Thursday, 16 September 2010

Biomechanics - adressing the root of the problem

I am running a course for the UKNHCP students this week, and with her teacher-head on, Sarah sent me this great link to add to my course material, and I thought you guys would find it interesting as well. This is the link to the programme on the BBC's website, and you can hear it by clicking "Listen now". If you are short of time, the highlight (as far as I am concerned) is between 1min20 and 6min50, the latter when an athlete is talking about the difference that working barefoot has made to recovery after a severe ankle injury :-)

Basically, the programme highlights how biomechanics addresses not simply the apparent injury, but looks at the incorrect movement which has led to the injury, and the stresses and strains throughout the body which arise when soft tissue and joints are forced to compensate.

For an athlete, its not enough for the injury to heal if the primary cause is a biomechanical weakness; if you don't address the primary cause, the injury will simply recur once training begins again.

Its exactly the same with horses, who are natural athletes. A horse can present with an injury, for instance to the DDFT. Typically the prescription is rest, hand-walking, controlled exercise - perhaps coupled with remedial farriery and drug therapies. The problem is that with many - possibly the majority - of these injuries, the injury is the culmination of a long term biomechanical problem.

As the doctor in the BBC programme points out, you need to not only have the diagnosis for the injury, you need to know why it happened. If the focus for treatment is only on the recent injury and there is no recognition of the poor biomechanics that have led to it, then the chances are that it will recur.

And as a footnote, this isn't really about barefoot and shoes - a horse can be barefoot and land toe-first; a horse can be shod and land heel-first...
This is something that I hear frequently with the horses who come here - they may have had an initial bout of lameness which was painstakingly treated, only for it to recur once the horse was back in light work - or even once it was turned out in the field. Usually, throughout this time the horse has been landing toe-first and it may also have compromised medio-lateral balance - this is the root cause of the injury and it makes every step a repetitive strain injury.

However, these same horses normally come successfully back into work, and suffer no ill effects from charging about in the field, once they are landing correctly.

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