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Common Equine Chiropractic Conditions


For many years, the veterinary profession stated that horses did not have back problems. Thus equine back people came to the fore and the veterinary profession was left behind. It is only recently that the profession has started to understand that back issues are a major concern for a creature that carries us on their backs! Modern veterinary medicine now is devoting a lot of time and money to re-invent the wheel when it comes to backs rather than learning from a profession that has been treating them for over 100 years. 

Sacroiliac Dysfunction

This is the mainstay of chiropractic treatment. All the major muscles attach to the pelvis and all are pulling in different directions. If the sacroiliac joints are not moving correctly, then none of the muscles are pulling correctly. This leads to a very predictable sequence of events and clinical findings. Canter problems are the primary finding. Pain comes later. Later still comes the severe inflammation found on scintigraphy (bone scan). Chiropractic manipulation to restore the correct movement also corrects the muscular problems and the pain findings. Very few, in my opinion, need steroid injections or prolonged time off work. 90% of my work is correcting these problems. This however is the "tip of the iceberg" as the sacroiliac joints can best be described as the safety valve of the spine and normally are only affected because of other problems- most notably the neck. 

Kissing Spine

This is a painful condition which seems to be being diagnosed ever more frequenty. This is a sequence of events which occur, most often, because of lower neck issues, leading to sacroiliac dysfunction, leading to spasm of the back muscles, leading to the painful area of the spinous processes. These are very real painful issues for horses that are best treated by releaving the initiating factor of the neck and pelvis. Most ( but not all), disappear quite quickly. The idea of doing surgery on a condition that resolves itself so easily is very difficult to rationalise! 

Neck issues

Neck issues affect the whole horse's balance and propulsion not just the steering. The lower neck is fast being discovered as the root cause to many back issues. The lower neck takes all of the stress from holding the heavy head up and out, has attachments to all of the front limb muscles and is used to initiate all movement in the horse. Pain or dysfunction here causes marked spasm in the loin area in a lot of cases, and so, in cases with loin pain, this area has to be addressed.  

Poll issues

Poll issues affect the steering of the horse. Pain or spasm up here affects how the horse holds his head or allows the neck to be flexed. 

"Tight on one rein", "heavy", "hard to soften to the rein" can all be attributed to poll issues. 

Head shakers can in some instances be related to spasm up here and so should be checked. 

Posture assesment.

Posture assesment allows us to see how the horse's nervous system is coping with all the inputs that control the ability to stand upright against gravity. If all is well, the horse minimises effort by having a leg at each corner and all 4 cannon bones perpundicular to the ground surface. This allows optimal use of the passive support mechanisms. This neutral posture is influenced by the feet, upper cervical muscles and the TMJ inputs. Hence chiropractic, dentistry and farriery are all important to rehabilitation programs

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