Heat, Cold, and Horse Tendon Healing

Both cold and heat therapy can help improve injury healing, but they can be difficult to apply to horses. So, researchers recently tested a pneumatic sleeve designed specifically for administering contrast therapy to horses’ lower limbs. Here’s what they found.
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tendon healing
A hot and cold application cycle—called contrast therapy—can be helpful in helping soft-tissue injuries heal. Cold therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation, while heat can increase tissue metabolism and collagen extensibility. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Your doctor might recommend a hot and cold application cycle—called contrast therapy—if you’ve suffered a soft-tissue injury. An ice pack can help reduce pain and inflammation, while the heating pad can increase tissue metabolism and collagen extensibility—all important to healing and combined into one treatment protocol.

Logic says a similar approach could benefit our horses, but effectively applying ice (a current common practice) and heat to equine injuries can be difficult in and of itself, much less switching immediately from one to the next. So, Kevin Haussler, DVM, DC, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, and colleagues sought to determine if a pneumatic sleeve could achieve therapeutic hot and cold temperatures in horses’ lower limbs and, thus, potentially improve recovery. He shared the results at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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