Electrical stimulation is used to reduce pain, increase local circulation, and promote healing.
Electrodes applied to the skin deliver low-voltage, intermittent stimulation to surface nerves in the skin. The transmission of pain signals is blocked, and endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, are released. This type of stimulation is non-invasive and non-addictive. It has no side effects and can be used to treat acute or chronic pain. Medical research shows that turning off the pain signal allows the body to heal.
As humans, we know what we mean by the word "pain." Pain is what the sufferer says it is, and we honor that. Because horses do not complain of pain verbally, their pain often goes unnoticed. It is not until a visible lameness is recognized that we acknowledge that horses have discomfort.
The intuitive Equine Therapist is able to recognize discomfort in its earliest stages, when it is easiest to treat. Early signs of discomfort include a horse's change in attitude or willingness to do a job. Changes in muscle tension occur as the body tries to guard the injured area. Changes in tissue temperature indicate local inflammation--the body's call for its repair organisms to migrate to the area.
A subtle change in facial expression, body language or the sound of the foot falls give the intuitive therapist clues. In the early stages, pain is treated effectively by applying electro-therapy to the injured area or to tender areas, called trigger points, found through a therapist's gentle muscle palpation. Electrical stimulation provides an effective means of treating these points as well as the injured area. Electrical fields have been used to stimulate growth of both bone and of soft tissues. Using electrical stimulation to improve muscle function in human athletes dates to the 1950s. For the horse, therapeutic electricity provides a comfortable modality with a broad range of applications.
Conditions that benefit from electrical stimulation include:
acupuncture and trigger point stimulation
joint swelling and loss of range of motion
wounds, both superficial and deep
Two interesting studies are presented here that explain some of the benefits of electrical stimulation: