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A look at complementary medicine

by Dr. Daniel H. Grove, DVM - April 1st, 2017 - Ask the Vet

AskTheVetMedicine, whether veterinary or human, is always evolving. New and ancient modalities are constantly being explored to best serve our patients. What used to be called “eastern medicine” or “alternative medicine”, has now earned the term “complementary medicine”. This month, I thought we might discuss complementary medicine and some of the types we may see in our equine patients.

A chiropractor diagnoses and treats problems with our backs and other areas of the body. In veterinary medicine, the term to this type of practitioner is a Certified Veterinary Medical Manipulation Practitioner (CVMMP). Now, that is a mouthful! CVMMPs adjust the backs, hips, necks and other parts of the body. Often times their additional training makes them excellent at lameness detection. They manipulate various parts of the equine body that may be out of alignment. They do an excellent job at keeping our equine athletes at the top of their game!

Acupuncture has been practiced by the Chinese for over 3000 years. Special acupuncture needles are placed at specific sites in the body. The sites are said to coincide with certain “meridians” of the body that correspond to a particular organ or body system. The act of stimulating these meridians can decrease pain, stimulate blood flow, or release substances from the body to aid in the treatment and healing process.

Laser therapy is a new and exciting form of treatment. It can work like acupuncture therapy to stimulate meridians and it can also directly stimulate tissues. A low level or cold laser focuses light on an area. Some general therapeutic effects have been reported to be increased cell growth, increased metabolic activity, faster wound healing, anti-inflammatory action, increased vascular activity and pain reduction, just to name a few. With regard to soft tissue injuries, recently they have been shown to rapidly speed the healing process and to end up with a better structure in the end.

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy uses pulses of high-energy waves to reach tissues. These waves of energy are similar to sound waves. They can speed healing and have an analgesic or pain reducing affect. It is a noninvasive procedure that is low cost and has been used successfully. It can be so good at reducing pain, some shows and racing jurisdictions have regulated its use so as to not be performance enhancing or damaging to the animal.

Herbal medicine uses various plants for the treatment of animals. There are herbs labeled for a multitude of ailments. They are great treatment options for those who wish to avoid using pharmaceutics. The use of these plants are not without potential side effects, but some clients prefer them to the options we have in manmade forms.

This is not an exhaustive list, but more of a brief overview of complementary medicine. Complementary medicine has earned it name because most practitioners feel that it should be used with conventional or western medicine and not necessarily as an alternative. If you would like to try something new and maybe a little out of the box, ask your veterinarian how complementary medicine can be used for your favorite four-legged friend.


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