Injuries to the back may develop for a variety of reasons. A saddle that doesn’t fit properly or poor riding technique can result in a back injuries and loss of flexibility. The back muscles may begin to lock up and horse’s performance may begin to suffer. The Sacral region of a horse’s back is made up of five fused vertebrae. The space where these vertebrae connect with the lumbar vertebrae is known as the Lumbar-Sacral junction. It is important that this junction remain flexible, especially in athletic and performance horses. When it does not or when an injury occurs to the area, a horse will begin to develop and exhibit physical problems.
It is possible for a horse to develop lumbosacral problems even when riding conditions are good. For instance, even if a horse’s saddle is properly fitted and riders maintain good balance while riding the horse, the lumbosacral region can still become stressed and flexibility compromised.
Equine back problems can be categorized as acute, chronic/acute and chronic. Pain from acute injuries is felt shortly after the injury has occurred. Inflammation and heat is usually present and can be felt upon palpitation.
A horse with chronic/acute injuries won’t experience strong sensations of discomfort and/or pain from slight or light touch. It will however, if a decent amount of pressure is applied. Chronic/acute problems have been present from some time and back muscles have begun to lock or tighten up it to protect it.
Chronic injuries are very serious and must be properly treated or a horse may begin to experience degeneration of the spine. Other parts of the body, such as the front feet, stifles, forelegs and hocks may begin to develop problems as well.
Back injuries and conditions are very common in horses. Because horses are ridden a great deal, this part of their body is very susceptible to injury. Veterinarians are thus often, though not always, able to pretty quickly make a diagnosis, especially if the part of the back injured is accessible to manual touch and palpitation.
The treatment of Lumbosacral injuries will be dependent upon a number of factors including the injury, the extent of the injury and the type of horse it is. A horse that is mostly used for leisurely trail riding may be treated different than an athletic horse because they will have varying demands are placed on their body. A veterinarian will be able to make a decision about which form of treatment is most appropriate.
Lumbosacral injuries and conditions have a number of causes. An improper fitting saddle can cause these types of injuries. Back muscles that have become extremely tight can also cause lumbosacral joint problems. This is because when a horse has tightened back muscles, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to run, trot, etc., with a natural gait. Instead ,the horse will be off balance which can exacerbate existing back problems and create new ones, not only in the back, but in other parts of the horse’s body as well.
A back injury can also cause the muscles to lock up or tighten. Horses that are ridden or used a lot are more susceptible to these types of injuries, though even those that are not run the risk of developing them as well. When a horse is regularly ridden by riders whose weight is not properly distributed, over the long term, this may begin to cause lumbosacral problems. Performance horses have an increased risk of developing these types of problems, for instance racehorses, eventing horses and showjumpers. This is because they are more active and likely to engage in fast, powerful movements and quick changes of directions. Bad landings, falls and slips, increase the likelihood that a horse suffers from an injury of this type.
Horse owners and trainers should make a special effort to limit the occurrence and development of Lumbar-Sacral junction injuries. While it will never be possible to prevent all injuries, understanding what makes a horse susceptible to developing a particular injury can help owners and trainers make good decisions about how far and how much to push a particular kind of horse and when to back off and let it rest. Proper care and maintenance can also help reduce the occurrence of injuries.
Knowing what types of actions typically cause lumbosacral problems is horse’s best protection. By limiting these actions or counteracting them, it is possible to lessen the likelihood that they occur. If, however, they do, receiving immediate and informed care is extremely important.
Lumbosacral problems are fairly easy to diagnose, though the symptoms most commonly exhibited when there is an injury or problem of this type, are similar to injuries caused by other problems and/or conditions. Because this is the case, it will be necessary to use various diagnostic tools, in addition to taking into consideration the symptoms a horse may be exhibiting.
Pain and Inflammation: Pain and inflammation are symptoms commonly associated with a lumbosacral injury. The extent of this pain or inflammation will be indicative of how bad the injury is as well as the cause.
Sensitivity: Sensitivity to touch or palpitation is a common symptom of Lumbosacral issues. A horse may also react when someone is trying to ride, groom or saddle it.
Unwillingness to make certain movements: Not wanting to move sideways and a hind leg stride that is uneven, may also be signals that a horse is feeling pain in this part of their back.
Difficulty Collecting: A horse that is have a hard time collecting may be having lower back pain
Changes in Tail Movements: If a horse begins to wring its tail excessively or begins holding it to one side, it might be because it is suffering from problems stemming from the lubosacral joint or region.
It is very important that owners keep a close eye on their horse and be on the look out for changes in behavior and movements which seen unnatural or suddenly different. These are typically indicative that something is wrong and needs to be checked out. The more observant an owner is, the more likely they will be able to identify potential problems much sooner then they would if they weren’t. Inspecting a horse everyday is a good way to catch many problems before they become severe. If an owner suspects something is wrong, a call to a vet may be in order.
When diagnosing a lumbosacral injury a veterinarian will at some point observe the horse’s behavior and/or ask the owner questions about the horse’s behavior if he or she is unable to do the former. The vet may then palpitate the area, which simply means to touch it with a degree of pressure. He or she will be looking for inflammation, heat and whether or not the horse seems to respond in pain. If the horse responds in pain when being palpitated, the vet will have a better idea of what’s wrong. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the lumosacral joint or region is injured, just that it might be. Often times, it is necessary to rule out what’s not wrong before a correct diagnosis can be made.
After palpitating the lumbosacral area, the vet will have an x-ray taken of the area. This will help him or her make a more accurate diagnosis. If he or she is not able to diagnose the problem using radiography, they may use ultrasound or scintigraphy.
More and more veterinarians are using PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) to treat joint injuries and conditions. There are numerous reasons for this. It is non-invasive, safe and there are few complications associated with it. It has also proven to be quite effective, not for every horse, but for a significant percentage of them. PRP is unique because it utilizes the patient’s own blood platelets. Most treatments use foreign materials. There has been a push for medical professionals to use more natural approaches to care and many are responding to this.
PRP is an effective way to treat joint and bone injuries. It helps to speed up the healing process and can be used to treat problems with the lumbosacral joint. PRP treatment is not only effective, it is extremely simple. In short, a patient’s blood platelets are removed and then re-injected into their body, specifically, at the site of the injury.
A vet will generally administer PRP therapy at their clinic. However, many vets are willing to make house calls. To begin the procedure, the veterinarian will draw the horse’s blood. This will typically be about 52 mLs of blood. It is drawn into a 60 mL syringe that is already filled with 8 mLs of anticolugant solution. Before the blood is drawn, the horse will be given a sedative and a nerve block will typically be administered.
After the blood has been drawn, it will be placed in a centrifuge machine which will spin the blood until all of its components are separated. Blood is made up of the following components, red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. After everything has been separated, the platelets are injected into the site of the injury. The area may be iced and then bandaged.
After the procedure the horse will be required to rest and take it easy. Subsequent applications may be given if a vet believes they are necessary.
PRP therapy is effective because of the growth factors contained in the blood platelets, which are central to the treatment. Growth factors are proteins that are responsible for helping the body healed, particularly bone and tissue injuries.
Injections aren’t the only way to deliver the growth factors. Vets can also use PRP gels and sprays. The latter two are believed to work just as effectively.
There are few complications associated with PRP therapy. This is one of its biggest strengths. Complications are virtually non-existent, at least when autolgous PRP therapy is used, because a horse’s body won’t reject its own blood platelets. A horse, could, however, develop an infection at the injection site, though this is extremely rare. This is true anytime a horse receives a shot or injection of any kind.