Horses work and play hard. This can lead to discomfort affecting many different parts of their body, including the neck. Here, our equine vets in San Angelo share the symptoms of neck pain in horses and discuss the treatment options including chiropractic care, rehabilitation and physical therapy.

How to know if your horse suffers from neck pain?

Horse owners should identify signs of neck pain in their animals and take steps to treat it to reduce their discomfort. Neck pain in horses can be challenging to diagnose and has many potential causes, such as trauma, poor saddle fit, posture, hoof care, and nutrition.

Accurately recognizing the symptoms of neck pain is crucial for the best outcomes. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of neck pain in horses.

What are the most common symptoms showing when a horse is suffering from neck pain?

If your horse is experiencing any of the following, they may be suffering from neck pain:

  • Muscle spasms localized in the neck
  • Muscle atrophy in the neck
  • Tilted or lowered head at odd times
  • Reluctance to bend the neck
  • Unexplained front-end lameness
  • Uneven sweat pattern on the neck due to nerve damage
  • Trouble changing gaits
  • Shows neurologic signs (slayed legs, tripping, lack of coordination)
  • Loss of drive or motivation
  • Rejection of the saddle
  • Refuses the bit
  • Cross canters (your horse's hind end and front end are moving as if they are on opposite leads)

Diagnosing Neck Pain in Horses

The complex anatomy of a horse's neck can make it difficult to diagnose issues. In most cases, your equine veterinarian will begin with a physical exam, followed by diagnostic imaging like radiography or ultrasound. If necessary they will use MRIs to produce more detailed images to assist in diagnosis and treatment planning.

The Difference Between Pre-Acupuncture or Chiropractor Exams & Lameness Evaluations

While there are some similarities, examinations before acupuncture or chiropractic treatment have an entirely different focus when compared to lameness evaluations.

Lameness evaluations are comprehensive hands-on examinations that will be conducted in search of pain, heat, or swelling of muscles, joints, bones, and tendons. Your vet will evaluate the movement of your horse at a walk and trot, looking for various signs of a problem such as head bobbing, switching leads, stiffness, shortening of the stride, and poor performance. Joint flexion tests will help to illuminate any subtle signs of pain and irregular movement.

The pre-acupuncture or chiropractic exam, on the other hand, is a more thorough assessment of the muscles and tendons (soft tissues).

Treatment Options for Horse Neck Pain

The type of issue and severity of your horse's condition can impact the treatment method that is used. In many cases, your equine vet may recommend a combination of treatments and techniques to address all aspects of your horse's condition.

Chiropractic care is a popular choice at equine rehabilitation centers as it is non-invasive and natural. Other treatments may be used in conjunction with chiropractic care, including massage, acupuncture, or physiotherapy.

Always discuss any treatment or pain management plan with your vet before beginning. They can help you determine the cause and prepare a treatment plan that is tailored to your horse's needs.

How can chiropractic treatment help?

Chiropractic is a manual (applying hands to the body) therapy used to address and manage conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system and the impact they have on your horse's general health. Chiropractic treatment for neck pain in horses consists of controlled force applied to the neck and spine. Equine vets and rehab therapists use this to restore the optimal range of motion to the neck area, along with alleviating inflammation and pressure on surrounding nerves and soft tissue.

While our veterinary team does not provide equine chiropractic treatments, we do offer integrative and holistic therapies to support your horse's health, development and performance while reading in their natural healing process after an injury or illness. We will often support our medications, surgeries and therapies with PRP (platelet-rich plasma), shock wave therapy, stem cell therapy and water treadmill therapy to improve medical conditions.

Our equine vets at Western Veterinary Hospital understand that when your horse is in pain, it can cause issues throughout its entire body and because of this, we use our equine physical therapy and rehabilitation services to treat them.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your horse experiencing any type of discomfort, including neck pain? Contact our equine vets at Western Veterinary Hospital today to make an appointment for an examination.