Neurologic Examination

The nervous system is characterized by three different functions, which include motor (e.g., muscle contraction and joint movement), sensory (e.g., nociception and mechanoreception), and deep tendon or spinal reflexes. Components of the nervous system evaluated in a typical neurologic evaluation include the brain, cranial nerves, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves.

The focus of most neurologic evaluations in horses with axial skeleton lesions is the detection of overt weakness or incoordination associated with cervical vertebral compressive myelopathy.  However, from a sports medicine or rehabilitation perspective, subtle clinical signs of pain, altered body awareness or joint position sense, and motor control or core stability are key indicators of spinal dysfunction.

Detailed spinal evaluation of muscle atrophy, altered soft tissue tone or texture, or muscle hypertonicity are all indicators of possible pain or neurologic dysfunction.  Specific proprioceptive tests and travel over or around obstacles of different heights, spacing, or configurations are often useful to detect subtle neurologic deficits or weakness.  The response to spinal reflexes is useful to assess motor control, core stability, and flexibility.

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