Shock Wave Therapy — Does It Work?

What is shock wave therapy? Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) focuses a highly concentrated, powerful acoustical (sound) energy source to a focal area. The shock waves induce increased activity of bone-producing cells and might also lead to increased circulation in the focal region. As a result, the focal area undergoes a more rapid healing process than if left untreated. In addition,
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What is shock wave therapy? Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) focuses a highly concentrated, powerful acoustical (sound) energy source to a focal area. The shock waves induce increased activity of bone-producing cells and might also lead to increased circulation in the focal region. As a result, the focal area undergoes a more rapid healing process than if left untreated. In addition, an analgesic (pain-killing) effect has been clearly demonstrated after treatment (usually for less than a week). This effect can make a horse more comfortable during the healing process and lead to earlier resolution of lameness. It can also lead to a false impression of soundness shortly after treatment, so care must be taken to allow ample time for healing before returning the horse to work.

Does ESWT work? While the scientific jury is still out, in my opinion both lameness and the appearance of tendons and ligaments can improve dramatically with shock wave treatment. Due to its success in many cases, shock wave therapy has become our treatment of choice at Palm Beach Equine Clinic for injuries to tendons, proximal suspensory ligaments, lateral branch suspensory desmitis, check ligament injury, and many other orthopedic injuries.

We are currently evaluating the use of ESWT in navicular disease (a.k.a. caudal heel syndrome) as well as in back and neck injuries. Following are actual cases from our clinic. The names have been changed to protect client privacy

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Scott J. Swerdlin, DVM, MRCVS, is President of Palm Beach Equine Clinic, where he has practiced since 1983. Swerdlin has an extensive sport horse practice including dressage, jumpers, and polo ponies, and he has been in the performance horse practice for [Scott Swerdlin] over 20 years. Dr. Swerdlin enjoys playing polo and watching his wife Amy compete in Dressage.

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