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Shockwave Therapy (SWT)

September 7, 2015

WHAT IS SHOCKWAVE?

The shockwave machine produces focused pressure pulses (both positive and negative) of micro-second duration which deliver energy to a selected area.

The delivery of the pulses has a direct effect on both soft tissues and bone, which in turn has the following outcomes:

  1. Pain Relief – high intensity stimulation of the area with SWT often results in a pain relieving effect lasting several days.
  2. Bone remodelling – The pressure pulses stimulate release of inflammatory mediators and influx of new blood vessels and bone building cells. This results in both quicker and better quality bone remodelling.
  3. Soft tissue healing – As with bone, the release of inflammatory mediators and influx of new blood vessels speeds up soft tissue healing.

WHAT IS IT USED FOR?

SWT has been used in human medicine for over 20 years. In equine practice, we use it to speed up healing of a number of musculoskeletal abnormalities such as suspensory ligament injuries, splints, osteoarthritis, sesamoiditis, ‘shin soreness’ as well as other soft tissue and bone injuries. In our experience, a course of SWT can also improve the radiographic appearance of bony abnormalities found on screening xrays, even if there is no evidence of clinical swelling or lameness.

WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?

Usually each horse will receive a course of three treatments, each 2 weeks apart. The horse will be sedated for each treatment. Each affected area receives 2000 impulses, counted by the machine; this takes around 10-15 minutes.

If the affected area is on the lower limb, we will usually apply a pressure bandage to prevent swelling and confine the horse to a small yard or box for 24 hours.

ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?

Due to the proximity of blood vessels to many of the structures that we shockwave, a minority of cases can swell, accumulate a haematoma or develop mild skin irritation after treatment. This can be treated or prevented by applying a pressure wrap and will not affect the horse in the long term.

Although SWT is a relatively new therapy in horses, during the time we have been using it at MVS we have experienced very few of the above problems.