What is Lumbosacral Junction Abnormalities ?
Injuries to the lumbosacral junction can be acute; in these cases, the horse experiences pain shortly after an injury. Equine patients with chronic back conditions experience dull pain and develop tightening of the muscles of the lumbosacral area. Chronic conditions are more serious and can progress to bone degeneration.
If your horse is showing symptoms of lumbosacral junction abnormalities such as change of behavior or stiffness, he should be seen by an equine veterinarian for a full evaluation.
The lumbosacral junction is the area where the vertebrae connect with the lumbar vertebrae. Injuries to the lumbosacral junction may involve damage to the soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments, or may involve damage to the bones or joints.
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Symptoms of Lumbosacral Junction Abnormalities in Horses
Symptoms may include:
- Inflammation of the lumbosacral area
- Area feels hot
- Sensitivity to touch
- Horse holds tail to one side
- Change of behavior
- Pulls away when being saddle
- Reluctance to being ridden
Causes of Lumbosacral Junction Abnormalities in Horses
Causes may be from:
- Injury from improper fitting saddle
- Horses that are not ridden often, and then are ridden for an extended time period
- Injury due to a fall or from jumping
- Improper riding of the horse
- Congenital abnormalities such as lumbosacral ankylosis (fusion of the bones)
Diagnosis of Lumbosacral Junction Abnormalities in Horses
The medical history, including vaccination records and falls or recent injuries, will be an important part of the diagnostic process. The veterinarian may want to observe your horse walking or trotting around in a circle. He may also want to see the horse’s riding tack equipment in order to determine whether the fit is correct.
A physical exam may include listening to the patient’s heart and lungs, and taking his temperature, blood pressure, and pulse. The veterinarian will palpate your horse’s limbs and watch for any sensitivity or reaction to pain. If he suspects that there is injury to the lumbosacral junction, he will suggest x-rays. He may also recommend an ultrasound probe that can be used on the patient externally and internally via the rectum. This may show if there are injuries to the sacroiliac lumbosacral joints or tears to the dorsal sacroiliac ligament. If there is an absence of discs it may be an indication of lumbosacral ankylosis.
Treatment of Lumbosacral Junction Abnormalities in Horses
To reduce swelling and pain of the lumbosacral junction, the veterinarian may recommend applying cold packs to the area for 10-15 minutes a few times a day. He may prescribe anti-inflammatory oral medication and anti-inflammatory ointment. The veterinarian may suggest massage, acupuncture and physical therapy to help loosen tight and stiff muscles.
He may also recommend platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment. This treatment uses the patient’s own blood cells to help with the healing of the lumbosacral junction. It requires a blood draw from the side of the horse’s neck. The horse may be sedated for the procedure. The blood is spun down in a centrifuge and the platelets are removed and injected into the injured site. The area is then iced and bandaged.
If there is ligamentous damage the horse must have stall rest. Vitamins and supplements may be recommended to help with the healing process. If the veterinarian feels that the patient has the wrong riding equipment, he will recommend that you have the horse properly fitted. Young riders may need to attend a few riding classes. The instructor can provide helpful tips that will help prevent further injuries to your horse.
Recovery of Lumbosacral Junction Abnormalities in Horses
Most horses respond well to the treatment plan and have a good recovery prognosis. Follow-up visits will be required to check on the progress of the recovery. The veterinarian may recommend retaking x-rays and an ultrasound scan; these diagnostics tests will help determine if the area is healing correctly.
Patients with congenital abnormalities of the lumbosacral junction may need to remain taking prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs throughout their lifespan. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also help with pain relief. The patient may benefit from regular treatments of hydrotherapy including swimming in a regular pool, a saltwater pool, and utilizing an underwater treadmill. The veterinarian can help you decide what the best therapy is for your horse. Horses with congenital abnormalities should have regular annual x-rays and ultrasounds. If the patient is not improving, the veterinarian may refer you to an equine orthopedic surgeon.