Are Hot And Cold Therapies Helpful For Tendon Troubles?

Owners of horses with tendon injuries are often told to cold hose their horse’s leg to try to bring down inflammation. Occasionally heat therapy is recommended to improve the flexibility and extensibility of tendon tissue.

While human therapy often combines hot and cold therapy for an injury, it’s not often done in equine veterinary medicine. Drs. Kevin Haussler, Shana Wilde, Michael Davis, Ann Hessa and Wayne McIlwraith wanted to determine if cycling between hot and cold therapies was possible, and if it might assist injured horses.

Called “contrast therapy,” the goal is to increase blood circulation using cold and hot therapies to force the injured area to cycle between vasodilation and vasoconstriction. For cold therapy to be of value, tissue temperature must be reduced to 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. However, cold therapy generally doesn’t penetrate beyond one inch of tissue, no matter how long it is applied. To be beneficial, heat therapy must get the tissue temperature above 104 degrees F, but stay below 122 degrees F to not cause damage.

For the study, the research team used four horses with no tendon issues. They placed temperature probes on the horse’s skin and implanted them deeply in the subcutaneous tissue near the deep digital flexor tendons and near the superficial digital flexor tendons. This allowed the tendon tissue to be cooled to less than 45 degrees F and warmed to more than 118 degrees F. Each cycle lasted 15 minutes; each session applied three hot and three cold cycles for approximately two hours per session.

The scientists reported that the device was able to achieve consistent hot and cold temperatures in the superficial tissues, but could not reach the target temperatures in the subcutaneous tissue near the deep digital flexor tendons consistently. More studies will determine if longer treatment times or different hot and cold application ratios might allow the deep digital flexor tendon tissues to reach therapeutic temperatures.

Read the article here.

Read more at EquiManagement. 

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