Heat therapy, also known as thermotherapy, is one of the most comforting forms of therapy available and is usually accepted well by horses and ponies. It is easy to apply and has many benefits.
The Benefits of Heat Therapy
Increased metabolic activity and nerve activity. This leads to:
– an increased demand for oxygen
– widening of the blood vessels (vasodilatation) which increases blood flow and therefore delivery of oxygen and nutrients
– improved metabolism of waste products, leading to better recovery
– increased repair process because more oxygen and nutrients are available
Increased mobility. Achieved by:
– relaxing muscle fibres therefore reducing tension
– increased pliability of connective tissue aiding flexibility
– reduced thickness of synovial fluid, allowing freer joint movement with less resistance
– as mobility increases, pain from muscle spasm and shortened fascia reduces
The above factors can in turn lead to a reduction of pain. For example a swollen joint can be painful as the swelling creates pressure within the joint capsule. If you reduce the swelling by applying heat and help to disperse the built up fluid, the pressure within the joint will reduce and so will the discomfort.
When should I use it?
Heat therapy is most suited to use for chronic conditions. Such as:
– muscle spasm which is very common in the horses’ back – especially in the lumbar region where the back of the saddle sits
– relaxation of general muscle stiffness – perhaps from an increase in workload or general wear and tear
– osteoarthritis and other joint stiffness – particularly common in the hock and fetlock joints
– chronic tendonitis – in other words, an old tendon injury that presents as a swollen tendon. This is common in the fore limb SDFT (superficial digital flexor tendon) and DDFT (deep digital flexor tendon) in race and ex-race horses, and in jumping horses. In dressage horses this is seen more in the hind limbs.
– bursitis – this in an inflamed pocket of fluid with the joint. Usually seen in the knee or in the hock.
Where can I apply it?
Heat therapy can be applied almost anywhere, so long as you can keep it in place for the required treatment time. Use heat therapy before exercising your horse to help relieve muscle or joint stiffness, and to warm the muscles and tendons to prevent injury during exercise. Heat therapy should always be used at rest and care should be taken to not overheat vulnerable tendons in the lower limb.
If your horse is not in work then heat therapy can be applied at any time of day when they are resting, either on the yard or in their stable. As a general rule, heat therapy should be applies for around 20 minutes at a time up to 4 times a day.
When should I NOT use it?
Heat can have an adverse effect if used:
– in the acute stages of inflammation (the first 72 hours after injury or surgery)
– on an open or bleeding wound
In both of the above scenarios cold therapies should be applied to aid vasoconstriction (the narrowing of blood vessels). Read our article here on cold therapies.
Find out where, when and why cold therapy should be used HERE.
Re-usable packs for hot or cold therapy, which easily attach to the lining of the Equilibrium Therapy Magnetic Range
- Use Cold Therapy for strains, sprains, bumps, bruises and post exercise.
- Use Hot Therapy for relaxation, muscle spasm, joint stiffness and to warm up prior to exercise.
- Use Combined Therapy for muscle tension or discomfort.
Contains 2 x Hot/Cold Packs and Pouches.