Monday, May 14, 2012
Animal chiropractor stakes claim in Dallas-Fort Worth area
The practice is vastly becoming part of protocol in animal treatment.
Push, pull, pop ... and a big neigh of relief.
Adjusting a horse isn't such a strange phenomenon for Beth Evans and her fellow animal chiropractors. It's all in a day's work.
"I can pretty much adjust anything with a spine," said Evans, a licensed chiropractor who spends her time away from human backaches at ranches and stables, using her trade on animals. "I've adjusted 1,800-pound horses and gotten audibles out of them just like I do people. It's pretty much the same thing."
Evans owns and operates Turquoise Animal Chiropractic, a practice that benefits animals of all sizes, from small dogs to large draft horses. Just as she does for people, Evans restores and maintains motion within the animals' spine and extremities to prevent and treat musculoskeletal disorders.
She spends her afternoons at Divine Spine Wellness Clinic in McKinney adjusting residents with neck, back, and shoulder pain, but her morning and evening patients talk less and have a bit more hair. During summer months, she often adjusts up to 15 horses a day in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
"Some days, I go out and adjust horses, go to the clinic, change and adjust a few people, change back and adjust a few more horses," she said. "I try not to do that because I get dirty and don't want to be adjusting someone when I smell like a big, sweaty horse."
Such is the life of an animal chiropractor, a profession that's been around for more than a century but has "really taken off in the last 10 years," Evans said. At least 30 certified animal chiropractors practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, though more desolate states like New Mexico may have just a few, she said.
One of her animal chiropractor friends adjusts horses all over the U.S., with appointments as far away as California and New Jersey.
"She'll adjust 60 horses in two days sometimes, but that's a rough couple of days," Evans said. "It's taxing, especially in the summer time, so I try not to do more than 10 or 15 in a day."
Animal chiropractic doesn't differ much from human chiropractic. In both cases, the chiropractor performs an analysis and neurological exam to evaluate the health of the spinal and extremity joints and the nervous system.
The analysis involves static and motion palpation of the joints, muscles, and ligaments to determine if an area is restricted in motion, Evans says on her practice's website. Such a lack of motion is termed a subluxation, a nervous system dysfunction that causes pain, muscle spasm, atrophy, weakness, behavioral problems and even decreased immune function.
With horses, the call for a chiropractic adjustment comes when the animal won't pick up its left or right lead leg, when it's lame, or when it's simply sore when being groomed. "It can be any number of problems," Evans said.
Veterinarians often must first refer a patient to an animal chiropractor to fix a pain they won't or can't. Some vets do not buy into animal chiropractic, and some even view it "like it's some kind of voodoo," Evans said.
But the practice is vastly becoming part of protocol in animal treatment. Ed Mapes, an area chiropractor who plans to open Stonebridge Animal Hospital this summer in McKinney, admitted his previous caution of the practice has subsided in recent years.
"In the past, I kind of frowned on chiropractic work for animals as being very effective," Mapes said. "But two years ago, we didn't think stem cell methods could cure hip dysplasia, either. I think there is a place in veterinarian practice for chiropractic."
Mapes said rehabilitation and pain management, possibly including chiropractic work, will be a big part of his new hospital. His faith in the practice stems from his own experience with a chiropractor, one that healed his longtime migraine headaches.
"I tried a neurologist, medications, and nothing really worked," he said. "A chiropractor manipulated my neck and found out the source for headaches I've had all these years. I know it can work."
Evans got involved in chiropractic in similar fashion. Coincidentally, she was injured by a horse several years ago, and doctors and muscle relaxers couldn't help.
"I went to a chiropractor and they fixed me, so that kind of opened my eyes to it," said Evans, who originally wanted to be a veterinarian. "It literally saved my life."
She completed a six-month course on small and large animals and got certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, as well as licensed as a human chiropractor in Texas and Oklahoma.
Through working at a chiropractic clinic in the Panhandle, she obtained a widespread patient base for her animal practice, much of it in the D-FW area. She spent part of Tuesday evening adjusting Diesel, a registered paint horse at Hoofbeats at Waterstone, a horse boarding facility in northeastern McKinney.
"We had the vet look at him last week and he was having troubles with his back," said Denise Tang, Diesel's owner. "It was a little sore, and when we tried to groom him, he completely flinched and backed off when we touched his back."
Evans checked his gait, crossed his legs to test his response and yanked his tail from behind to stretch out his spine. She tested Diesel's reflexes and massaged his shoulders and hip.
Evans said it sometimes takes days after an adjustment before the soreness is gone, but when she was done, Diesel's previously tender withers, the ridge between his shoulder blades, was back to normal.
Though she suggested Tang takes her horse back to the vet for blood work to see if there's a problem with his kidneys, positioned beneath his lower back, her adjustments proved worthwhile.
At one point, Diesel seemed to neigh his approval.
"I like working on animals more than people," Evans said. "Some have come to me on three legs, and when I adjust them, they walk off fine."
For more information about Evans' practice, visit www.turquoiseanimalchiro.com.
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