Healing Suspensory Ligament Injuries
Using an Alternative Protocol of Microcurrent and Iontophoresis
Many veterinarians suggest Shockwave therapy for treating horses’ suspensory ligament injuries. And this is often being paired with PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma). However, there are safe and effective alternative therapies available.
Shockwave, originally called ESWL (Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy), was developed for the purpose of breaking up kidney stones in people. For large kidney stones, high pressure waves (ESWL) are used to break down the stone into smaller pieces that can be passed through the urine. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website (03/3016), side effects after treatment can be blood in the urine, bruising on the back or abdomen, bleeding around the kidney and other adjacent organs, and discomfort.
The veterinarian application is supposed to be a less aggressive setting than for kidney stones, with the purpose being hyper stimulation to the injured area. Not all vets believe that shock wave makes sense, and I’m in that camp. Having experienced it myself, I find that it feels like a jack hammer on your body, which explains why horses need localized sedation to comply with the treatment. It also explains why at race tracks some people will secretly use shockwave to numb a horse’s legs. This can last a few days, enabling a horse to run while masking possible injuries.
An Alternative Protocol for Healing
There are many way to get excellent circulation to an injury without hitting it with high pressure waves. In my field, we use a protocol of microcurrent, iontophoresis, and non-neoprene compression support wraps so that the horse can move in managed turnout and hand walking. Microcurrent can even be used simultaneously with a cold wrap if there is heat in the leg during the acute stage of an injury. The flexibility of methods allows the user to tailor a program to fit the owner’s schedule and horse’s temperament.
Even the PRP, IRAP and Stem Cell steps are not used. We simply use microcurrent to promote self healing and integrity to the ligaments. Since microcurrent helps ligaments heal without the weaker scar tissue, we feel no need to blast it with Shockwaves first. Also, the microcurrent setups help guide the tissues to properly align.
While the research in this field is mostly testimonial-based from user reports, there are no known negative side effects of using this treatment protocol. This is important to note because shockwave does have the potential for negative side effects from the treatments. There are also a percentage of horses that do not recover from shockwave treatments, which correlates to the testing being done on people as well.
In people, the last few years shockwave has been tested in the musculoskeletal (orthotripsy) applications to microscopically to cause inertial and extracellular biological responses and tissue regeneration. According to the published paper by Angela Notamicola and Biagi Moratti in Muscle, Ligament and Tendons Journal (2012-Jan-Mar) the success rate ranges from 60-80% in various tendonitis syndromes.
Maintain, Heal, Protect with Microcurrent
Microcurrent is a versatile therapy modality that is beneficial for physical maintenance, prevention of injuries, as well as the healing process. Especially with performance horses, microcurrent should be used regularly as a maintenance tool to help prevent injury. To take it a step further, you can use a microcurrent device with biofeedback like the Matrix Best-Vet III to help locate soreness early on.
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