From Physical Therapy for Horses by Helle Katrine Kleven, published by Trafalgar Square Books / HorseandRiderBooks.com. Order a copy here.
Magnetic therapy is a very popular treatment option. This is not a new, modern treatment. It is believed magnetic stones were already being used 2000 years ago to support the healing process as part of Chinese medicine. During the same time period, Romans and Egyptians wore magnetic stones as jewelry to improve their health. Even Hippocrates, the most famous medical doctor of ancient times, wrote a few words about the use and effect of those stones.
Today, we don’t need to put stones on our horses anymore. Depending on the manufacturer, static or pulsing magnets are created with coil mats, small pillows, sticks, and tubes (with different frequencies, intensities, and programs). The magnets are inserted in blankets, splint boots, or into small pillows that you can put on your horse.
There are different types of magnetic therapy. There is the static type, which does not use electricity, and there is a variation with pulsing magnets, which are powered by electricity. The latter allows the user to work with different frequencies.
Within and around a cell, there is electrical voltage. The cell needs positive and negative voltage to allow for optimal metabolism. If this voltage gets out of balance (caused by injury, illness, or overexertion) the metabolism of the affected cell is lowered. Through the influence of magnetic fields, this voltage can be brought back into balance, and the metabolism and cell activity will be activated and can therefore better support the recovery and healing process.
In trials, it has been observed that cells are able to reestablish their own rhythm (movement), via the application of magnetic therapy.
Magnetic therapy is easy to apply. With static magnetic fields, you can put the magnets on the treatment area. With electromagnetic treatment, you adjust the control unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can adjust to different frequencies to produce alternating magnetic fields. This opens the possibility of using magnets selected for different types of tissue, such as bone, cartilage, or muscle tissues, since the tissue types respond to different frequencies. The static magnets only offer one frequency, so an individualized treatment is not possible.
Horses react very individually to magnets. Some horses won’t tolerate them: they get twitchy and nervous. It’s possible the wrong frequency has been selected. So, try again with a different program/frequency. If problems persist, you need to stop the treatment. However, most horses respond with beautiful muscular relaxation, which also has a positive effect on your horse’s psyche.
Try out how your horse reacts to magnetic therapy. If you have a nervous, forward horse and you would like him to be calmer during work, it is worth a try to treat him with magnetic therapy before you ride. If your horse is a little too quiet and you are looking for a little more activity, there are frequencies that help with that, too. Ask the manufacturer which frequencies would be appropriate. I personally always put a magnetic blanket on my horse after intense work to support the recovery phase.
Areas of Application
- Preventive measures
- Fractures and fissures, ganglia
- All forms of soft tissue injury (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Muscle tightness
When You Shouldn’t Use Magnetic Therapy
Magnetic therapy has the advantage that it can be applied almost everywhere.
- Kidney disease
- Pregnant mares
- Existing tumors
Laser stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” This means generating an intense or focused beam of light through stimulated emission of radiation. Laser therapy is used in diverse areas of medicine. High Intensity Laser Therapy is used for surgical procedures. It is, among other applications, used in eye care. Low level laser is therapeutic light that finds its application in physical therapy. It is also known as “cold laser” or “soft laser” since it does not lead to a warming of tissue.
I will explain the effects of low level laser therapy. This laser only has a stimulating effect on the treatment area and does not injure the area. The effect of soft laser light on the organism happens on different levels. On the one hand, it has a positive impact on the force center of the cell, which leads to an increased metabolism. On the other hand, the cell can be influenced by specific oscillatory information of the low level laser. It has been proven that regulatory processes in the brain and spinal cord as well as hormonal reactions respond to treatment by soft laser light. Regulatory processes in the brain and spinal cord and hormonal reactions have been observed after laser treatment. More recent studies have shown that a laser only penetrates between .5 and 4 centimeters (an inch and a half or less) deep, but this initiates a chain reaction in the cells that goes much deeper. How deep the laser penetrates depends on the thickness of the horse’s coat and skin. Therefore, there are special laser devices used in veterinary medicine.
It has also been demonstrated that laser therapy offers great support for poorly healing wounds. With such wounds, daily progress can be observed. In addition, when treating scar tissue, the laser has turned out to be a “miracle worker.” Many acupuncture practitioners use laser light instead of needles with great success. In addition, laser light has been used successfully in the treatment of ligament, tendon, and joint injuries of the lower limbs.
The laser is applied directly (touching) to the treatment area. The length and frequency of treatment is dependent on the specifications of the device. Please make sure to familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions. If your horse has a thick coat, you may want to clear and clean the laser points, which reduces resistance to the laser beam. There are big laser boxes available, which perform well, but even small laser pens can successfully be used by the layperson to treat superficial injuries.
When You Shouldn’t Use Laser Therapy
There are basically no contraindications to the use of laser therapy. It is completely pain-free since it “only” uses light beams. Don’t treat areas close to the eye of the horse, as light can injure the eye.
Never look directly into the laser light and always wear the protective glasses that come with the device during treatments.
Ultrasound therapy is being used widely in the medical field for examination, diagnostics, and treatment. When not used correctly, ultrasound can also be the most “dangerous” of the physical therapy devices. Irreparable injury can occur quickly. Damages can include death of tissue or burning, and injuries to cartilage and bones. Therefore, I advise you, let experts give this treatment. Do so yourself only if you have received a 100-percent-correct introduction and you feel confident handling the device.
Ultrasound uses sound waves. All cells that are hit by these waves receive a “micro-massage.” This activates the cell membrane, so metabolism is positively influenced by the massage. The tissue is slightly warmed by the waves. As a result, the elasticity of the soft tissue increases. One advantage of ultrasound is that it can reach the deeper structures of the body.
Ultrasound has a positive impact on tissue where tension has accumulated. The waves can dissolve adhesions and scar tissue. Positive results can be observed from treating tendon and ligament injuries. Even bursitis and arthritis are being treated with ultrasound therapy. In addition, poorly healing fractures can be improved with ultrasound treatment. The micro-massage also helps with pain reduction.
In order to transmit the waves from the head of the device, it is necessary to reduce resistance as much as possible. Hair in the treatment area needs to be shaved. A gel is applied to transmit the sound waves into the tissue. The head of the device should always be in motion during treatment, either in small circles or in straight lines. There is another option for treating the lower limbs. You can stand the horse’s leg in a bucket of water. Water is a fantastic sound-wave transmitter. For the sound waves to transmit optimally, there should not be any air in between the hairs (so run your hand down the leg in water to press out the air bubbles). You put the head of the device into the water, 1 to 2 centimeters (about half an inch) away from the treatment area. Here, too, you need to constantly move the head of the device. You will be able to see how the waves are being transmitted in the water.
When You Shouldn’t Use Ultrasound Therapy
- Vascular disease
The treatment with ultrasound should not exceed four weeks. If the injury is not completely healed, please take a two-week break in the treatment before you start another round. You can cause harm to your horse if you treat for a prolonged period.