Laser Therapy for Injuries in Equine Athletes
Injuries in equine athletes are difficult to treat, and they’re costly and stressful to owners and veterinarians alike. There’s a lot of energy and time spent on healing, from pain relief to diagnostic imaging to surgery, and it can all feel in vain with high rates of re-injury. Horses are beautiful animals, and anyone dedicated to their health and care wants to provide the best possible outcome from an injury.
Equine laser therapy is an option to include in treatment plans that helps speed up recovery time, reduce pain and inflammation, and reduce the formation of scar tissue. Laser therapy devices use red and near-infrared light wavelengths readily absorbed by skin, soft tissue, and bone that naturally increase cellular energy production. Laser therapy treatments help improve circulation and lymphatic drainage, allowing faster resolution of painful inflammation.
Equine Injuries Treatable with Laser Therapy
Laser therapy can be used as part of a treatment plan to increase recovery time and reduce the severity of chronic issues in equine athletes, including:
- Tendon and ligament injuries
- Inflammation around fractures
- External wound healing
Tendon & Ligament Injuries
A single misstep easily sustains damage to the tendons and ligaments in a horse’s limbs, but the road to recovery can be long. One major issue with soft tissue injuries is scar tissue formation, which is weaker and more prone to breakage than normal tissue. Laser therapy has been shown to boost collagen production, a major component of soft tissues that make up tendons and ligaments. Additionally, collagen alignment is improved by laser therapy treatments, leading to stronger tendons and lowering development of scar tissue and chances for re-injury.
Laminitis is a serious condition caused by inflammation of the laminae in the feet that can lead to instability and rotation of the pedal bone. This painful condition can become chronic, as once an animal has had one bout of laminitis, they’re more prone to have more in the future. Laser therapy helps reduce the inflammation through vasodilation or widening the blood vessels, allowing inflammatory mediators into the injured area more quickly to resolve the issue.
Laminitis can be caused by overfeeding, but it’s also a potential sign of serious issues requiring immediate medical attention, such as retained placenta or septicaemic conditions. If you suspect this may be the case, resolve these immediately with a veterinarian or appropriate specialist.
Inflammation Around Fractures
Sometimes, before a major injury like a fracture can be fully assessed or treated, inflammation has to subside. Inflammation is also painful, especially for a large animal like a horse, where lying down and getting up aren’t easy. Laser therapy can be used over areas of fracture to resolve inflammation faster and get treatment off on the right hoof.
Inflammation is painful, but it is a natural response to damage by trauma or infection. But long-lasting inflammation can cause damage on its own. Osteoarthritis in horses affects their mobility, range of motion, and comfort, just as it does in humans. Laser therapy can help reduce the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis in humans and animals alike, improving the range of motion and quality of life.
External Wound Healing
Since laser therapy boosts collagen production, it helps accelerate external wound healing. From nicks and scrapes to larger wounds and surgical incisions, laser therapy helps resolve wounds faster and produce less scar tissue.
Benefits of Equine Laser Therapy
Laser therapy reduces pain and inflammation by promoting a body’s natural healing processes instead of masking symptoms like anti-inflammatory medications. Laser therapy has no side effects or conflicts with other types of treatment, making it easy to fit into a complex treatment plan that’s common with equine athletes.
Perhaps most importantly for our animal patients, laser therapy is painless. Lasers used in this type of therapy don’t produce a thermal response, and with proper training and safety equipment, there is a very low risk of burns or other injury from treatment. While other aspects of veterinary care call for pokes and prods that animals aren’t thrilled with, laser therapy won’t cause discomfort. Animals can start to feel relief immediately or shortly after treatment, and some begin to associate the relief with the treatment.
Interested in laser therapy for your equine and other large animal patients? Aspen Laser’s therapy systems come in various wattages with the only true dual wavelength technology that makes treatment protocols completely customizable. And our Summit and Pinnacle models are lightweight and transportable, making it easy to get treatment to where your patients are. Click the link below to learn more about our laser therapy systems.
This article was originally published on January 20, 2020, and was last updated on February 1, 2023.