Physical therapy has likely been part of your life at some point; if not, it probably will be in the future. Physical therapy (PT) is a type of treatment aimed at helping to ease pain, increase mobility, improve function, or heal from injury. PT is also used to help solve problems caused by individual differences in musculoskeletal systems, as well as bad habits or misuse that has resulted in pain or underperformance. If PT is good for people, it’s certainly good for our equine friends.
PT not only helps with recovery from injury but helps to improve performance while also preventing future injuries. Our horses are athletes, farm workers, members of the police force, ranchers, and more. They need support and care to perform at their best, and PT is part of that care.
We will cover just some of the physical therapy techniques currently being used to help horses improve their strength and flexibility and optimize their performance.
Types of Horse Therapy and Rehab
Determining the PT needs of any horse should be done by a trained equine physical therapist or veterinarian. Once a protocol is established, PT may be continued at the home stable with the use of specialized equipment if needed. Vitafloor now offers a directory of equine rehabilitation centers around the world.
Ultrasound Therapy for Horses
While ultrasound technology is commonly used for imaging of soft tissues (looking inside the body) and diagnosing, it is also used as a therapeutic treatment for horse therapy and rehab.
Therapeutic ultrasound works in a few different ways. Ultrasound waves penetrate soft tissues and can offer deep heating that stimulates circulation; softens tight muscles, ligaments, and tendons; and reduces pain and discomfort. Ultrasound also uses the acoustical waves to speed up cellular reproduction and aid in healing¹.
Heat Therapy for Horses
The application of heat has a variety of therapeutic effects for horses. The application of heat helps to decrease pain while increasing circulation², which helps with healing and optimizing performance. Heat can be applied in a variety of ways with heat lamps and equine solariums being some of the most common.
Cold Compression for Horses
The application of cold to a swollen or painful area can be very useful in horse therapy and rehab. Applying cold can be the simple use of a cold pack or ice cup, or it can involve a mechanized compressive wrap which circulates cold water through it.
Cold compression is most often used in the case of muscle tears, strained tendons, and ligaments, as well as minor cuts and other skin issues². Always consult your veterinarian or equine physical therapist before using any treatment, as the underlying issue may not be easy to diagnose.
Whole Body Vibration Therapy for Horses
The use of a vibrating platform as a treatment for humans to increase muscle strength, as well as bone density, has been happening for some years now. That same technology has been applied to horses with excellent results. Research in horses has shown that whole body vibration has been found to increase the size and symmetry of muscles along the spine, which are important for stabilizing the spine and increasing strength and stamina³.
Vibrating platforms can be installed in any stable for use at the home, farm, or barn so that the treatment can be continued even outside of a rehab center.
Shock Wave Therapy for Horses
The use of directing pressure waves into the body was first used in humans to break up kidney stones so that they could exit the body without the need for surgery. This treatment has also been found to be helpful in healing tendon injuries and ligament strains. Shock wave therapy can also be used to help heal fractures and other more complex conditions. This treatment can even help the body create new blood vessels which creates increased blood flow for healing².
Shock wave treatment needs to be administered to horses under anesthesia and should always be administered by an equine health professional.
Conditioning Exercises for Horses
Some of the most basic treatments for physical therapy for horses are conditioning exercises. A horse suffering from an injury will naturally end up putting more strain and stress on other body parts as the horse struggles to compensate.
After a horse has been assessed by a veterinarian or PT specialist, certain exercises may be prescribed to help bring back muscle strength, balance, and better mobility. Some of the most common exercises are lunging, stretching, and therapeutic riding². Sometimes the use of a treadmill may be used to create a more controlled environment and increase stamina.
Other Forms of Equine PT
There are many, many other ways to treat injury, increase performance, and prevent future injury. Some may need to be done by trained PT professionals and some can be done in the home or barn setting.
Some examples of other types of physical therapy for horses are:
- Laser Therapy
- Soft Tissue Mobilization
- Joint Mobilization
- And More…
Vitafloor Is Your Source for the Best in Equine Equipment
Vitafloor USA, Inc. is an industry leader in vibrating floor technology as well as horse solariums and exercisers. Visit Vitafloor to learn more about the products we offer that can help you keep your horses in top condition and help with healing.