Rehab for Back & Sacro Injury
Rehabilitating a horse with back and sacroiliac issues – massage and magnet therapy
Case study: Ruby, 15.1 5 year old mare by Utopian Opposition. Hoping to produce her to event.
Problem: Cold backed symptoms – often very tight and tense across the back under saddle area despite having saddle fitted to her. Very 1 sided when ridden, difficulty in picking up correct canter lead on one rein, tendency to rush, unable to fully engage hind end. Dipping away from rugs especially over quarters. Some muscle atrophy and emerging hind limb lameness.
Diagnosis: After examinations and scans, Ruby was diagnosed with a sacroiliac problem. She has been treated with steroid injections and prescribed slow and phased return to work.
Rehabilitation: Start with lots of long reining in walk only, no circles or trotting. Later progress to ridden work in walk, long and low, and gradually start to incorporate trot after a few weeks walking. Long term, approximately 6 months until back up to full work load including canter and poles.
The tightness over her back we think is as a result of not having worked properly before due to her injury, so now the joint has been medicated it’s important we ensure she works correctly from the start to avoid this and help strengthen her back. This is tricky as she anticipates that something will be painful so will be trying to re-educate.
Massage and electromagnetic therapy: I’ve been looking for a product to help keep on top of the tight back and sensitive quarters which are almost a secondary symptom; some people have suggested massage pads/rugs and others swear by magnetic rugs. When I was at Hickstead this year reporting for Horsemart, I interviewed Tamzin from FMBs Therapy systems who spoke about their products which incorporate both cyclonic massage and pulsed electro-magnetic therapy. This sounded as though it could be ideal for Ruby.
For the past week we have been trialling the Activo-Med combi sport rug. What I like about this is the combination of treatments it offers, as well as the area it covers; the whole topline is covered from just up the neck beyond the withers, right the way down to the tail. This is great for Ruby as it addresses both her back under the saddle area, as well as over her quarters and the area covering her injury – the sacrum itself and the gluteals.
We’ve started her off with some daily massage treatments and magnetic therapy, and Ruby has loved it! She is happy to stand tied up and wear the rug, and has displayed signs of being very relaxed – licking and chewing, nice floppy ears etc.
Early results: Unfortunately she’s had to have a week off due to a cough, but we should be back up and running tomorrow so I can gauge any difference in her movement/ability to work correctly. One thing we have noticed straight away however, is how she reacts to rugging. Being hypersensitive over her back meant that when we removed rugs she would often dip way drastically, going on tip toes on her hinds and rushing forward. Early indications are really pleasing; she’s not done this at all since we started using the Activo-Med, even with the massage rug itself which is slightly heavier than her normal stable rug.
Treatment programmes we use are generally 20-30 minutes, so if I put it on her straight away when we first bring her in, she can wear the rug whilst I’m preparing hay, feeds etc. We’re hoping that with the regular massage we can keep on top of any tightness in the muscles so it doesn’t build up and cause a problem – prevention is always better than cure, especially with a sensitive horse like Ruby with her rehabilitation. Stay tuned to see if the Activo-Med helps Ruby re-starting her ridden work.
– Headstrong Equestrian, UK.