In a horse the sacroiliac region is where the pelvis attaches to the vertebral column. It consists of the sacroiliac joint which is held together by three strong sacroiliac ligaments. Sacroiliac conditions can be caused by trauma, injury, ligament strains or can be chronic and develop overtime with low grade damage being caused by a repetitive movement or motion.
When a horse is experiencing problems with the sacroiliac region it can sometimes be hard to diagnose. The joint has very limited range of motion and is hidden deep under muscle and fat making identifying the issue difficult. Some symptoms to look out for that might indicate a problem with the sacroiliac joint or ligaments are;
– Change in performance or willingness to work
– Holding the tail to one side
– Bunny hopping in a canter ie. both hind feet hitting the ground at the same time
– Stiff or crooked canter
– Trouble with flying changes
– Refusing to jump
– Struggling with lateral movements
– Asymmetrical muscle development over rump
– Not wanting hind legs to be picked up
– Pain or discomfort when being touched on rump
In combination with the above mentioned symptoms a diagnosis can be confirmed by a veterinarian with examination of the area. They will palpate and apply pressure to the area gauging the pain response. An ultrasound can also help in the diagnosis of ligament damage and a transrectal ultrasound can be used to look at the sacroiliac joint which may reveal signs of arthritis or damage to the joint.
There is no one standard treatment for sacroiliac conditions and it will depend on the severity of the condition and the symptoms. Treatment may include;
– Anti-inflammatories and pain relief
– Injections of corticosteroids into the region
– Reduce exercise and/or change in exercise routine
– Rest; paddock rest is better than being stabled
– Alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture or chiropractic may help
Recovery will depend on the severity of the injury and for how long the issues have been going on for. Some horses may not be able to continue competing or being worked in the same way after a sacroiliac injury however some horses will make a full recovery.
If you suspect your horse is suffering from sacroiliac disease please contact your veterinarian as early diagnosis is always best.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Issue 12.
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