Vav Simon
(Mhairi Simon)

DC AMC FRCC
Clinical Director

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Of course snakes have no legs, so their locomotion is completely different. This means they have fewer traumatic injuries, and also that subluxations can only be treated directly on the vertebrae itself.

And larger snakes (like the Boa Constrictor shown here) need many helpers to hold the patient still for the treatment. This gives rise to the inevitable question – how many chiropractors does it take to treat a snake?

The Answer… ONE – if it's a Boa Constrictor wrapped round you – but you've got to be quick!

Post Script

The zoo manager was very pleased to get this visit, as Amazon World has a breeding programme as part of their responsible care for endangered species. Conception, pregnancy and labour all have the best chance within a healthy body, when bones, nerves, glands and blood are all doing their job. Chiropractic can make a big contribution to help this.

This CPD event was very well timed as a couple of weeks later, Vav called back to the zoo for an emergency. A South American paca, a large dog-sized rodent, had just arrived from another zoo, for the breeding programme. She was in a poor state of health and there was doubt about whether she could carry young. After chiropractic, she was walking more easily, and the zoo decided to cross their fingers and carry on.

Legs, Feet and Toes...

Four-legged animals have neck vertebrae that meet the cranium in a different way to humans. Because of this, the muscles are structured differently, and obviously the bones have evolved according to the species' environments.

Many four-legged land animals have different numbers of toes to the five we expect to see on our own limbs. Horses have one, cows, pigs and sheep have two, tapirs three, some hedgehogs have four and guinea pigs have evolved four toes on the forefeet, three on the hind feet.

All this reminds us that we (humans) are the odd ones out – standing and walking on two legs. Although we think of monkeys as close relatives, some are so small that it is very difficult to palpate their bones. When we were handling the Goeldi's Monkey – which weighs only 100grams (the weight of most mobile phones) – the chiropractors found their hands were a hundred times larger than theirs! Monkey skeletons are generally similar to human anatomy, apart from their tails which differ between species of monkey – only a few are actually prehensile (that is, able to wrap around a branch and hang on!).

One of the most interesting animals we saw was the up-side-down Tree Sloth. Hanging by their toe-nails, their limb joints are in suspension rather than compression, which changes the ligamentation. A further result is that the internal organs are quite differently arranged, which might alter their innervation pattern, perhaps changing their links with vertebral subluxations.

Hair, Feathers and Scales...

Some animals are so hairy that no visual observation is really possible. Overall movement can be seen, and it might seem lumbering or one-sided, but it is difficult to be specific. But the condition of their coat can give clues about the health of the nerves leading to it, which in turn can be traced back to subluxations in the spine.

Hairiness can also make treatment difficult – the poor old Porcupine will never receive chiropractic treatment! And the spiny ant-eater is just too dangerous – one swipe from the massively claw-filled paw will literally remove a human stomach, even by accident!

Armadillos are impossible to treat in the normal direction. The keratin armour on their back is rock-hard, so you cannot palpate the skeleton beneath it. But palpating through their tummy isn't easy because they curl up into a ball when they feel threatened!

Similarly, Tapirs have pig-like skeletons with very thick, tough skins to protect them against predators like crocodiles and jaguars. But this makes it very difficult to palpate for misalignments that may be obvious from gait analysis.

Most birds can be treated with chiropractic, if they are held still. Those that fit into the hand can be seen to quickly, and then released. Cage birds are more used to handling, and poultry may be helped too.

But it takes a falconer with a thick leather glove to handle birds of prey who are used to working, though they rarely sit still when you want them to!

Penguins are different again, with short stiff oily feathers; and for limbs, they have four flippers – their feet and 'wings'.


Articles and Newsletters

How Many Chiropractors Does it Take to Treat a Snake?


Behind every profession, a set of standards acts as a buttress against individualism.

This allows the profession to actively work to prevent individual members from slipping away from the agreed codes of conduct and ‘doing their own thing’.

Continuing Professional Development

Developments within healthcare move at such a pace that no professional can afford to limit themselves to the knowledge and skills their undergraduate training gave them. The public takes it for granted that professionals will keep their knowledge and skills up to date, and the Government expects the same.

Across many professions, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the responsibility for members to pursue learning and development activity every year. They should then apply it to improve their practice in the patients’ interests and for the development of the profession.

Chiropractors must undertake at least 30 hours of learning activities each year for their CPD. This is required and monitored by the General Chiropractic Council, who’s job it is deal with 'slippery customers', to uphold standards.

Human or Animal Patients?

Most chiropractors treat people. Their CPD topics range around further chiropractic techniques, other complementary methods and research techniques and results. Human medicine has a very wide range of development, and there is much to be interested in.

CPD for chiropractors working with animals is a bit more involved. Veterinary medicine is also developing in its own way – and helping human medicine as it goes – and occasionally producing changes that chiropractors need to understand. Chiropractors usually work with cats, dogs and horses, but there are several other species in farms and many more taken to the RSPCA and other rescue centres.

Where training events involve techniques for animals, patients are needed for demonstration and practice. But finding sufficient patients can be difficult – chiropractors working with animals usually have miles of driving between patients.

Visiting the Amazon!

Recently, a visit to the zoo was arranged by Vav Simon, at Amazon World on the Isle of Wight. The great benefit of this is that chiropractors were able to see a wide range of species to compare with their usual patients of horses, dogs and cats – and humans

Many zoo animals are fairly used to being handled by keepers, so they are not truly wild, but even so, they are not docile like household pets. They are mostly kept in cages and all this creates a ‘get in – treat quick – get out’ strategy to minimise their disturbance, and for health & safety reasons, too!

Zoo-keepers are often naturally animal-people, with pets of their own. This helps them recognise zoo animals who have limps, sore bits or other health issues relevant to chiropractic. Amazon World had recently called in Vav to deal with a lame Ocelot, which was violently aggressive because of back-pain. But before Vav could get there, the ocelot gave birth and immediately calmed, so it seems likely that the babies were inducing the pain by pressing on a nerve.