Chiropractors are awesome! Everyone should go see one. Seriously. It is amazing what someone skilled in this field can accomplish and the amount of information that they can impart. Needless to say, Heffner's chiropractor appointment yesterday went great! I am incredibly happy with the results that we are seeing thus far. And even more, I'm thrilled to be actually doing something that is taking care of the underlying problem instead of just treating the symptoms. But I will start from the beginning with what prompted me to come to this point; aside from the acute lameness that we dealt with this past weekend.
When Heffner was a few months shy of two years old, he pinched a nerve in his neck while simply turning a circle on our old futon. It was awful. He couldn't raise his head and he was favoring his front right foot. He couldn't lay down. I took him in to see my vet, she realized it was something to do with his neck. She figured it was either a pinched nerve or a herniated disc. We were hoping for the former because the latter could possibly entail surgery. We decided to put him on some pain meds and anti inflammatories and see how he did. With the combination of the meds and much restricted exercise, the problem "went away."
Then in December of 2009 I noticed that he was standing funny and moving a little off. I blogged about it a little bit. I took him straight to see a specialist because I also was hoping to get a performance evaluation based on his conformation. I didn't really get that, but Heffner was diagnosed with an iliopsoas strain. The treatment? More meds and restricted exercise so that it could magically go away.
And now we're up to this past weekend when Heffner appeared to pinch a nerve on the left side of his neck with almost all of the same symptoms that he had several years ago, though he was in less pain this time around. How did he pinch this nerve? By simply walking across the backyard to the back door after being let out to potty. Weird.
Ever since he first pinched that nerve a few years back, I've felt that something just wasn't quite right. I've tried massage and I've tried acupuncture, wondering if someone would find this intangible thing that was wrong with my dog. While there were specific problem areas that were found, the overall cause wasn't really determined. And it's just been gnawing at me. I knew something wasn't quite right and I figured it was staring me in the face. And it was. When there is something structurally wrong with your dog, what should you do? Go and see someone who deals with problems of the skeletal system. And who would that be? A freaking chiropractor!
I swear that these professionals are under appreciated for all the good that they do. The reality is that life throws all sorts of things at you and your body does a variety of things to accommodate and deal with these stressors. In that process, things tend to get a little out of whack. If the system isn't put back to rights, a variety of problems can spring up "out of the blue." Hence the "random" lameness that I experienced this past weekend. And naturally, the only way to fix the problem is to treat what's actually causing it, and not just the symptoms.
My problem was that I wasn't asking the right questions. Okay, my dog has a strained iliopsoas. But WHY is this muscle strained? Okay, he pinched a nerve in his neck while calmly walking across the lawn. But WHY did the nerve get pinched? I wasn't ever going to find a solution by simply treating the manifestation of the deeper problem. As a matter of fact, I was letting things get worse by not going after the root of the problem. Thankfully, we are now on the right path. And I know this, because all the little nagging things that bothered me, have already shown slight improvements.
Back to Heffner's appointment! The chiropractor that we saw was Dr. Sandra Johnson DC, CAC. I found her via two methods. A friend that I trust recommended her to me and I also looked her up through the AVCA web site. I emailed her ahead of time, because I was planning on attending one of her drop in sessions. I wanted to let her know kind of what had happened and to just kind of prep her ahead of time. By about Monday night, Heffner was back to his normal self. No sign of lameness what so ever. And he was starting to show how pent up he was, since I had completely restricted his exercise. By Tuesday afternoon, he was full of it and keeping the dogs from playing and him from doing any sort of racing around the house was a CHORE. I had resolved to keep him "quiet" until our appointment so that he didn't potentially tweak anything else.
When we got to Pup-A-Razzi on Wednesday, she was just finishing up a dog, so I timed it perfect! They had blocked off one of their "rings" for her use so that she could see the dogs moving and would have plenty of room to work. Immediately she picked up on the major problem with Heffner's movement. She told me that he was throwing his right hip really badly. I had always thought that Heffner "swayed" more than was warranted when he walked, but I also thought that maybe it had to do with the fact that he often paces when he walks. Though, when I would compare him to Bess, during one of the few times that she would pace while walking, she didn't "sway" nearly as much as he did.
Once she saw that, she started physically putting her hands on him so that she could tell what exactly was out of alignment and how much. Well..........pretty much his entire spine was out. His neck wasn't too bad, his left shoulder was worse than his right (makes sense since that was the leg he was favoring a few days prior), his back needed work, and I think his pelvis was the worst. His pelvis was really the root of the lameness problems that I had been seeing. Why was his iliopsoas strained? Because his right pelvis (it was the right iliopsoas that was the problem before) was locked and under rotated by an inch and a half. I have absolutely no reference to how bad that is, but it's apparently rather bad. She worked on that area for a while and when she finally got the right pelvis to unlock, Heffner felt it and wasn't too thrilled. He still behaved himself, but he did wip his head around and give her the stink eye!
After that she worked on the left shoulder. The left shoulder was out because the right pelvis was so screwed up. Essentially the legs that are kitty corner to each other work together to help support the body and create correct movement. When the right hip isn't pushing off enough and is additionally torqued out of position, it puts a lot of strain on the left shoulder to do more pulling and compensate when the dog is moving. That's why he tweaked his left shoulder "out of the blue." All of this made so much sense! And did I mention that she was finding all these older problem areas without me even telling her that he had issues there until after she pointed them out to me? The only problem I told her about was the most recent shoulder issue. That also really impressed me.
She worked on Heff for over half an hour. When she was done, she had me walk him around some more to see how he was moving. His movement was already better. He wasn't swaying nearly as much when he walked. When he stood, he didn't cock his right rear foot outwards. And his topline was noticeably flatter after she adjusted his back. And he's not even fully back to correct alignment yet!:)
So the good news is that Heffner can be fixed. It's going to take multiple sessions, but it will happen! The first three or four adjustments are probably going to be about a week apart. For the first 48 hours after each adjustment, he isn't allowed to do any exercising. He can go out to go potty and that's it. If we aren't going to be around to supervise the dogs, they are separated. Heffner gets barricaded in the media room so that he's not tempted to go up and down the stairs. After each set of 48 hours with zero exercise, his allowable exercise is to be cut to 50% what's normal for him with some modifications to allow the adjustments to fully take hold. He's pretty much allowed to go on walks and work obedience exercises and that's it. There won't be any ball work, no jogging, and most importantly, no agility. The goal is to not let his body feel at all fatigued because then it will drift back to the incorrect alignment due to muscle memory.
Heffner's agility "career" is also a little uncertain. His body has adapted to being out of alignment for a few years now and that is going to be hard to combat with the rigors of agility. Even after this more intense period of chiropractic adjustments, he'll be getting routine checkups. As will Bess. This year will be a defining year for him. He turns five on the 23rd of this month. It's an age that I otherwise wouldn't think too much of, but all things considered, it's become a significant age. If I can't keep him sound while running agility this year, then he will be retired from agility. It's kind of sad, but I'd rather have many more good years with him than fewer that are plagued by injuries.
Phew! That was a long one! Now that I've gotten that all out, I need to go and exorcise Bess (and no, that most certainly is NOT a typo!). She is having a really hard time not being able to rough house with Heffner and being separated from him during the day. That combined with getting zero exercise yesterday because I went to our obedience club meeting, means that Bess. Is. Losing. Her. Mind. This does not bode well for the agility trial tomorrow. And speaking of that, it's an AKC trial so I better get that toe nail polish off!! I'm sure I'll have plenty to report tomorrow!