faulty signals to the nervous system causing an even larger error in movement. The massage therapist will work these trigger points out of the muscle and thus restore proper nerve signals back to the spinal cord.
Simply put the Chiropractor will restore the power supply and the Massage therapist will restore the light bulbs.
In the end the real answer to the title of this article is that you need both. If your horse has routine chiropractic or massage consider doing both, in the long run it is cheaper than treating an injury that could have been avoided by regular wellness chiropractic and massage care. If your horse has an issue please consult both to properly assess the cause of the condition. Neither profession is a substitute for Vet Care. Always have your Vet check your horse if there is an injury first, if there are no torn muscles, or broken bones then the chiropractor and massage therapist are the right choice.