Joint Lubrication and Injury Response (AAEP 2011)

Treatment goals should be to aid in performance without eliminating the joint’s natural response to injury.
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A horse’s athletic success depends on the health of his joints, and veterinarians are continually studying up on how best to maintain athletic joints and manage injury. During a presentation at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas, Larry Bramlage DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, an equine surgeon at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Ky., gave veterinarians an "introduction to joint therapy." He described the lubrication mechanisms within the joint and the natural responses of the joint to injury.

Bramlage pointed out that when a joint is damaged, veterinarians see typical and consistent signs: a lame horse and a distended joint with increased amount of watery joint fluid. While the human impulse is to "fix" these types of signs, Bramlage pointed out that these very clinical signs are "a superficial part of the joint’s response to insult."

The interior of the joint consists of the articular cartilage, which covers the bone ends, and the synovium that lines the inside of the joint capsule. Both cartilage and synovium are bathed in joint fluid, but they are lubricated by different means and have different responses to insult.

Bramlage referenced a study evaluating pain within the joint in which examiners found that while pulling on the synovium itself was excruciating, cartilage has no nerve endings and cartilage stimulation is not painful

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Written by:

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM, practices large animal medicine in Northern California, with particular interests in equine wound management and geriatric equine care. She and her husband have three children, and she writes fiction and creative nonfiction in her spare time.

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