Hind Fetlock Problems (aka Metatarsal-Phalangeal Joint)

This joint is an articulation of the distal metatarsus and the proximal phalanx for which the anatomy is the same as the front fetlocks. Therefore the range of injuries can be similar to the front fetlocks, however as the horse places less concussive stress on the hind fetlocks the frequency of injury is much less. Common injuries include local ligament strains and joint wrenches which commonly develop from performing on soft an uneven footing, Horses with sacro-iliac strains place an increased stress on the hind fetlocks when exercising which can initiate and inflammatory cascade which develops into a degenerative joint disease. Pain from the hind fetlocks can cause hypertonicity through the deep gluteal muscles, hamstring insertions and the lumbar region, this is all depending on the meridian effected which courses past the joint.


Local swelling and oedema as well as joint effusion are all obvious symptoms of dysfunction in and around the hind fetlock on inspection. Flexion of the hind fetlock will initiate or enhance the reactivity of trigger points related to the region or if more serious the horse will react locally to palpation and to the amount of flexion placed on the joint.


The acupuncture work-up can be very valuable in localizing pain from the metatarso-phalangeal region before any of the known clinical signs manifest. It is also important on determining how the hind fetlock pain is effecting the body such that mentioned above. 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.


Benefits of acupuncture include:


  • Pain reduction.
  • Increased joint range of movement, through musclerelaxation and increased joint capsule elasticity.
  • Reduced joint stress due to balancing the muscle tone and it’s effect on the hind fetlock.
  • Reduction in secondary deep gluteal muscle,
  • Hamstring insertions and lumbar region 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.

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