Managing Sacroiliac Pain with Activo-Med
Is your horse lacking forward? Stiff to ride? Struggling with contact? He could be suffering from sacroiliac pain.
Sacroiliac pain is a common source of discomfort in horses – although its symptoms are often so vague that they’re easily overlooked, mistakenly attributed to a different ailment, or even written off as a training issue. Physiotherapy or chiropractic treatments may seemingly provide relief in the short term, however symptoms quickly return.
So, what is the Sacroiliac?
The sacroiliac joint is the point at which the sacrum (a section of five fused vertebra running under the croup), connects to the top of the pelvis. It’s comprised of two flat surfaces, joined together by three strong ligaments.
The sacroiliac plays a key role in hind end engagement and impulsion, allowing stress and movement from the hinds to be transferred through to the spine. When compromised or sore, it’ll often lead to an (understandable!) difficulty and reluctance to engage the hind end.
What are the symptoms of sacroiliac pain?
The symptoms of sacroiliac pain will vary in severity, however most horses affected will demonstrate three or more of the following behaviours:
- Reluctance or resistance to moving forward
- Difficulty bending on a circle, in both ridden and lunging work
- Distinct lack of hind end impulsion
- Reluctance to work on the bit
- Difficulty holding up one hind leg whilst being shod
- Resistance, raising the head or dipping through the back during transitions
- Treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments provide short term improvement, however do not last
- Difficulties completing lateral work, such as shoulder in and half pass
- Refusing jumps
- The presence of a “hunters bump”
- Difficulty completing flying changes
- Noticeable stiffness through the hind end
- Failure to develop top line muscles
Treating sacroiliac pain
Following vet diagnoses, a rehabilitation and exercise program is normally implemented to assist in recovery. Key to this is strengthening the muscles to support the area; as such, excessive rest or downtime is generally not recommended.
Whilst rehabilitation programs will vary depending on the severity of the injury, they are typically comprised of several weeks of straight and flat in hand walking, building to a gentle return to ridden work. Treatment with anti-inflammatories (such as phenylbutazone) may be prescribed during this phase, and an ultra-sound guided analgesic sacroiliac injection may be recommended in severe cases.
Warm up exercises including backing the horse up in hand for up to five paces, and leading diagonally over trot poles or cavalettis are often recommended, as these will tension and strengthen the sacroiliac ligaments. Once the horse has passed the initial rehabilitation stage, canter work under saddle and on a long lunge line will assist in further strengthening the area. Gentle hill work, walking and trotting diagonally up mild slopes will encourage the horse to push from behind and engage their hind end, building muscles to support the sacroiliac ligament.
From a therapeutic standpoint, the proven anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) will assist in loosening the muscles surrounding the sacroiliac area, making it a particularly effective inclusion to pre-warm up routines. Gentle massage is also recommended by therapists and vets alike, due to its relaxing nature and circulation boosting properties. Activo-Med systems are the only products in the world to combine PEMF and massage, and feature 19 strategically placed PEMF coils and 14 rotating massage modules. This offers a therapeutic coverage of the horse from poll to tail, and allows the sacroiliac area and supporting muscles to be targeted directly during treatment – making Activo-Med an effective addition to any sacroiliac rehabilitation program, and an important inclusion in the ongoing maintenance of spinal health.
To find out more about how Activo-Med can help your horse keep on top of sacroiliac pain, contact us today.