What do we really Know about Iliopsoas Strain?

by | Feb 7, 2019 | Small Animal Rehabilitation

In recent years, the iliopsoas muscle complex has come under scrutiny as the veterinary community has begun to move away from the all-too-common ‘soft tissue injury’ diagnosis and focus on the specific identification and treatment of the anatomical origins of lameness. This has led to a greater awareness of certain muscle structures, such as the iliopsoas, which are so frequently identified as a factor in lameness. This blog takes a snapshot overview of what we currently know about iliopsoas strain in dogs.

How much of a problem is this condition really?

Working and competitive dogs are commonly assessed for muscular strains, with a survey showing that 32% of agility dogs suffered from some kind of orthopedic lameness during the course of their training. Of these dogs, 53% of the lameness’s were caused by muscle or tendon injuries (Cullen, et al 2013). Further research has revealed that 32% of hind limb lameness involves the iliopsoas muscle group (Carmichael, et al 2015).

Over the last year alone, our Small Animal Vetrehabbers Facebook Community has asked for advice about the Iliopsoas in 15 posts. That’s a significant amount of cases that have cropped up where Vetrehabbers felt they needed advice and feedback from the community to have the best possible outcome for their case. If you would like to benefit from that advice, please join the community and search for Iliopsoas

How do we identify an iliopsoas strain?

An iliopsoas strain can present as a lameness with a shortened stride due to a decreased hip extension (Canapp, et al 2007). On palpation of the muscle there may be pain, spasm and discomfort. When testing range of motion there may be a restriction in hip extension with abduction and internal rotation (Cullen et al, 2017).

A retrospective study evaluating the accuracy and efficiency of diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound in the diagnosis and evaluation of iliopsoas strain in agility dogs (Cullen et al, 2017) used diagnostic ultrasound together with clinical findings in 73 cases to reveal very interesting insights into iliopsoas strains through the comparison and assessment of all ultrasound scans taken, allowing us to glean valuable information on the rehabilitation of this injury. 

How is an iliopsoas strain diagnosed?

Radiographs can give us some information, but cannot diagnose an iliopsoas strain (Da Silva, et al 2009). Computed tomography scans can give us slightly more information, revealing the presence of oedema and inflammation (Rossmeisl, et al 2004). Magnetic resonance imaging is even more useful in the diagnosis of an iliopsoas strain (Bui, et al 2008). But by far, the most valuable resource for diagnosing an iliopsoas muscle injury is diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound, which can be performed without sedation, can be used as a follow up assessment and is considerably more affordable (Cullen et al, 2017). 

We have put together a PDF download for you on this condition, that gives you a complete overview of the anatomy, cause of injury, presentation, diagnosis and treatment. I hope you enjoy it! 


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