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SyncThermology Blog

Lame, in pain, or just a niggle?

Monday, July 22, 2019  ‹ Back To Latest News List

Dogs and horses often find themselves under veterinary investigation due to lameness. Where a horse was fine one day and came in from the field ‘hopping lame, on 3 legs’ the next, or a dog jumped from the sofa, yelped and couldn’t take weight on a front leg. These would normally be described as acute lameness cases which in theory are straight forward to diagnose. 

But dig a little deeper and you might find that the animal had in fact been ‘not quite right’ for some time. Perhaps ‘taking the odd uneven step’, looking ‘a bit stiff’ or ‘slightly uncomfortable’ after a long walk or competition, or ‘not enjoying their work’ or exercise as they once were. Nothing in particular to cause concern, just a few niggles. 

These niggles were likely showing for days, weeks, months or even years before resulting in the acute lameness the animal is now presenting. In fact they might have been present for so long that they’re now considered normal. The niggles are subtle and likely to affect multiple areas of the body as the animal has been coping with them for so long. These niggles are signs of chronic dysfunction (you can interchange the words pain or lameness with dysfunction - they’re all the same)  and the longer it goes on, the harder it is to diagnose and treat.

As a nation we’re used to ignoring chronic pain. We’re encouraged to ‘not make a fuss’ or self medicate with painkillers (which just block the feeling of pain rather than solve the problem). The longer a niggle persists, the more we learn to live with it. We manage them today, ignoring the cumulative effect they will have tomorrow. 

Athletes are different. They know that to perform at their best they need to prevent injuries. They monitor and treat any little niggle before it turns into something more serious. They understand that prevention is better than cure.

Physiological testing has the unique ability to identify changes taking place within the body as a result of injury or disease potentially before they would show up on other modalities that look at changes to structures such as x-ray, MRI or ultrasound. In fact, with regular monitoring, we can identify changes before acute lameness or signs of chronic pain are evident giving you the opportunity to intervene sooner for a better outcome. 

Our perception of what lameness is needs to change. Lameness is pain and dysfunction. We need to  monitor for dysfunction regularly and be prepared to intervene, manage and/ or treat early to keep our animals healthy and happy for longer.