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How to Recognize & Treat Back Pain Horses

Horses, like humans, can develop back pain. This condition can cause significant discomfort and impact their overall well-being. In this blog post, our Hohenwald Animal Hospital veterinarians will explore the signs and treatments for back pain in horses.

About Back Pain In Horses

Back pain commonly affects horses. Veterinary professionals utilize numerous clinical exams and diagnostic techniques to pinpoint discomfort symptoms in the horse's back. Treating back pain typically involves a blend of medical interventions and physical therapy strategies to strengthen the horse's spine and enhance long-term comfort and performance.

Signs of Back Pain

Horses with sore back pain can exhibit a variety of symptoms. Some of the more common signs include:

  • Poor performance/reduced performance which may progress to behavioral problems (rearing/bucking/stopping or running out at fences). Many horses will feel "disconnected" from front to back or may generally have a short-stride gait.
  • Discomfort with grooming or pressure over the back. This should be interpreted with caution because some horses may simply be "thin-skinned" and may not be experiencing significant back pain. However, a sudden change in your horse's response to grooming may indicate back pain.
  • Resistance to saddling increased "grittiness," or abnormal gait after being saddled.

Keep in mind that some horses exhibit significant stoicism! Despite performing well, many still display signs of substantial back pain during clinical examination. Including a thorough back examination as a component of any lameness/soundness assessment is essential and can be conducted even if there are no apparent performance issues.

Treating Back Pain in Horses

When we address the pain and spasms of the longissimus muscles, we often eliminate the symptoms of another problem. Treatment usually yields high effectiveness, but if we fail to address the underlying cause of the back pain, the effects will only prove temporary. Back pain and muscle spasms can stem from:

  • Primary back pathology, as noted above
  • Lameness elsewhere in the horse, especially hindlimb lameness
  • Poor saddle fit
  • Unbalanced riders
  • Bracing secondary to gastric ulcers
  • Instability of the spine due to weakness of multifidus muscles
Treatment modalities for pain and spasms of the longissimus muscles include:
  • Direct injection of anti-inflammatory medications into the back muscles
  • Mesotherapy
  • Shockwave Therapy
  • FES Therapy (Functional Electrical Stimulation)
  • NSAIDs (Bute, Banamine, prefix)
  • Muscle relaxants — Robaxin
  • Alternative medicine – chiropractic and acupuncture treatments

Is your horse showing signs of back pain? Contact our Hohenwald vets to have your equine friend cared for.

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