Rocky Bay Equine Newsletter 
November 2014 
head to tail
Introducing the first in our series of explorations into form and function of the horse's magnificently designed musculo-skeletal system.  We invite you to join us in learning more about how things work and the hard reality of what happens when they don't.  We'll be starting at the front with the cervical spine and neck.    On Wednesday, November 19th 6:30 PM at Bremerton's Baymont Inn, RBE will host a free, in depth symposium featuring surgeon, educator and lameness specialist,
Dr. Earl Gaughan
.  Join us, you won't be disappointed!!!

Click on the link above or go to our website for directions and more information.

Please RSVP the clinic if you plan to come, it will help us plan, thanks!  See you there!
Word of the Month
"pedagogy" | noun
The method and practice of teaching, esp. as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

Both acupuncture and chiropractic are effective treatment modalities for cervical spinal dysfunction. Integrative medicine services are available with Dr. Crystal McRae through RockyBay Equine.  Give us a call if you have questions or want to schedule an appointment.  Don't forget that you can also schedule via email or through our website.

Contact Information
office of
Dr.Bo Weeks
Dr.Crystal McRae (Williams)
    (253) 858-4529
    (360) 876-1544
call these numbers any time for emergency service

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Fall presents a wonderful transition from the hectic pace of summer to a calmer, more reflective time of year.  The kids are back in school and it's getting dark early, so why not add a little evening learning to your own plate of activities?  We have just the thing!  An upcoming seminar with Dr. Earl Gaugan and RockyBay staff that will focus on the musculo-skeletel system, specifically the horse's cervical spine. Read on for more information.

Pedagog-ickly yours,

Dr. Bo Weeks, Dr. Crystal McRae(Williams), Linda Weeks
and all the inquisitive minds at RockyBayEquine!
If you're anything like we are, you are continually amazed at the incredible design of the equine skeleton.  It's a beautiful thing, that bony scaffolding, and how it all works together is truly miraculous!  Read on for a brief overview of anatomy; form & function.


FORM & FUNCTION of the Equine Cervical Spine

The horse's neck is a complex structure with a vast amount of small stabilizing muscles covered by several large muscles.  The bony structure of the neck is comprised of 7 cervical vertebrae that attach the skull to the rest of the body.  A very large fibrous band called the nuchal ligament which originates at the poll, between the ears, and attaches at the withers is what enables the horse to lift its heavy head and neck.  The first cervical vertebra is known as the atlas because this bone holds the skull, just like the mythological Atlas holding up the world.  The connection between the skull (occiput) and first cervical vertebrae is known as the atlanto-occipital joint.  The second cervical vertebra is called the axis, its unique shape allows for significant range of motion between it and the atlas.  These specialized articulations allow the horse to bend its head side to side (ie a "no" movement), flex it up and down (ie nodding "yes"), or twist it.  The remaining somewhat similarly shaped cervical vertebrae C3-C7 move in limited side to side and up and down motions.  The range of motion increases from C3 to C7 with the motion between C6 and C7 at the base of the neck much greater than that between C2 and C3.  This increased range of motion is enabled through subtle changes in the angle and direction of the joints between each cervical vertebra.

The two most significant pathologies concerning the equine cervical spine are spinal cord compression and osteoarthritis.  Cord compression may be caused by impingement at the joints between vertebrae due to mal-alignment or anatomical narrowing of the bony spinal canal.  Osteoarthritis in bones of the neck  (cervical facets) may cause inflammation of the spinal cord and/or its nerve roots.  

The integrity of the bones and joints of the cervical spine also influences the thoracic and lumbar sections of the spine.  From head to tail there are 3 areas of particular importance for posture and coordination.  These areas are the brainstem (base of the skull), lower neck and lower back or sacro-iliac area where the lumbar spine connects to the pelvis.  These three regions are links in a chain and if one region has problems there will likely be compensation and stiffness in the other regions as well.  For example, cervical spinal pathology or stiffness at the base of the neck (C6-C7) is often associated with simultaneous problems in the lower back and pelvis.  Besides the importance of integrity between spinal structures, there is also the linkage of spine (axial skeleton) to the appendages (appendicular skeleton) to consider when evaluating spinal problems.

A classic sign of upper cervical neck pain is a horse that twists its head to turn, rather than bending the neck to turn.  However, a horse with neck pain might exhibit any one or a combination of signs, such as: stiffness, decreased range of motion in the "carrot" stretches, abnormal head and neck carriage, ataxia, forelimb lameness or more subtle signs such as asymmetry in turning or simply feeling "heavy" on one particular rein during work.  Neck pain in general can cause forelimb lameness since a horse will brace the neck to avoid painful movements.  If there is also compression of the nerves that exit the spinal cord between C6-C7, referred pain may also be noted in the forelimb.  This type of lameness can be a literal "pain in the neck" to interpret since the apparent forelimb lameness may be due to a remote cause (spine) or the neck pain may have initiated compensatory pathology in the forelimb itself.

Diagnosis of cervical spinal problems requires a thorough knowledge of anatomy and astute palpation skills.  Other modalities available in the ambulatory practitioner's evaluation arsenal include ultrasound which may be used to visualize the size, shape and symmetry of the vertebral joints.  Radiography can be useful to evaluate compression of the spinal cord and osteoarthritis or irregularity of the joints between the cervical vertebrae.  

Treatment of neck problems begins with an accurate diagnosis and localization of pain to the cervical region.  Increasing mobility and decreasing pain and inflammation is crucial to successful treatment. Acupuncture is beneficial for reducing muscle tension that arises as the animal attempts to stabilize a painful joint. Chiropractic manipulations restore alignment and range of motion between the bones of the spine.  Ultrasound guided injections into cervical joints may decrease inflammation and pain from osteoarthritis.  Stretching, active mobilization techniques, massage, and knowledge of structure and function are also necessary to facilitate recovery and to minimize recurrence of neck stiffness and pain.        
                                      ~Crystal McRae (Williams), DVM, CVC
RockyBayEquine | 253-858-4529 | 
12604 189th Avenue KPN, Gig Harbor, WA 98394
mailing address; PO Box 452, Vaughn, WA 98394

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