About Animal Biomechanical Medicine

Animal Biomechanical Medicine (ABM) is a new profession. It has evolved through the interaction of an innovative and open minded group of professionals who came together through the running of the RMIT University Animal Chiropractic program between 1998 and 2009. This program was open to Veterinarians, Chiropractors and Osteopaths, and attracted many practitioners who questioned convention and thought laterally. ABPA has recently created a course which replaced the RMIT program. All ABPA members are registered professionals – Veterinarians or human/animal qualified, registered Chiropractors or Osteopaths.

Those who are constantly seeking to understand what they do not and learn what is unknown are the true scientists and leaders of fields. ABPA members are leaders in animal care – we do not just stay within the confines of what we were taught in the lecture room or even our experiences. We are dedicated to the pursuit of new and beneficial approaches as we seek to improve outcomes for biomechanically dysfunctional animals, and then document our findings scientifically to educate the broader animal care community.

ABM encompasses various techniques suitable for animals from many sources. Chiropractic and Osteopathy techniques are the major sources – but ABM professionals are open minded and will learn from all they come in contact with, so there are many other influences involved and every ABM practitioner has a different assessment and treatment style. ABPA members share their knowledge with each other whenever they come together for refresher courses – this open sharing between the three original professions is the great strength of this new discipline.

The saying that the whole is more than the sum of all its parts is so true of Animal Biomechanical Medicine and the ABPA.

The core principal of ABM is the identification of biomechanical dysfunction anywhere in the body and the application of therapies, most often manually applied by the ABM professional, to return the patient’s body to best possible function – promoting homeostasis and optimum performance of that individual. The severity and chronicity of pre-existing pathology will influence the degree of recovery that is possible. ABM treatment scope ranges from high velocity low amplitude thrusts typical of Chiropractic, through a large range of soft tissue massage & release techniques, to non-force neurological influencing techniques such as fascial and respiratory releases, which are derived more from Osteopathy.

So – the three component professions of the ABM profession are Veterinary, Chiropractic and Osteopathic. Let’s take a quick look at each.

The veterinary profession originated long ago (think Egypt and China) but assumed its current name in France in the nineteenth century, when the core principals of improving animal welfare and upholding rational scientific principals became centrally expressed. ABM Veterinarians have all at some stage become aware of the limitations of their original veterinary training with respect to the assessment of the upper body and spine, and started looking for treatment options beyond drugs and surgery. The broad range of physical modalities included in ABM offer a comprehensive version of the third branch of medicine – the physical therapies.

Every ABM veterinarian is a thinker who has questioned the status quo – they are also likely to think deeply about examination & treatment options we well as case management and preventative recommendations, without losing their awareness of the importance of evidence base and scientific validity of treatment/management options offered. Many veterinarian ABM practitioners are also acupuncture qualified, some also use herbal therapies and all are well aware of the principals of rehabilitation therapy. Skilled application of ABM techniques often renders extensive rehabilitation unnecessary, but many cases require appropriate management of exercise and lifestyle to ensure the required response (return to optimal possible function) is achieved.

Chiropractic is primarily concerned with the well-being of the spine, particularly from a ‘mechanical’ point of view. Why? Quite simply, the spine houses and protects the spinal cord – which links the brain with the rest of the body. In simple terms, when there is dysfunction (alteration to normal function) at any point of the spine, there is almost always a disruption in the nerve traffic through that part of the spine, and this will therefore affect whatever those nerve pathways are travelling to. This dysfunction produces changes in nerve messages to structures such as the skin, muscles, ligaments and bone, potentially increasing or decreasing the reactivity of these tissues. Similarly function of organs such as the lungs, kidneys and gut can be affected.

ABM is specifically directed at assessing the spinal biomechanics of animal spines, and correcting them using a variety of techniques, including the “spinal adjustment”. An ‘adjustment’ applied by a qualified ABM professional is a much safer, more specific technique than ‘manipulations’ applied by unqualified practitioners. Spinal adjustment is a highly effective technique that really does get excellent results, and is usually very comfortable for the animal. The amount of effort or force applied in an adjustment is of course tailored to the needs of each animal, and is generally much smaller than you might think would be necessary.

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Osteopathy encompasses a wide range of manually applied therapies, considering global dysfunction patterns within the patient as well as the segment. In Osteopathy the segment includes spinal segmental components and all the relevant neurological, embryological, fascial & vascular connections. Dysfunction in any one of those components will affect the function of the whole segment and the interconnectedness of the body as a whole means that there may be consequences widely throughout the body. Identification of dysfunction in all areas and the management of relationships between the various areas of dysfunction identified is critical to Osteopathy and therefore ABM.

ABM is directed at conditions, syndromes, or other symptom patterns that can be attributed to a biomechanical cause. Where a practitioner cannot attribute the problem to such a cause, or where concurrent health problems are suspected other veterinary protocols will then be recommended. (NB: in the case of Chiropractors and Osteopaths, they would promptly refer the patient to a Veterinarian for further assessment)

Back and neck pain & stiffness are not the only problems which may respond well to ABM. Commonly, conditions such as shortness & irregularity of stride, lameness, injury and traumas, may respond very well to ABM procedures – but many conditions may show a response to ABM if biomechanical dysfunction is present and contributing to the problem. There have been numerous reports of good responses from animals with lick granulomas and other skin conditions, metabolic conditions, behavior problems and sub-optimal performance responding well to ABM.

More research needs to be done into the efficacy of ABM – urgently. The current ABM course has components dedicated to equipping ABM practitioners with the skills required to document and publish the results of their work.

See the FAQ link to see more information on this.