A new method of treating orthopedic injuries in horses is gaining interest among veterinarians and horse owners. Veterinarians around the world are using extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) and are encouraged by the results they are seeing with this technology. This article will summarize current research and applications of ESWT in human and veterinary medicine. Additionally, I will share some of my own experiences with equine cases.

Leading members of the veterinary community met in early March in Simpsonville, Ky., to discuss the latest in ESWT treatment findings and to introduce the technology to veterinarians interested in employing the therapy in their own practices. For more information on the Equine Musculoskeletal High-Energy Shockwave Therapy Symposium, see the news item in this month’s NewsFront section.

What Is ESWT?

Extracorporeal shock waves are energy waves that are transmitted through the skin into deeper anatomical structures. The waves are characterized by high positive pressures, and their energy is transmitted through the skin and underlying soft tissues with little to no harmful effect to the superficial tissues. The energy of the waves predominately is deposited within bone and soft tissues (as in high suspensory ligament injuries). Although the exact medical process is not clear, it appears that when the shock waves’ energy is delivered, two things occur: 1) A transient period of pain relief (analgesia), and 2) An eventual increased rate of bone and tissue remodeling (healing). Because of these effects, ESWT has gained considerable attention for the promotion of healing and remodeling musculoskeletal injuries.