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Pain Therapies for Your Horse

Information in this article should not to be used in place of professional veterinary advice. Please consult your horse's veterinarian prior to using any therapeutic device to address your horse's pain.

Pain is nature's way of telling a body that something is wrong, and it is designed to make the body slow down to allow time for healing. Pain is caused by nerve endings becoming irritated, often by pressure created as injured tissues become inflamed with fluid. Inflammation, in turn, is caused by the body sending blood with oxygen and disease-fighting cells for healing. Inflammation can result from acute injury or long-term overuse and damage. Reducing inflammation usually provides some degree of pain relief.

If your horse exhibits symptoms of pain, consult a veterinarian for help in identifying the cause of it. This step is important for developing a way to help your horse with either acute or chronic pain. If you simply mask symptoms of pain —the body's signal for help— without addressing the cause, more extensive damage may occur to the body.

You and your veterinarian can devise a plan to use various prescribed medications to manage acute or chronic pain, and discuss administration of nutritional supplements, such as MSM or herbal analgesics. See the topic Pain Supplements for Horses for more information. In conjunction with these methods, you and your veterinarian may consider whether it will be helpful to incorporate the use of any of these therapeutic products into your horse's chronic pain treatment and management plan.

Note: Some therapeutic products are not appropriate for acute trauma, but rather are targeted at chronic issues and for the prevention of injury. Additionally, they may be contraindicated in certain medical conditions, such as cancer, where stimulation may spread disease.

Long Wave Infrared Radiation
Comprised of state-of the-art fabrics infused with ceramic fibers, Back on Track products are designed to be worn by the horse for a period of time to relieve pain and muscle tension. Polyester/polypropelene fabrics have ceramic powder melted into the weave. The ceramic fibers, when heated with body heat, radiate a heat back toward the body's tissues. This reflected heat is long wave heat radiation, which is also known as long wave infrared radiation. It has been shown that long wave infrared radiation increases blood circulation. In turn, the increased circulation helps relieve pain by assisting the body in reducing inflammation. It also helps to relieve muscle tension, which improves mobility and performance in horses, and helps to reduce the likelihood of injury by warming up and preparing tissues before physical exertion.

Back on Track offers a wide array of products that can be used therapeutically or preventatively, and which target various areas of the horse's body. For example, the Ceramic Hock Boots target arthritic hocks and the Therapeutic No-Bow Leg Wraps target muscle, ligament, tendon and joint pain. The Ceramic Mesh Sheet can aid both the horse's shoulders and back. Because the ceramic powder is melded into the textiles used in the Back on Track products, they can be washed repeatedly without losing effectiveness.

Magnetic Therapy
Neodymium rare earth magnets, which are said to provide a high level of therapeutic penetration to the body, can be incorporated into a variety of products such as bell boots, hock wraps or a sheet. When placed against the body's tissues, the magnets are said to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and the discomfort of arthritis, and speed recovery from injuries.

Cold Therapy
The application of cold to reduce swelling to a soft tissue injury has long been used on both human and equine athletes. By reducing blood flow, cold helps to slow the body's trauma responses and inflammation which may further damage surrounding soft tissues, and it provides a temporary analgesic effect. In the case of acute injury, cold is usually used most effectively in very short application sessions within the first 48 hours following the trauma. Cold therapy is also being used by some as a preventative step after exertion to help tighten tendons and ligaments that are susceptible to either re-injury or new trauma from wear and tear.

Years ago, cold hosing was the only way to provide cold therapy to sites on a horse's body. Currently, many innovative products from companies such as Ice First, Cool Medics, Reitsport and ReCover, are made of resilient textiles and reusable cold pack materials that make applying cold therapy easier.

Heat Therapy
Heat therapy is sometimes used after the incidence of acute trauma or in the presence of an ongoing condition involving tension or stiffness in muscles or joints. Applied locally to an area of the body, heat stimulates blood circulation, bringing oxygen and other nutrients, to the area. It provides a comforting decrease in horse pain and an increase in muscle relaxation. Some horse owners use heat therapy as a way to prepare a horse's tissues for stretching or exertion.

Hot packs should be applied after an acute injury only after the first 48 hours have passed and only under the advice of a veterinarian. Several products, including the Hot/Cold Joint Relief Boots can help ease the process of applying hot packs to areas of your horse.

Note: Many equestrians supplement veterinary care for pain with alternative therapies. You may want to consider chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture or acupressure, or reiki to address your horse's pain too.