Infrared light therapy is a safe and effective tool in your equine veterinary equipment. It’s ideal for treating injuries to large muscle areas like the neck and back, and it has a preventative role to play too. Plus, most infrared equipment can be used to treat other injuries and conditions in other parts of the horse.
When can infrared therapy help your horse’s neck and back injuries?
Infrared therapy works most effectively on soft tissue injuries, where it can penetrate the deepest. This means infrared therapy is very effective for muscle injuries, and so treating your horse’s neck and back with infrared makes a lot of sense. Infrared rays don’t penetrate bone very well, so if your concern could be spinal, you need to check with your vet before relying on infrared therapy alone.
Many equine back injuries relate to poor movement, the horse being insufficiently conditioned for ridden work, and accident or fall, or as a result of unusually hard work. Most muscle and back injuries are muscular, either strained and stiff muscles for overwork, or torn muscles form accidents. In either case, infrared light therapy can help.
Infrared light therapy works mainly by stimulating the metabolic processes, including blood flow. In the case of post-workout stiffness, called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the increased circulation can rapidly speed up recovery. DOMS occurs because muscles experience several microscopic tears during increased work; when these tears heal, the muscle grows and fitness develops. Infrared light therapy increases the circulation to the damaged muscle, bringing healing oxygen and other nutrients. Muscles will repair faster, and the horse can return to work sooner.
For trauma injuries, such as after a fall, the damage can be more complex. Start with your vet to make sure there aren’t any bone or connective tissue injuries that may need more urgent treatment. If the trauma injuries aren’t critical, infrared light therapy can be started. Again, the increased metabolic activity under the skin and in the muscle will speed up healing. Even with bone injuries, infrared light therapy reduces associated inflammation, and helps the body clear out the fluid and discomfort of bone trauma.
Best of all, the infrared stimulation also encourages the release of endorphins, which have a natural analgesic effect. So, infrared therapy has a role in pain management. Plus, if the horse is so uncomfortable or severely injured that its mobility is limited, infrared treatments can help to maintain normal metabolic functions even when the horse can’t move around well.
Preventative applications of infrared light therapy
Your horse’s back and neck are critical to its performance. Keeping the neck and back supple, pain free, and strong are essential for athletic performance, and preventing injuries to other areas -especially the legs – due to restricted or unbalanced movement.
Regular use of infrared light therapy can help keep your horse performing its best. The warming and stimulating properties of infrared light therapy prevent DOMS by clearing out natural toxins in the muscles, such as lactic acid, and keep muscles supple and relaxed. Infrared light therapy has very few risks and virtually no undesirable side effects, so you can use it every day. Because it doesn’t use any pharmaceuticals, you can use it even when your horse is competing in regulated events where some medications are prohibited. Low level infrared treatments can be used for up to twenty four hours at a time, or on several consecutive days, so infrared therapy can be part of your daily training routine.
What equipment do I need?
Treating the horse’s neck and back requires the application of infrared rays over a very large are. However, there are still several options you can choose from, depending on your budget, and what other applications you may have for your infrared equipment.
- Prolotex: Prolotex is based on bioceramic technology, which uses a mixture of chemicals that naturally emit infrared rays. Prolotex produces rectangular leg wraps, for use under bandages for leg injuries. That said, you can apply the bandages as pads to other areas, although keeping them in place is more difficult. The bonus is they are economical, don’t require additional base units, and don’t need to be plugged in or recharged. The chemicals used in Prolotex leg wraps are deeply penetrated into the fabrics, so they don’t rub off or wash out.
- Revitavet IR2: The Revitavet IR2 system uses actual LED lights to emit the infrared. This means you can pinpoint the specific are you want to treat, and adjust the wavelengths for lesser or greater tissue penetration, helpful if you are trying to get deep into large, dense muscles. It is a bigger investment than bioceramics, but once you’ve got the base unit, you can get different treatment units, including a specially designed back pad or poll cap. The unit is rechargeable, so you don’t need to plug it in while it’s on the horse, but you do need to remember to recharge it!
- Thermotex: Thermotex uses electrically generated infrared to create therapeutic heat and penetration. The benefit of Theormotex is greater intensity than you can get from bioceramics, but the downside is that the unit has to stay plugged in, meaning you need to keep the horse near an electrical outlet. Thermotex manufactures a unit in a blanket design, for treating the back and hindquarters.
Whichever type of equipment you choose, you can use your infrared kit for routine or preventative treatment, as well and injury management. You can use infrared for treating injuries in other areas too, or on several horses. Your infrared equipment will be one of the most effective and useful tools in your training and horse care kit!