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any of us have heard and orthopedic injuries in people, it is the
the term shockwave treatment of choice in many areas of the world
therapy, some of us for non-union fractures. It is also very effective
have used shockwave at treating chronic, infected wounds that have
therapy to treat injuries
not responded to traditional therapies. It has
in our horses, but how
been approved in the U.S. by the FDA for
much do we really know
selected conditions.
about the principles behind this innovative
Shockwave therapy has been used in the U.S.
in veterinary medicine for approximately 8
First, what exactly is a shockwave? A
years. It has been successfully used to treat both
shockwave is a pressure wave, a high frequency
soft tissue and bony problems, both acute and
sound wave. Any action that displaces its
chronic, including suspensory ligament injuries,
surrounding medium is a shockwave. The ripple
with or without avulsion fractures, tendon
in the water created when a rock is thrown into
injuries, arthritis, collateral ligament injuries,
a pond is a shockwave. An earthquake is a
navicular syndrome, impar ligament injuries,
shockwave in the earth.
ringbone, joint inflammation and pain, back
The shockwaves used in veterinary medicine
pain, neck pain, and muscle tears and strains.
can be generated in three different ways:
The treatment protocol depends on the
electrohydraulically, piezoelectrically or
diagnosis of each individual patient. Treatment
through an electromagnetic field. Shockwaves
varies in the number of shockwaves and the
are focused, and can be directed to the precise
energy of those shockwaves. For example,
area of the injury. They are transmitted readily
in the case of an acute tendon injury, the
from the transducer head, through ultrasound
energy would be decreased and the number of
coupling gel, and through soft tissue where
impulses would be reduced as compared to the
the energy of the wave is released at a specific
treatment of an injury that was a month old.
depth, depending on the transducer head that
is used.
Most conditions are treated a total of 3 times,
With that knowledge, what do shockwaves
spaced at two to three week intervals. The
do that is therapeutic? Shockwave therapy is
optimum treatment regime for each animal is
involved in the healing process on many levels
determined after a careful review of the history
and has a role in a myriad of different metabolic
and diagnostic work-up information by the
processes important in healing. Shockwave
veterinarians working on the case. Usually, the
therapy has been shown to stimulate new bone
treatment can be performed at the horse’s home
growth in fractures, stimulate the in-growth
barn, eliminating the need for the animal to be
of new blood vessels (neovascularization),
shipped to a distant facility for treatment.
increase cell permeability and possibly stimulate
After treatment, there may be a reduction in
fibroblast formation (the cells important in
pain and/or swelling within hours. This may
repairing tendons and ligaments.
last for 2-4 days and then the animal will return
In addition, shockwave therapy stimulates
to close to the original status. Over the next
stem cells that occur naturally in the animal’s
2-3 weeks, actual healing will take place. It is
body to migrate to the area that is treated. It has
important to note that shockwave therapy does
a potent anti-inflammatory effect and has also
not necessarily speed up the healing process,
been found to have anti-bacterial capabilities.
but will generally lead to a higher success
Shockwave therapy has a transient analgesic rate and a better end result. In competition
effect as well. horses, shockwave therapy can be an important
Used extensively in Europe, Asia, and South non-invasive adjunct to help keep a horse
America to treat a wide variety of soft tissue comfortable. For example, it can be very
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