Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a relatively new treatment for equine orthopaedic conditions. With its increasing use in equine practice and encouraging responses, more research has been done to look at the benefits of this treatment and it's uses for equine injuries.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy was developed in the 1980's. It was initially used in human medicine to treat kidney stones, allowing doctors to break down the stones without the need for extensive surgery. Following this it was used to treat painful orthopaedic conditions in man with good success. Since then it has been developed as a treatment for orthopaedic conditions and injuries in horses.
Shockwaves are high energy sound waves that are created outside the body and transferred to a specific area within the body via a specialised machine. Shockwaves are characterised by a very high and rapid pressure followed by a rapid decrease in pressure to a negative level. Shockwaves are a non invasive treatment because they are applied by resting the machine on the skin. The energy waves travel easily through the skin into the deeper structures, where they can stimulate healing. Shockwaves have been applied to a wide range of conditions, including:
- Digital flexor tendonitis
- Proximal suspensory desmitis
- Suspensory branch desmitis
- Muscular back pain
- Arthritis of the spine
- Kissing spines
- Splint exostosis
- Decrease lameness associated with navicular syndrome
- Sesamoiditis and sesamoid fractures
When a shockwave enters a tissue it takes with it high energy. Benefits for the treated tissues include increased speed of tissue repair, increased bone formation, increased neo vascularisation, and a decrease in pain. Shockwave is still a relatively new treatment but studies are being undertaken to test its effectiveness against certain conditions.
Shockwave is normally administered as a course of treatments. These range from three to five treatments with intervals of 7 to 30 days. The most common protocol is three treatments at two week intervals. In order for shockwaves to be applied the area to be treated is clipped, as it would be for an ultrasound scan. The area is then cleaned and gel is applied to allow the machine to move freely over the skin. The application of shockwave's can be a strange sensation for the horse and they need to stand very still for the treatment so they are always sedated before a treatment is started.
If you would like any further information about shockwave therapy please contact us at the Scarsdale Veterinary Group Equine Unit on 01332 294929.