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Tennessee Equine Hospital Launches 2014 Lecture Series


By Allison Armstrong Rehnborg

Every year, the veterinarians of the Tennessee Equine Hospital (TEH)offer a series of educational lectures about equine medicine to the public, free of charge. Held on site at the hospital in Thompson’s Station, TN, the lectures invite members of the equestrian public to learn about new medical advances in equine medicine, such as joint therapy, reproduction, and wound healing techniques. Coupled with a catered dinner, these educational lectures allow local horse enthusiasts to engage with their veterinarians.

This year, the staff kicked off the 2014 Lecture Series on February 18, 2014 with two presentations. Dr. Kara Pietroski, equine chiropractor, spoke on the basics of equine chiropractic medicine, and Dr. Bonnie Kibbie, equine acupuncturist, discussed acupuncture.

Dr. Kara Pietroski earned her DVM from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. A native of Thomaston, Maine, Dr. Pietroski interned with TEH in 2013 and now serves as the hospital’s full-time equine chiropractor.

“Equine chiropractic care is a holistic approach towards the maintenance and therapy of the neuro-musculo-skeletal system,” Dr. Pietroski said.

Like human chiropractic medicine, equine chiropractic medicine is centered around the diagnosis and treatment of vertebral subluxation complexes, or VSCs, through motion palpation. In other words, when a muscle or joint is “stuck,” unable to move into its fullest range of motion, chiropractors use manual manipulation to release these tensions and restore a fuller range of motion to the muscles or joints in question. Although it’s easy to envision a human chiropractor working on a human body in this way, Dr. Pietroski drew laughs from the audience as she confided that many new clients still wonder aloud how a person of her slight frame could manipulate the powerful muscles and sturdy bones of the equine athletes she treats.

“Chiropractors do all of their work in millimeters of para-physiological space,” Dr. Pietroski explained. “Chiropractic work doesn’t take a ton of muscle, just knowledge of the anatomy.”

Dr. Pietroski pointed out that many horses in need of an adjustment simply present with a slight unwillingness to work, or a feeling of “not-quite-rightness.” Other horses may exhibit changes in attitude, issues with lead changes or bending and flexing, or back soreness. Although she championed the use of chiropractic medicine, she added, “Chiropractic medicine must be practiced hand-in-hand with traditional medicine, and using both a veterinarian and a chiropractor is the best way to avoid missing an injury or other condition.”

After adjustments, horses may be tired or mildly uncomfortable, but may improve immediately or after one to two rides. Initial re-examinations are recommended for one to three weeks after the first adjustment, and routine care should follow every six to eight weeks, based on the individual horse.

After Dr. Kara took questions from the audience, Dr. Bonnie Kibbie gave her presentation, “An Introduction to Medical Acupuncture: Eastern Practice Meets Western Medicine.”

Originally from New Orleans, Dr. Kibbie received her DVM from University of Pennsylvania and was certified in acupuncture through Colorado State University’s acupuncture program. Like Dr. Pietroski, Dr. Kibbie interned with TEH first and then joined as a full-time staff member in 2013.

Although acupuncture is typically viewed as unusual and complicated, Dr. Kibbie defined her body of work simply, stating, “Acupuncture is the act of placing a small needle in the body at specific points.”

Originating in China, human acupuncture has been practiced for 3,000 years. Dr. Kibbie explained that acupuncture can be used on horses to achieve general wellness, provide better control of chronic disease processes, speed healing times, and even manage pain.

Using sterile, solid-bore, stainless steel needles, designed for one-time use, Dr. Kibbie performs acupuncture in a variety of places on the horse. Needles are typically inserted where nerve bundles penetrate the fascia (the thin sheath of fibrous tissue that covers a muscle or organ); at motor points, where nerves enter or exit the muscles; in close proximity to major blood vessels; and at myofascial trigger points. (Myofascial tissue is a type of thin, fibrous, connective tissue in the body.) Needle insertions typically generate three kinds of effects: local, somato-visceral, and systemic.

Dr. Kibbie explained that local effects of needle insertions involve creating microtrauma, stimulating tissue repair activation and immune activation, reducing inflammation and normalizing circulation. Somato-visceral effects produce a kind of “cross talk” in the spinal cord, which means that a needle insertion at a particular point can influence organs not directly accessible with the needle, like the stomach or large intestine. Finally, needles can work systemically by releasing opioid neuromodulators for pain relief and increasing serotonin levels.

Although Dr. Kibbie explained that acupuncture can be used in a variety of situations, ranging from musculoskeletal issues to arthritis treatment to neurological and respiratory disorders, she stressed the importance of using Western medicine first.

“Always get a good Western medical diagnosis first,” she said. “Then use chiropractic medicine and acupuncture to extend the life of a primary treatment.”

At the end of the evening, Dr. Matthew Povlovich, co-owner of the TEH practice, thanked the audience for coming and announced an exciting new addition to the hospital’s equipment. In the coming weeks, the hospital plans to purchase a permanent MRI system for use in diagnosing ailments in client horses.

The second lecture in the 2014 series, scheduled for May 20, will feature a talk on joint therapy by Dr. Monty McInturff. Sponsors for this year’s series include Merck, Kinetic, Merial, MWI Veterinary Supply Company, Mg Biologics, Zoetis, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Adequan.

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