by: Mimi Porter
Every athlete has faced injury at some time. Soft tissue disorders, such as bruises, tendonitis, bursitis, and fibrositis, can result from overuse, wear and tear, or from a sudden trauma. Sudden trauma results in an acute injury, defined as a situation of short duration. A chronic injury results when clinical signs are allowed to persist or the onset of the injury is drawn out over a period of time. Acute injuries are treated with ice and compression, while chronic injuries are often treated with some form of heat.
Arthritis, perhaps the most common chronic disease, begins as an inflammatory process in the joints and progresses as a degenerative process due to wear and tear and metabolic influences. There is a progressive loss of cartilage followed by a bony reaction. The soft tissue around the joint is weakened as pain inhibits forceful muscle contraction and support.
Tendinitis, bursitis, and arthritis can overlap and all exist at the same time, making diagnosis and treatment difficult. The usual approach in coping with these disorders is to try first one thing, then another to see what will help. Weeks pass and the problem remains.
The horse presents a special challenge to diagnosis and treatment due to his ability to adapt and to compensate. When faced with pain in one area, the horse shifts his weight away from that area. This results in more strain elsewhere and disuse atrophy in the painful area. Eventually the compensatory changes are exhausted and lameness results. The horseman is finally made aware of a discomfort that has been growing over an extended period of time. The injury process is now chronic and involves several structures.
Tendinitis is an inflammatory disorder of the structure that connects muscle to bone. The tendon is not generally as extensible as muscle and is susceptible to strain. The muscle-tendon junction also can be a site of strain. In some cases, tendon sheath inflammation is a more appropriate term for the condition, if the inflammation occurs in the tendon sheath, rather than the tendon itself. Should this condition be allowed to persist, fibrosis can occur in the sheath and extend to the tendon, restricting motion.