Equine Back Pain

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Written By: K. Searcy, veterinary student, University of Minnesota

Just as in people, back pain in horses is common and can be related to a variety of problems. Common complaints associated with back pain in horses include: restricted mobility; “cold-backed” behavior; refusing work; stiffness when making sharp turns; unwilling to change leads; loss of hind limb propulsion; and sourness with saddling or riding.

If back pain appears to be an issue, owners should consider improper saddle fit, rider imbalance, sprains of the ligaments along the back, muscle injuries, vertebral fractures and bilateral lameness. To diagnose back pain, veterinarians can use a variety of methods, including direct palpation, radiographs, ultrasound, bone scans (scintigraphy), local anesthetics, physical examination, and thermography, to rule other sources of pain.

Treatments for back pain can include:

  1. A combination of a muscle relaxant and an NSAID (phenylbutazone or flunixin meglumine)
  2. Regional injection of a steroid to decrease inflammation
  3. Dynamic stretches to engage and strengthen back muscles
  4. Shockwave therapy to improve circulation to the area and relieve muscle spasms
  5. Surgery to remove accessible bony eminences to alleviate pressure
  6. Acupuncture and/or chiropractic therapies to help with the pain and muscle spasms
  7. Aqua treadmill therapy to strengthen the back musculature
  8. Saddle fit adjustments
  9. Modified warm ups prior to exercise

Permission granted for reprint of article from University of MN Extension. To read more articles from U of M Extension please visit their A to Z library >>>


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