Lasers have been used for therapeutic purposes since the 1970s. However, they’ve had a recent resurgence in popularity. Now you see them advertised for horses, dogs, cats, and humans. It seems that they’re marketed as the wonder cure! Your dad has back pain? Try laser therapy. Your horse has a suspensory tear? Try laser therapy. Your cat has breathing problems? You guessed it– laser therapy.
But is it really a miracle cure?
First things first, there’s no such thing as a cure-all. Some people believe eating acai berries, taking CBD oil, and drinking elderberry tea will cure cancer, get rid of chronic pain, and prevent the coronavirus. Just like there are some benefits to eating and drinking these things, there are BIG benefits to laser therapy. But, it isn’t a miracle cure.
There are two main categories of lasers. Laser surgery and laser therapy. Laser surgery uses high concentration lasers instead of scalpels. They’re becoming common use for spaying and neutering small animals, as it reduces inflammation, bleeding, and shortens recovery time. Low level laser therapy uses lasers to reduce pain and speed healing. These lasers penetrate the skin, but do not cut it. Dr. Shields offers low-level laser therapy as part of an elite sports physical therapy treatment to enhance equine performance.
How Laser Therapy Works
Laser therapy may sound like a big production, but the actual implementation of the tool is deceptively simple. These lasers are handheld devices operated by a DVM or Doctor of Physical Therapy. They’re placed over the injured area for as little as a few minutes, depending on the size of the area and “dose” required.
The laser penetrates as deep as 2 to 3 centimeters through layers of skin to interact on a cellular level. Similar to photosynthesis in plants, as the cells absorb the light energy it actually changes cellular activity. The laser initiates a series of events called photobiomodulation that will eventually result in healing damaged or injured tissue, and reduce pain, inflammation and edema. Overall, the healing time is greatly reduced by increasing intracellular metabolism.
What can Laser Therapy Treat?
Laser therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of acute injuries and chronic conditions. In horses, laser therapy is commonly used to accelerate the healing of many lameness disorders, including soft tissue tears or broken bones. It also helps our athletes to maintain peak equine performance within any discipline, from barrel racing to dressage. If your horse does become injured, laser therapy can be used to reduce the chances of recurrence. Or, if you believe your horse is prone to specific injuries, a Doctor of Physical Therapy can use laser therapy to reduce the chances of injury before one ever occurs.
Laser therapy can also be combined with stem cell and PRP treatment protocols. When combined with these cutting-edge solutions, laser therapy is used as a follow up to both methods to help the treatment work most effectively. For example, if your horse had a suspensory injury that was treated with regenerative treatments, laser therapy would be an excellent follow up. In this case, the laser therapy would help the fibers realign, shorten healing time, and increase the chances of a full recovery.
While there are a wide variety of equine performance issues laser therapy could be used to treat, it’s most commonly used for tendon and suspensory injuries, osteoarthritis, back disorders, and wound healing.
Laser therapy should never be used on eye injuries as it can cause permanent damage to the eye. It should also never be used on cancerous or possibly cancerous cells.
Advantages of Laser Therapy
Laser therapy has a lot of benefits as compared to more traditional treatment methods. It’s non-invasive, meaning the skin is not cut open. There are no oral medications needed which means no mashing of pills, fighting with your horse with tubes of meds, or hiding drugs in an ever-changing variety of treats. When used correctly by a veterinarian or Certified Equine Rehabilitation Practitioner there are little to no side effects. It can also be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as PRP, prescribed exercises or sports physical therapy.
Recent studies have shown that laser therapy, photobiomodulation, increases the release of beta endorphins, nitric oxide production, and serotonin levels, which is directly related to pain relief, reduced inflammation, and an increase in microcirculation.
Reach Your Riding Goals
While low level laser therapy isn’t a cure-all (nothing is!), it has a significant impact on equine performance when combined with an elite sports physical therapy program. Dr. Shields uses only high-quality LiteCure therapy lasers to offer class IV laser treatment to help you and your horse reach peak athletic performance. LiteCure lasers offer deeper penetration than other lasers on the market and are designed under stringent quality control systems.
Dr. Shields has years of experience using laser therapy to help horses and riders who are struggling to reach their athletic goals. Contact Physio Equine Solutions today to find out how laser therapy can help you.
*Note: Equine DVM referral and collaboration may be required.