Upper Thoracic Stiffness

Accompanying the cervical stiffness is an expansion of the hypertonicity into upper thoracic region. The etiology is similar and commonly linked to the cervical stiffness but involves the deeper and superficial muscles such as the thoracic ventral serratus, cranial dorsal serratus, rhomboid, trapezius, longissimus, multifidus and iliocostal muscles. When these muscles of the thoracic region are left in spasm they cause scapular restriction and thus a shortening of the forelimb stride, it also leaves the muscles of the region with an increased chance of tearing when the horse is performing.


The spasm of the upper longissimus muscle’s insertion onto the fascia of the upper thoracic spinal processes is a common problem which can be associated with the upper thoracic stiffness. As there is increased posterior and pull pressure put onto the spinal processes, it causes the dorsal vertebrae to impinge on top of each other causing an intense pain of the caudal wither, this is further stressed by the placement of the saddle over this region. Local palpation will exhibit local intense hypertonicity and reactivity, the action of the horse will become very stiff and jarring which often leads to inspection of the lower forelimbs for a cause.


The acupuncture work-up can be very valuable in localizing the cause of the pain and hypertonicity in the neck and upper thoracic regions before any of the known clinical signs manifest and before the problem manifests as bad as a lameness. It is also important in determining weather the lower forelimbs are the cause of the upper spinal stiffness and allow for further treatment of the cause which can be looked into by the vet.


Benefits of acupuncture include:


  • Pain reduction
  • Increased spinal joint range of movement, through muscle relaxation and increased joint capsule elasticity.
  • Reduction in secondary jarring stress on the lower limbs.
  • Increased blood flow through the region which is needed to resolve scar tissue and bone build up which restricts spinal mobility.
  • Raised levels of circulating cortisol.

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