As I made my rounds to my barns this past weekend, I was reminded of another interesting therapy modality called Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy, also known as PEMF.
PEMF is a dynamic FDA-approved therapy for humans that has more recently begun transitioning into the animal realm. It is dynamic because the magnetic field that is created by a PEMF machine is a result of a live electrical current that runs through a coiled wire. Any time you run electricity in a loop, you create a magnetic field in the area inside the loop. The electrical current can be turned on and off at rates ranging from once per second to thousands of times per second- thus changing the frequency of the magnetic field.
What is the magnetic field doing? Primarily, it increases circulation by causing vasodilation. It also increases cellular metabolism by helping cells to utilize oxygen.
PEMF therapy in horses has been named Equipulse. It can be performed on just about any areas of the horse’s body, and horses generally do not need to be sedated in order to receive a treatment. Treatments to the upper neck and head are unlikely to be tolerated well without sedation since the treatment causes muscle contraction from the induction of nerve firing. The soft hose coils that generate the magnetic field do not even need to touch the body in order to work, and the average treatment lasts about 10 minutes. After about 10 to 12 minutes, no further beneficial effect will be gained by PEMF. So in this case, more is not better.
PEMF has gained widespread fame because of its ability to stimulate bone repair and healing of non-union (non-healing) fractures. But it has also been reported to be beneficial in treating arthritis, muscle injury/ pain, edema/ inflammation, and other musculoskeletal issues such as soft-tissue inuries or range-of-motion limitations. For more information on what it treats and how, click here.
I decided to give it a try myself and I sat for a 6 minute session to receive treatment for a pesky ache coming from beneath my left shoulder blade. The machine does not make any noise, but when it is on, it feels as if someone is patting you on the back. The sensation is quite odd - your body rhythmically contracts as if you have the hiccups, and you can feel the pulse of the machine going all the way through your body. Quite a memorable sensation!
Immediately after I stood up from the treatment, my skin and subcutaneous tissue tingled in the location where the coil was held. The pain was mildly reduced, but not by much. However this morning, the pain is nearly gone. I have lived with this recurrent ailment for many years and have gotten to know it quite well. Normally, it would not give up so easily at this stage of the flare up, so I feel confident in reporting that the PEMF session did have a beneficial impact on it.
You may be seeing folks begin to offer PEMF therapy in your area. Always check with your veterinarian and make sure that any therapy session is performed under his or her supervision in order to keep your horse safe and comply with the law. I would encourage you to give this therapy a try for your horse- it is quick, non-invasive, horses seem to tolerate it well, and it may help.
See also: Magnetic Therapy and PEMF,