5 Things I have learnt as a Biomechanical Vet
Animal Biomechanical Medicine (ABM) looks to restore health through mobility. It is most commonly used to treat lameness and other musculoskeletal conditions using mostly manual therapies. Manual therapies are derived from osteopathy and chiropractic. ABM is a holistic body appraisal also encompassing lifestyle, diet and rehabilitation exercises. As a vet I’ve learnt a lot about what is possible with musculoskeletal examination and treatment. Here is a short list of some of my insights.
1. Look for function, not pain
Biomechanical palpation is a refined skill. It looks for subtle changes in the function of joints in the head, neck, spine and legs. Joint movement is not just extension and flexion but also internal and external rotation and compression. It looks to determine what is restricting the joint movement – is it joint capsule, fascia, ligaments, muscle, or bone? With practice palpation can become highly attuned to palpate how the joint moves with every breath your pet takes – toes included!
2. Correcting biomechanics can reduce inflammation
Biomechanical correction isn’t just about getting muscles and joints to function correctly. It gets the nervous system, arterial and venous blood supply, lymphatic drainage, joint capsules and ligaments all functioning better. When these are working optimally inflammation is reduced along with reliance on pain relief medications.
3. Check Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ)
The jaw or TMJ needs to be checked in a complete biomechanical examination. Strain in the body will frequently show in the jaw. There are fascial connections from the bottom of the back feet and the tip of the tail that all end at the TMJ. If you have a problem anywhere along that fascia you may also get a problem in the jaw and vice versa. I also find a lot of jaw problems concurrent with dental problems in dogs. My patients get their jaws checked and treated post dental treatments.
4. Check Sacroilliac Joints (SIJ)
Another under diagnosed but often problematic joint is the SIJ where the pelvic iliac wings meets the sacrum. This is not traditionally thought of as a moving joint in veterinary medicine. The bones of the sacrum and the pelvis are not fused but held together with strong ligaments that allow a few degrees of movement. This subtle movement is important and when not functioning properly can lead to pain in the area or compensatory issues with the back and legs.
5. Fascia is fascinating
Fascia is the thin web of connective tissue that envelops all the muscles, tissues and organs. It is mainly composed of collagen connective tissue but through it run nerves, vessels and lymphatics. It connects the whole body from head to toe. When fascia is functioning correctly there is optimal nutrition and chemical signals to the tissues and drainage of waste materials. Fascia can be impeded by trauma, scar tissue, hydration, and nutritional status. Fascial tightness needs to be considered a source of pain and will cause postural imbalance.
ABM practitioners in Australia are Vets who are trained using osteopathic and chiropractic techniques, or human Osteopaths and Chiropractors with further training in animals. The ABM course is a 2 year post graduate diploma, you can find qualified practitioners here.