Shockwave Therapy for Horses: Benefits, Risks, and Effectiveness

July 28, 2023 4 min read

Shockwave therapy for horses has been gaining popularity recently as a non-invasive and drug-free treatment option for various musculoskeletal issues. This therapy involves the use of high-energy sound waves that are delivered to the affected area of the horse's body. These sound waves stimulate the body's natural healing processes, reducing pain and inflammation, improving circulation, bone regrowth, and faster tissue repair.

One of the main benefits of shockwave therapy is its ability to treat conditions that may not respond well to other forms of treatment. This includes chronic pain, tendon and ligament injuries, and bone fractures. Additionally, shockwave therapy can often provide a faster recovery than traditional treatment methods, allowing horses to return to normal activities sooner.

While shockwave therapy can be an effective treatment option for many horses, it is important to note that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The therapy should always be prescribed by a qualified veterinarian who can assess the horse's individual needs and determine if shockwave therapy is the best course of treatment. With proper use and guidance, shockwave therapy can be a valuable tool in the care and treatment of horses with musculoskeletal issues.

What is Shockwave Therapy?

How Does Shockwave Therapy Work?

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses high-energy acoustic waves, also known as shockwaves or pressure waves, to stimulate healing in the body. The shockwaves are directed at the affected area and cause micro trauma, which triggers the body's natural healing response. The therapy is commonly used to treat musculoskeletal injuries and conditions in horses, such as tendon and ligament injuries, navicular syndrome, and back pain.

During the treatment, a handheld device delivers the shockwaves to the affected area. The device is moved around the area in a circular motion, and the intensity and frequency of the shockwaves can be adjusted depending on the severity of the injury. The treatment typically lasts between 10 and 30 minutes and can be repeated several times over a period of weeks.

Benefits of Shockwave Therapy for Horses

Shockwave therapy has several benefits for horses. Firstly, it is a non-invasive treatment, meaning it does not require surgery or other invasive procedures. This makes it a safer and less stressful option for horses.

Secondly, shockwave therapy has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Studies have shown that it can help to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling and can also improve range of motion and overall function.

Finally, shockwave therapy is a relatively quick and easy treatment to administer. It can be performed on an outpatient basis, meaning horses can return home the same day or even be performed in the comfort of the owner’s barn. 

Conditions Treated with Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is commonly used to treat tendon and ligament injuries, bone injuries, and back pain in horses.

Musculoskeletal Conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions are common in horses and can cause lameness and discomfort. Shockwave therapy can be used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, including osteoarthritis, navicular syndrome, stress fractures, and kissing spines. The treatment works by increasing blood flow and promoting the production of growth factors and proteins, which help to heal damaged tissue.

Tendon and Ligament Injuries

Tendon and ligament injuries are common in horses, especially in equine athletes. Shockwave therapy can be used to treat a variety of tendon and ligament injuries, including desmitis, tendinopathy, and tendinitis. The treatment works by promoting the formation of new blood vessels and increasing blood flow and other healing factors, which helps to speed up the healing process.

Bone Injuries

Bone injuries can be difficult to treat in horses, especially if surgery is not an option. Shockwave therapy can be used to treat a variety of bone injuries, including bone spavin and sesamoiditis. The treatment works by promoting bone formation and increasing blood flow to the affected area.

Back Pain

Back pain is a common problem in horses, especially those used for competition. Shockwave therapy can be used to treat a variety of back pain conditions, including proximal suspensory desmitis and kissing spines. The treatment works by reducing inflammation and promoting the production of cytokines, which help to reduce pain. When used on some horses in the early stages of kissing spines, shockwave therapy may provide enough relief to help the horse learn to use his body properly and develop proper muscles to support the spine. 

Risks & Side Effects of Shockwave Therapy

Overall, shockwave therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for horses with various musculoskeletal, tendon, and ligament conditions. The treatment is non-invasive and has been shown to have pain-relieving effects.Shockwave therapy can be paired with far-infrared therapy to continue to increase circulation and stimulate recovery between sessions.

However, it is important to work with a veterinarian who is experienced in shockwave therapy to ensure that the treatment is used appropriately and safely, as more sensitive human patients reported side effects of discomfort, pain, redness, swelling, numbness, bruising, and increased sensitivity, among others.

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