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Shockwave Therapy FAQ

What is Shockwave?

A shockwave is a pressure wave – any action that displaces its surrounding medium is a shockwave ie. the ripple created when a stone is thrown into a pond.

The shockwaves used in equine medicine are generated in a fluid medium inside a transducer head and are then transmitted readily through skin, fat and muscle. The high energy waves are focused within the transducer head so that the shockwave can be directed to the precise area of the injury. When shockwaves hit an area of higher acoustic impedance (density), such as bone, the waves slow dramatically and a large amount of energy is released into the surrounding tissue.

What can Shockwave Therapy do?

Shockwave therapy has been shown to:

  • stimulate new bone growth
  • increase cell permeability and stimulate the release of a cascade of healing and growth factors that contribute to the healing process
  • stimulate stem cells in the body to be directed to the treated area
  • cause neovascularisation (the growth of new blood vessels)
  • possibly stimulate fibroblasts, the cells that generate new connective tissue

Does Shockwave work on every case?

No, there is no treatment that is successful in every case. Shockwave therapy is one of the
most exciting therapies to become available to veterinary medicine in quite some time. It is extremely important to have an accurate diagnosis and a clearly defined area of injury in order to direct the shockwave to the appropriate area.

What conditions can Shockwave be used for in horses?

Shockwave therapy has been successfully used to treat many soft tissue and bony problems, both acute and chronic. These include:

  • Suspensory ligament tears and strains
  • Suspensory injuries with avulsion fractures
  • Other ligament injuries
  • Tendon tears and strains
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Navicular syndrome
  • Ringbone
  • Joint inflammation and pain
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Muscle tears and strains
  • Infected or large wounds
  • Burns

What is the treatment protocol?

The precise treatment protocol depends on the diagnosis of each individual patient. Treatment varies in the number of shockwaves administered and the energy of those shockwaves. Most conditions are treated 3 times at 2-3 week intervals. Occasionally, additional treatments will be required in more severe injuries. The treatments are performed at your yard with the horse under sedation and last approximately 15 minutes.

When will results be seen?

Typically, the horse will start to see some reduction in pain and/or swelling within hours. This will generally last 2-4 days and then the horse will return to close to the original status. Then, over the next 2-3 weeks, actual healing will take place.

What Shockwave equipment does Stringer Equine have?

Stringer Equine Veterinary Practice has a focused, electrohydraulic machine manufactured by Versatron. With this machine, the shockwaves are focused so that they can be directed precisely to the particular area of injury. Additionally, the energy level and the depth of penetration of the shockwaves can be varied to suit the injury.

Are all Shockwave machines equal?

Absolutely not. There are several machines currently marketed as shockwave machines that do not generate a true shockwave. they generate what is called a ballistic or radial wave. The physics of this type of wave are completely different from that of a true shockwave. A ballistic or radial wave is created when a projectile is rapidly accelerated by compressed air – it looks like a small jackhammer. The problem with this type of wave is that all of the energy is deposited at the skin, and the energy drops off rapidly as you move away for the skin. The result being that unless the injury is at the skin, the injured area is not receiving the necessary energy to help the healing process. Additionally, since the wave is not focused with this type of machine, the entire area around the treatment site is receiving the wave, which can potentially have harmful effects.

Therefore, the most important thing to remember is when considering shockwave therapy is that the machine is focal not radial.