The Balanced Rider

Chiropractic Care For The Equestrian

By Dr. Lori Carrol, Elixer Wellness Collective

Central Oregon provides endless riding opportunities for every type of equestrian. Regardless of the type of riding you enjoy, over time the ever shifting weight distribution your body experiences as your horse transitions from trot, canter and gallop can take a toll on your skeletal alignment and joint health. Regularly riding and taking care of a horse also comes with risks of injury. 

Whether you’re mucking out the stable, cleaning your horses hooves, lifting heavy hay bales and grain bags or getting bucked off, there are frequent opportunities for your body to be compromised.

Misaligned bones and joints that aren’t moving properly can lead to more dramatic accidents as the muscles surrounding misalignments can already be in pain and tensed to the point that minor injury can be exacerbated. Nipping misalignment in the bud before it has a major effect on your riding can save you a great deal of trouble. As with all athletics, chiropractic care is available to enhance performance, prevent injury, and help you heal more quickly when you do, indeed, get hurt.

One of the most frequently experienced chronic musculoskeletal issues an equestrian faces is sacroiliac joint dysfunction, resulting eventually in sacroiliitis (inflammation and pain) of that joint. The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum to the pelvis on each side, at the base of the spine. When you are riding, weight is transferred back and forth between buttocks and legs and in most cases, people favor one leg over the other which distributes more weight to the sacroiliac joint on that side. This repetitive uneven stress often leads to sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

The most basic indicator of sacroiliac joint dysfunction is pain in that region, which you may identify as low back pain. There are other indicators as well that can help you determine if you have an issue that should be addressed by a professional before you get to the pain stage. The top of the sacroiliac joint can be located by feeling for the ‘bump’ on either side where the buttocks meets the spine. Is there tenderness to the touch directly over or around either of those bumps? Are either of them hotter than the surrounding tissue? Is it more difficult to lift up one of your legs than the other or is one leg shorter than the other? To check your leg length, have someone look for a difference in length when you are lying on your stomach with your face down and your arms by your sides. If you answered yes to any of these questions you likely have sacroiliac joint dysfunction and could benefit from chiropractic evaluation and care.

Self care can go a long way to correct imbalances before small aches and pains turn into injuries. I know that this can be a big ask, given that most riders tend to spend much more time on their horse’s care than their own. But a little regular self care goes a long way and can dramatically increase the longevity of your riding career. A regular stretching regime for the back and legs as well as any other body parts that tend to get stiff or sore should be an everyday staple. Stretching has many positive effects if done correctly and can actually make things worse if performed incorrectly. Stretches should be held gently, without bouncing, for a minimum of 30 seconds and performed twice each, after a 10 to15 minute cardio warm-up. Make sure you don’t hold your breath or force the stretch to the point of pain. 

Core strengthening work should be the other main staple and should consist of endurance enhancing exercises like planks, side planks and reverse planks. It’s when core muscles get fatigued that you are at most risk for injury. Both stretches and exercises can best be tailored to your needs by a professional and this is recommended if you are already experiencing symptoms of an injury. 

As an avid rider myself, since early childhood, I have a real understanding of the demands placed on the body and the support needed to keep you doing what you love, without sacrificing your physical health. I assess the body as a whole for optimal diagnosis and utilize a thorough postural, soft tissue and biomechanical assessment to formulate an individualized treatment plan for every patient. We treat both the soft tissue and joint alignment and give specific instruction for stretching, exercise and lifestyle modifications. I love working with my patients to get lasting results. 

Whether you are interested in guidance on the best self care for injury prevention and performance enhancement or need help with a new or lingering injury, I am happy to help and look forward to working with you.

Elixir: A Wellness Collective

2146 NE 4th Street, Suite 160 Bend, OR 97701 541-306-4471,

974 NW Riverside Blvd. 
Bend, Oregon 97703

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