It will be no surprise to those humans who suffer back pain to know that horses and ponies may also suffer similar problems. Back pain can be just as disabling for an equine, although the quadruped has different stresses and strains upon the spine and, therefore, special considerations apply. In addition, horses and ponies are usually asked in their work to carry a load or rider on their backs or pull a vehicle or implement and to perform athletic tasks and manoeuvres.
Back pain or neck pain can arise from injury, from arthritis, kissing spines, from saddling faults, from shoeing faults, from riding practices and from excess load. When one or other of these has obviously occurred, or can be diagnosed by X-Ray investigation or various scans, the cause of the pain can be identified with relative ease. However, mainstream medicine and holistic veterinary treatment (as practiced by the holistic vet at the AVMC) will have differing views on how to deal with it (see below). We have written information on the specific named conditions at horse diseases.
There is another source of back pain, however, which is much more common, less dramatic and often goes unnoticed by the horse's human companions or veterinary team. As in humans, horses can suffer spinal misalignments, arising from a great number of possible chronic causes or from unnoticed incidents, which can have an adverse effect on posture, gait, exercise tolerance, athletic capability and welfare. The resulting altered movement and posture will increase the risk of further injury, elsewhere in the musculo-skeletal system. Amazingly, such problems will often not be picked up at a normal purchase vetting.
We believe ‘pelvic misalignment' to result from lumbosacral misalignment (i.e. stress in the joint between the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum) rather than from sacroiliac joint misalignment. Happily, the former is almost invariably correctible. The latter is probably permanent.
In all cases of back pain, we take steps to ensure that we know what is the source of the pain and we apply a carefully integrated regimen of extremely gentle chiropractic manipulation, along with medical input by homeopathy, acupuncture, LASER therapy, magnet therapy or ultrasound therapy, as appropriate. The positive effects on the patient are often dramatic and can be immediate. Arthritis cases also usually appear to respond favourably to a prolonged integrated program.
We discuss for each patient appropriate exercise or activity programs, to try to enhance the healing process and to decrease chances of recurrence.
We believe that physiotherapy, bowen therapy, massage or acupuncture should not be performed before skeletal alignment has been properly checked and optimised. At best, it can waste money, since the faulty alignment and consequent muscle spasm can act as a block to treatment. At worst, it can prolong poor welfare and may cause further problems.