Spinal Therapy - Mobilisation.

The most common forms of spinal therapy performed today are chiropractic, acupuncture, trigger point therapy and mobilisation.


Chiropractic is a physical therapy based on adjusting subluxated (misaligned) spinal joint complexes. These (subluxations) do occur not uncommonly in the cervical region of the horse and often result in the condition commonly referred to as Wobblers Syndrome. Often with this syndrome structures within the spinal joint complex or complexes are malformed or degenerative which results in joint instability and movement. Joint structures then compress sections of the spinal cord leading to painless alterations in gait associated with altered propioception (awareness of position). Less severe subluxations referred to by chiropractors are more difficult to define. However relief from spinal pain and alterations to neural sensitivities are commonly achieved using these treatments.


Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese form of therapy, involves stimulating specific nerve fiber tracts often to confuse potentials emanating from areas of pain sensation and thus dull or eliminate pain perception by the brain. This form of therapy has been applied to many different sources of pain including that of spinal origin. Relief from these pain states is often accomplished.


Trigger Point Therapy involves locating specific localised areas of focal pain and tension within muscles and joint associated complexes and relieving this pain and tension using controlled pressure and stretch modalities. Again significant favourable clinical responses are achieved by skilled therapists.


Mobilisation / Spinal. The principle behind this form of therapy is that all soft tissue structures (muscle,tendons,ligaments,joint capsules and nerves) are mobile (can move) and should be able to move within certain predetermined limits. Now if for instance a tendon is stretched beyond its normal range of movement (ROM) during an accident, abnormal movement is apparent. Similarly if spinal joint complexes are traumatised allowing an increased ROM then adverse pressure on the spinal cord may result as occurs in Wobblers Syndrome.

In principle mobilisation therapy is used to restore normal anatomical ROM where a reduction in this ROM can be demonstrated or is suspected. For example if you or your horse have difficulty in turning your head / neck to the right then a reduction in ROM to the right exists. Mobilisation therapy (controlled pressures and stretches) would be performed in an attempt to restore normal ROM. The two most common forms are

1) Active motion therapy = the patient themselves exercising and

moving the affected structures e.g...spinal stretches / muscle tendon

stretches...walking....trotting

2) Passive motion therapy = where a therapist controls these

movements with little physical input by the patient. e.g. a therapist

stretching a stiffened fetlock / in hand....hand held tendon stretches-

therapist applying longitudinal tension (extension stretch / toe point)

to an injured flexor tendon.

The form of mobilisation therapy which I have developed is applied to the more mobile areas of the equine spine i.e; the neck (cervical joints and associated structures). To accomplish these movements in a controlled manner the horse is anaesthetised. Under anaesthetic full (including lower cervical areas) ROM can be restored in the majority of cases. In some more severe cases two treatments 8 weeks apart are required. It is very unusual to treat a horse after these treatments except where reinjury (an accident) occurs.

These treatments are referred to as Cervical Vertebral Mobilisation Under Anaesthetic ( a CVMUA).