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Back on Track

Have you ever gotten that nagging, consistent, or even immobilizing pain in your lower back and feel like there isn’t a moment that passes where you’d survive without Advil or Tylenol coursing through your system? It is estimated that 80% of the human population will experience back pain at some point in their life, and humans are certainly not alone. Horses also commonly encounter back pain that can result in decreased range of motion and limited flexibility of the spine, which may impede performance. After all, osteoarthritis is the number one most common health problem found in horses.


If you think your horse is experiencing chronic back pain, it is imperative that you take the necessary steps in order to prevent further damage that could potentially result in the end of the horse’s career. Indications that your horse is suffering from back pain include performance and avoidance behaviors such as poor jumping technique, bucking, resistance to being saddled, and sidestepping when you try to mount. If your horse displays any of these behaviors, he or she could be trying to tell you that their back is hurting.


In order to diagnose equine back pain, a clinical examination is conducted through a standing visual inspection, a physical exam, and a moving evaluation. The horse is evaluated for symmetric or asymmetric muscle atrophy in addition to axial/abaxial vertebral misalignment. In the moving evaluation, the horse should be inspected when walking in a straight line and in a circle and should also be inspected when under saddle with a simulated rider. The horse is also palpated along the spine to determine sensitivity and discomfort. This allows the clinician to differentiate between bone and soft tissue inflammation, which is important in order to know the exact location of the problem and determine the appropriate treatment for the horse. Following the initial diagnosis, an X-ray is taken to determine the exact location of the issue in order to proceed with treatment.


Extracorporeal Shock Wave Technology (ESWT) is an effective, non-invasive treatment that can be used on horses with spinal process impingement (SPI) or dorsal articular processes (DAP) osteoarthritis. Since the pulse that the trode emits has a relatively small focal area, it is important to know the exact anatomical location of the injury in order to execute the appropriate therapy. ESWT can actually help locate these sensitive areas to help appropriately focus the treatment.  According to Kent Allen of Virginia Equine Imaging, 89% of horses treated with ESWT have a positive outcome with around 60% improving for more than 4-6 months following treatment.

At PulseVet Technologies, the good health of animals is our number one priority, and we definitely know how awful back pain can be. We wouldn’t wish chronic back pain upon anyone, especially our dearly loved horses. If you think your horse is suffering, don’t wait to get him or her checked by a clinician. Get your horse’s back on track to get your horse back on track.

The white paper on back pain by Dr. Kent Allen of Virginia Equine Imaging can be found here.