Disease Du Jour: Back and Neck Pain Management in Horses

eventing cross country jump neck back
In this Disease Du Jour podcast, Dr. Kent Allen talks about diagnosing and treating back and neck pain in horses.

Nearly all equine veterinarians are faced with back and neck pain in horses. Those horses could be used for performance, breeding, trail riding or are pasture pets. In this podcast episode, we talk to Kent Allen, DVM, about assessing where the pain is coming from and how to select the right treatment regimen.

Starting Points

Allen said this is a topic that is “near and dear to my heart.” When Allen graduated from vet school, he said treating backs meant giving the horse bute, rest and injecting the hocks.

“I found out that didn’t work very well,” said Allen.

He said since the advent of better X ray and nuclear medicine, a lot of pathology has been discovered in the equine back. But the “it’s all about saddle fit” also didn’t ring true for Allen. “I had a client with five saddles, and they didn’t help.”

Allen said there was a time when “use Robaxin” was the solution for back and neck pain in horses. “I hurt my back and it did not fix me or the horses I treated,” said Allen.

Rest also is not a cure-all because, “part of the problem is horses lose muscle in the back,” he noted.

He added that, “the principle guide to pain management is to stop the spasm and pain.”

Don’t miss Allen’s podcast on Orthobiologics in Horses recorded earlier this year.

Allen’s Oft-Quoted Saying

An oft-quoted saying from Allen is: “Absent a diagnosis, medicine is poison, surgery is trauma, alternative therapy is witchcraft, and rehab is a waste of time.”

Allen then talked through his methods of diagnosing back and neck pain and his treatment regimens. Listen to the podcast to hear all of this tips and tricks.

About Kent Allen, DVM

Kent Allen, DVM, is the owner of Virginia Equine Imaging in Middleburg, Virginia. He received his DVM from the University of Missouri in 1979, and he has been practicing equine medicine ever since. Allen opened Virginia Equine Imaging in 1996 after selling the practiced he formerly owned in Arizona. Virginia Equine Imaging became the first privately owned and operated equine diagnostic imaging specialty clinic in the world. He had a vision to establish a practice that provides advanced diagnostic and sports medicine focused on the equine athlete in a way that had never been done before.

During his transition from Arizona to Virginia, Allen served as the head veterinary services coordinator at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Since moving to Virginia and establishing Virginia Equine Imaging, Allen has served as Chairman of the USEF Veterinary Committee, the USEF Drug and Medication Committee, and the Medication Sub Committee for the FEI. He served as the FEI Foreign Veterinary Delegate for the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Allen also was the 2010 World Equestrian Games Official Veterinary Coordinator.

Allen is currently certified by the International Society of Equine Locomotor Pathology (ISELP) and serves as its vice president and executive director. He also serves as the volunteer chairman of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Veterinary, Drug, and Medications Committees and on the FEI Veterinary and List Committees. Allen continues to see patients and impart his knowledge to veterinary interns and clients on a day-to-day basis, striving the share his knowledge with the equine industry both in his local community and around the world.

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