The metacarpal-phalangeal joint will often show pathology all throughout the horse’s performance career when the horse is under stress. This can start at an early age with growth plate issues at the ends of the metacarpal and phalange bones, developmental disorders of the cartilage and subchondral bone, strains and wrenches of the joint and as these issues persist a degenerative disease develops in the joint, this is also known as arthritis. Other associated injuries to the fetlock region can include the proximal sesamoids, lateral suspensory branches, the extensor tendon and the superficial and deep flexor tendons as they pass behind the joint and under the annular ligament.
The acupuncture work-up can be very valuable in localizing pain from the fetlock region before any of the known clinical signs manifest. It is also important on determining how the fetlock pain is effecting the body such as it’s secondary effect on the cervical or lumbo-sacral regions. Further evaluation and diagnosis of the fetlock is taken on by the vet who can use diagnostic tools such as x-rays, ultrasounds, scintigraphy and nerve blocks.
As a treatment acupuncture is a very important tool for prolonging the soundness of the joint and also in forming a synergistic combination with other joint modulating drugs and nutraceuticals.
Benefits of acupuncture include:
- Pain reduction
- Increased joint range of movement, through muscle relaxation and increased joint capsule elasticity.
- Reduction in secondary back and neck.
- Hypertonicity and pain.
- Increased blood flow through the region.
- Raised levels of circulating cortisol.
- Promotes proper function of the synovial membrane which reduces WBC into the joint.