Alternative therapies, sometimes termed complementary, natural or holistic therapies, are becoming more popular in people and have also been proven to be beneficial for animals. There are a number of alternative therapies available for treating horses for a wide range of health concerns, particularly injury. They are not only used as treatment but as a preventative measure to maintain overall good health. Below is some information on a few of the common alternative therapies available to horses.
Chiropractic treatment is commonly used in horses for the treatment of problems that originate in the neck, spine, back and pelvis. It involves the manipulation of bone by applying pressure to areas in quick thrusts. Chiropractic treatment is often sort when a horse is lame or displaying unusual traits when working like bucking or hanging to one side.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that has been practised on humans for thousands of years and is now recognised as a healing method in horses. It involves using thin needles, in a dry needling technique, where they are inserted into areas or points that correspond to body structures or functions of organs. The needles stimulate energy flow and blood flow to areas that may be blocked in order to re-establish normal function and/or promote healing. It is said to be particularly beneficial for nerve or muscle related problems and conditions such as laminitis, navicular disease and gastric ulcers.
Electrotherapy is a therapy that involves delivering an electric current through electrodes that are attached or in contact with the skin. There are a number of different methods or units in which the electrotherapy can be administered and they can target sensory nerve or motor nerve stimulation. Electrotherapy has been proven to increase tissue healing as it works on a cellular level. It is beneficial for injury rehabilitation and helps in reducing pain, relaxing contracted muscles, stimulates circulation and reduces swelling.
Bowen therapy is a gentle and relaxing hands on therapy which looks at the whole body and overall health of the horse including the physical, mental and emotional health. It is a soft tissue therapy where the therapist targets specific muscles, tendons or ligaments by applying pressure and rolling over them with their fingers and thumbs. Throughout the treatment resting periods are taken allowing the body to process the information and respond accordingly. Bowen therapy is said to promote and stimulate healing of the body and be useful in treating injuries, illness/disease, lowered immune system, muscle development and temperament issues.
Alternative therapies are not intended to (and nor should they) replace veterinarians. Instead that should be used in conjunction with a veterinarian to compliment their treatment. It is always important to get a correct diagnosis from a veterinarian before starting any alternative treatment and to ensure that any additional therapies are appropriate for that horse and situation.
Always be sure to use a well trained, reputable and qualified therapist.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Winter 2016.
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