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For Pets and People, Alternative Medicine is Not Just Treatment, But a Lifestyle

People often give chiropractors a hard time about the fact that they make an appointment to be checked, receive treatment, but are then mandated by the doctor to have regular visits for the rest of their lives. From our well-ingrained western medical culture, it does seem like a funny and relevant joke. However, it not only paints chiropractors in the unfriendliest of lights, it misses the point of chiropractic and other forms of alternative medicine – and it is unfair to the practitioner.

Alternative medicine is just, well…different. Instead of just prescribing a pill to treat the disease directly, alternative medicine corrects imbalances in the patient’s body to enable the body to perform one of the functions it does best, which is to heal itself.

In the case of chiropractic, the doctor is seeking to find misalignments that are not only responsible for pain and decreased mobility, but also block the flow of nerve conduction which compromises tissues and can have a profound affect on the total health of the patient. With acupuncture, the practitioner seeks points of poor or blocked chi flow, the ancient Chinese word for the body’s life energy force (what modern science interprets as nerve conduction and blood circulation). The acupuncturist manages symptoms and disease by strategically placing fine needles to re-establish energy flow. From either discipline, through the restoration of balance and thus nerve conduction and circulation, the body can then deliver vital energy and healing cells to elevate the health of the patient.

I mention these two disciplines because they are the most well known, but also because to optimally enjoy the health benefits of each, some degree of ongoing maintenance treatment is usually necessary. Alternative therapy, however, does not stop there. It includes therapeutic massage, nutritional therapy, hydrotherapy, and MLS laser therapy to name some.

Our western medical mindsets and busy, stressful lives dictate that we all too often seek a pill for what ails us so that we may feel better and get on with our lives.  All too often, we wish for the same for our furry family members as well.  We may even view the concept of ongoing maintenance treatments with alternative medicine with some degree of skepticism or even cynicism. But we really should not.

There is a scientific law known as the Law of Entropy, which dictates that without constant energy input, all isolated systems – biological systems included – will progress from a state of order to disorder. The best way to consider the effects of entropy is to consider what would become of your home if you did not regularly clean it. Entropy occurs in our bodies and the bodies of our pets every moment of our existence. Entropy is the reason bodies break down, the reason they age, and ultimately the reason they die.

 In consideration of disease and its relation to entropy, it should be clear why alternative medicine is a lifestyle choice, not a magic pill. Maintenance treatment is often necessary to maintain the health of the patient. In the case of our friend the chiropractor, he finds the misalignment and will likely successfully correct it, but there was a reason for the misalignment in the first place. Whether it is a very active lifestyle, a physically laborious occupation, bad sleeping habits, or poor genetically inherited conformation, etc., if not maintained to some degree, the misalignment will likely return. It is no different for other forms of alternative medicine.

The most common breed of dog in which I treat spinal disk disease, is the Dachshund, a breed that is predisposed to spinal problems because of their elongated conformation. In the case of debilitating disk injuries and degeneration, therapy laser, acupuncture, and nutritional therapy will help to alleviate pain and restore function, but no amount of these treatments is going to change the fact that the dog simply is too long for the number of vertebra it has. Some degree of ongoing treatment is going to be necessary to maintain the health benefits achieved by the initial induction period of treatment, the frequency of which is determined by the severity of disease and the length of response from each individual patient.

Thus, if considering alternative therapy for your dog, cat, human family member, or for yourself, go into it understanding that you are not engaging in a one time or short term cure-all, but instead making a lifestyle choice that will lead to profound health benefits. Just as most people readily accept the notion that they need to regularly visit the beautician to maintain hair, hands and feet, and your dog or cat needs a regular visit to the groomer for the same; accept that regular visits for acupuncture, therapy laser and chiropractic are necessary to maintain something far more precious than beauty…health.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.

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