Hot Vs. Cold Therapy

Contrary to popular belief, cold hosing is not always the answer to those common strains and swellings. Heat therapy for horses is becoming popular with many of the bigger equestrian centres now housing their own equine solarium on site :)

Many people still don't fully understand when and how to use hot and/or cold therapy. Below is a little helping guideline to help you maximize it's efficiency and positive healing effects.

Cold Therapy

  • When? - Use when an injury is less then 36 hours old
  • Why? - At this time, any damaged blood vessels beneath the skin are hemorrhaging or bleeding which leads to inflammation and bruising. The injured area will somewhat swollen and will be tender to touch. Cold therapy will decrease the rate at which blood escapes through the vessel walls which in turn will protect any undamaged tissues. 
  • Cold hosing is the most common method for cooling an injured area but it's not truly effective (it's not cold enough and won't penetrate deep enough!). Ice, a commercial cold pack or Horseware's Ice Vibe boots are ideal as they are cold enough to induce a positive reaction.
  • Method - Apply your chosen method of cold therapy for 10 - 20 minutes followed by a 30 minute break. This break is important as excessive use can cause damage to tissues. This cycle can be repeated as often as necessary but 4 or more sessions a day are recommend in order to have maximum effect. Continue cold therapy until the area no longer swells between treatments. 

Equine Ice Boots - a cheaper, but not as efficient, alternative to Horseware's Ice Boots

Heat Therapy

  • When? - When there is no pain associated with the injury and only minor swelling remains.
  • Why? - Heat supports the final stage of healing, when the body is replacing cells and tissues with the help of specialised cells delivered using the bloodstream. Applying heat at this time boosts circulation to the area, speeding up the healing process.
  • Method - Apply heat for 20 minutes followed by a break of 20 minutes. It goes without saying, never apply something to your horses skin that is too hot for you to touch! 

Combination of Cold and Heat Therapy

  • When? - When the injury is less painful to touch and the swelling has a more distinct shape or edges. Any palpable lump, which may be present, will be firmer and feel somewhat squidgy ... something along the lines of a peeled hard boiled egg.
  • Why? - Alternating cold and hot therapy encourages the white blood cells (the disease fighting cells!) and natural chemicals to locate and destroy dead or badly damaged cells. Heat speeds up circulation to the area while cold will restrict it - alternating the two creates a kind of ''pumping'' action. 
  • Too much heat therapy can cause blood vessels to bleed and hemorrhage again. It it best to hold off using this alternating form of therapy for a day or two if you are unsure of the injury's status.
  • Method - Apply heat, for 10 minutes at a time increasing to 20 minutes over a matter of days. After each heat session apply the cold therapy for 20 minutes. Repeat this process at least 4 times a day until the swelling has disappeared from around the injury. 

No comments:

Post a Comment