Ask the Vet: Questions and Answers regarding Shock Wave Therapy

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Kakki Wright DVM 

What is shock wave therapy?

The veterinary use of extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) to treat performance problems due to injury or disease has greatly increased in the last 10 years.“Shock wave therapy” is actually not a shock as its name implies; it is a high energy, pressure wave treatment that relieves pain and speeds up the healing process. It is created by a quick, recurrent release of pressure causing cellular reactions that decrease inflammation and promote vascular flow thereby promoting healing. The procedure is a noninvasive, regenerative treatment that is backed by science and often covered by medical insurance.

What does shock wave treat?

Shock wave is effective in treating and often shortening the healing duration of many musculoskeletal problems. Disorders such as tendon/ligament injuries, degenerative joint disease, heel pain, back/neck pain, and wound healing have benefited with the treatment of shock wave therapy.

Is it safe?

No serious side effects have been reported when extracorporeal shock wave therapy is used within the recommended guidelines. 

What is the treatment plan?

The treatment protocol consists of 1-3 treatments given 1-3 weeks apart. The number of pulses given is based on the type and location of the injury and can usually be performed in 10-15 minutes.  There is an analgesic period for 3-4days after treatment.  Therefore, rest is recommended during this time so that the horse will not overwork the affected area.

(Further questions? Call Dr. Wright at Full Circle Equine Services so she can answer them!)

For more information, also see AAEP article by Scott R. McClure, DVM: “Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy in Horses: What We Know” at:

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