Equine Shockwave Therapy

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy, better known as simply shockwave, is a therapy used for a variety of orthopedic and soft tissue injuries. Shockwaves are pressure waves which are generated outside the body, and can travel through fluid and soft tissues.  Currently, the mechanism by which shockwaves promote healing is unknown. Shockwaves stimulate and accelerate the healing process by causing a reduction in inflammation, neovascularization in soft tissue and osteogenesis in bone. Shockwaves may help to breakdown or move swelling/inflammation, leading to healing factors to more rapidly fill defect.  Shockwave therapy leads to enhanced healing rate of tendons, and those tendons have a higher tensile strength. In addition, shockwave has a proven analgesic (pain relieving) effect. So while promoting osteogenesis and healing, typically horses have a rapid reduction in degree of lameness after shockwave treatment.

Using shockwave therapy has been described for many different types of injuries, including: tendonitis of superficial or deep digital flexor tendon lesions, suspensory desmitis, cortical bone fractures (cracks), degenerative joint disease or fetlock/knee/hock, navicular disease, chronic sore backs and sacroiliac problems, and arthritis in cervical spine. It is extremely important to initiate shockwave treatment immediately after injury to see best results.

Treatment recommendations vary based on location and severity of injury, degree of lameness, use of horse, and budget of client. Management plans when using shockwave include rest or controlled exercise. Frequently shockwave therapy is paired with PRP or systemic bisphosphonates to further promote healing. When shockwave therapy is recommended, treatment usually consists of three treatments two weeks apart. However, this may vary depending on type or severity of injury. Typical treatment involves administering 1000-3000 impulses per injury.

Our portable shockwave unit can be used on a standing horse in a barn. A handheld wand is the energy source of the shockwave. Shockwave treatment usually only takes a few minutes. Many horses do not even need to be sedated for shockwave therapy. Though the machine sounds loud, delivering shockwaves is usually not painful to the horse. In addition, there is some numbing effect as the shockwaves are administered.

More information available on Dr. Kurtz’s Equine Wellness: Shockwave Therapy video.