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Equine Shock Wave Therapy

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) was originally used in medicine to break up kidney stones in people. German physicians first used ESWT to treat tennis elbow, and plantar fascitis (heel spurs). Because of the positive results seen in treating these conditions, ESWT was adopted for use in treating a variety of orthopaedic conditions in the horse.

The principle behind ESWT is the use of energy in the form of acoustic waves to activate or promote the healing process.  Shock waves are thought to increase the blood supply to the treated area, manipulate the inflammatory process, stimulate cells to rebuild injured tissues, improve the pattern of healing in tendons and ligaments and to decrease pain.  In general longer standing injuries are less responsive to treatment and will require a greater number of shocks to stimulate a response. 

Some of the Many Benefits of Shockwave Therapy for Horses

  • Rapid Reduction in Pain and Decreased Healing Times
  • Works On Chronic and Acute Conditions
  • None Of The Side Effects Of Steroid Treatments — nor the dangers of further injury
  • A Great Alternative to Drugs and Their Side Effects
  • A Successful Alternative To Surgery as a treatment for horse injuries
  • Requires No Sedation, Medication or Anesthesia – one of the few horse injury treatments that require no drugs of any kind
  • A Quick Out-Patient Treatment For Horse Injuries
  • Available On-Site With Mobile Shock Wave Units
  • Virtually No Side Effects – which can’t be said for most treatments
  • A Complete Course Of Treatment In A Few Sessions (the average treatment for horse injuries is completed in 3-5 sessions)
  • A Cost Saving Treatment For Horse Injuries
Conditions that we currently treat with ESWT are injuries to the suspensory ligaments, both in fore and hind-limbs, other tendon and ligament injuries, kissing spines, sacroiliac pain, lumbosacral and other back pain. It can also be used for treating bone spavin, navicular syndrome, sesamoiditis, splints, non-healing wounds, stress fractures and treatment of non-union fractures.

Research has demonstrated that in the suspensory ligament ESWT has been shown to increase formation of collagen fibrils and growth factors.Tendon injuries treated with shock wave therapy showed more mature and parallel collagen fibres and increased new blood supply when compared to untreated controls.Recent studies of wound healing have indicated that shock wave therapy promotes healing of wounds in horses by increasing growth factors, reducing inflammation and promoting tissue proliferation. Shock wave therapy has also been shown to decrease inflammation associated with arthritis in horses. While the exact mechanisms of shock wave therapy seem to differ among the various tissues being treated, the effect of shock wave therapy appears to be dose-dependent.

There are two types of shock wave therapy devices: radial and focused shock wave modalities. Focused shock wave machines like the one we have at Priors Farm, are capable of generating a unique wave form with more power than radial machines therefore potentially a lower dose can be used. Both forms of ESWT have been shown to produce a localised analgesic effect at the treatment site for approximately 3 days following treatment therefore it is important not to overwork the injury during this time frame. Also the various racing commissions and the FEI have regulations concerning the waiting periods post-treatment prior to competition.