Shockwave therapy is an advanced and growing technology that treats musculoskeletal problems, bone injuries, and soft tissue in horses. This type of therapy is one of the most effective treatments known to not only humans, but horses, too. Shock wave therapy originated in human medicine—allowing the doctors to break down kidney stones without the extensive need for surgery. However, as time progressed, doctors began using shock wave therapy for more therapeutic purposes, and equine veterinarians followed swiftly after.
An article published by DVM 360, "According to Dr. Scott McClure, Iowa State University, a leading researcher in the field, [shockwave therapy] can be used to treat various conditions, such as spine lesions, suspensory ligament desmitis, navicular disease, saucer fractures, bucked shins, bowed sesamoid tendon fractures, stress fractures and vertebral spinal pain (kissing spine lesions)."
Shockwave therapy in horses has been scientifically proven to relieve pain and surpass lameness associated with osteoarthritis. Osteogenesis is a variety of inherited disorders characterized by fragile bones that break easily. Defective genes cause it—These genes affect how the body produces collagen, a protein that strengthens the bones.
This therapy can quicken recovery time for wounds and other injuries to your horse that influence overall health—and commonly, you will see improvements in mobility as well.
Would you like to know an interesting fact about shock wave therapy?
Treated horses were in a study between a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug vs. equine shock therapy. Shockwave therapy outperformed the drug. It showed improvements in clinical lameness and escalated the synovial fluid total protein. Synovial fluid is a heavy liquid that helps lubricate the joints as they slide against one another.
Equine shockwave therapy could also be beneficial in alleviating chronic pain in specific areas such as the poll or back where wounds may heal more slowly than normal.
Pro tip: Normally, before the treatment begins, your horse will need to be slightly sedated due to the possibility of frequent movements. Three treatments at three-week intervals are the usual course of therapy. There are two types of shockwave therapy machines.
Focused waves can be administered in targeted locations and can pierce through the soft tissue.
Radial waves influence a vast, but more shallow area. These waves are known to have adequate energy to scope several targeted areas.
During Spring training months, equine athletes start prepping for events and shows. According to equine sports medicine veterinarians, they see an increase in horses with sports-related injuries during this time of year.
Shockwave therapy has become one of the most reliable and established forms of care. This type of treatment shortens the healing process by half, while the therapy also offers an analgesic effect that helps manage pain relief. Some would consider shockwave therapy to be the perfect “maintenance” tool as it assists in optimizing movement.
Ultimately, shockwave therapy can reduce the need for pain medication, decreasing the risk for side effects in medicine, such as ulcers. Ideally, when managing pain with our horses, we want to be sure they get the best of care. Shockwave therapy may or may not be the therapy that your horse needs at this time, but the knowledge of this therapy, will give you an extra tool in your toolbox to know what is possible if the need ever arises (hooves crossed that it doesn’t!).