The Management of Canine Iliopsoas Strains: Getting to the Bottom of Chronic Lameness

When Evaluating for Pain, Don’t Forget the Musclesagility-dog

After several years of managing the lame and painful dog in our rehabilitation practice, we have learned a thing or two. One of our biggest accomplishments has been to recognize that joints are not the only source of chronic pain in our patients. Sure, things may start with a torn cruciate ligament or other joint issue, but for our painful patients, it rarely stays as just one source of discomfort. Shifting off of a painful limb or area changes how a pet moves and maintains their body weight. This puts an aggravating stress and strain on compensating joints and muscle groups. During a period of play, a dog may twist the wrong way and partially tear a cruciate ligament.  They then begin to shift their weight to the opposite hind leg, tuck their pelvis, or shift weight primarily to the front limbs to avoid painful movement. That works great initially until the joint and muscles of the other limbs protest and begin to spasm.

Iliopsoas, a Common Source of Paindog swimming in summer

A great example of a compensatory strain and a common source of chronic pain and lameness is the iliopsoas muscle. The psoas major and iliacus muscle groups combine to form a band of muscle (the iliopsoas)originating along each side of the lumbar spine and inserting on the inside portion of each femur (we would call this a groin muscle). A dog would use these muscles to flex the hip and lower portion of the spine, for lateral rotation of the thigh, and to advance the femur forward. Canines who participate in activities or sports that involve a lot of jumping or movements with great hip extension can aggravate the iliopsoas resulting in knocked bars, shortened jumps, and a skipping gait. What kind of activities would that be? Dock Diving, Agility, Fly Ball, Lure Coursing, regular frisbee and ball play. We will also see iliopsoas stain and pain as a secondary issue in our patients with orthopedic changes such as hip dysplasia, arthritic hind end joints, disk disease/back injury, and recovering post-op orthopedic repair (to name a few). Continue…