Cold Laser Therapy for Equines
Cold laser therapy for equines has the benefits of traditional pain relief methods but without many of the drawbacks associated with alternative forms of equine pain relief and wound care. Cold laser, also called Low Light Laser Therapy or LLLT, therapy has been used since the 1960s to provide pain relief and healing.
LLLT offers pain relief and injury healing properties with fewer side effects than traditional medications that are used to treat the same conditions, including steroids, pain medications and anti-inflammatories.
LLLT is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, it has been the topic of numerous clinical studies. Its use has been demonstrated to cause a 40-95 percent drop in nerve pain.¹ It also reduces morning pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.² Additionally, LLLT can offer significant benefits for both acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain.³
Cold laser therapy, or LLLT, works by directing a non-invasive source of cold energy – a low-temperature and low-light laser – to the source of pain, inflammation or injury on an equine using a small cold laser.⁴ The low-intensity laser of LLLT stimulates healing using low – or cold – light emitted through handheld devices, providing ease of transport and comfort for the user.
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How do Cold Lasers (LLLT) Work?
LLLT is thought to work when the light it emits passes through the horse’s skin and into the body, where it stimulates the energy and respiration centers of cells – the mitochondria. This stimulation results in greater cell energy, communication, nutrition, growth and life.
Each laser has two sets of beams. Twelve 650 nanometer laser beams are set around the perimeter of the device head. They reach a depth of 2-3 centimeters in depth and are perfect for reaching acupressure points as well as more surface level issues like skin and hair.
The center of the device head has 808 nanometer lasers, which penetrate much deeper tissue – 4-6 centimeters deep, As such, the lasers can penetrate rotator cuffs, static nerve pain, lower back pain, tissue injuries and inflammation.
Why Use Cold Lasers (LLLT)?
Constant pain in equines makes everything difficult. From natural gaits like walking, trotting, cantering and galloping to running, leaping, jumping and much more specialized movements can be downright impossible for a horse in pain.
Joint pain in horses is commonly called arthritis but it can have a variety of causes. Equine pain is most frequently caused by degeneration of the cartilage of the joint, changes in the membranes surrounding the joint capsule, injuries and wounds. It can also be caused by congenital joint problems, deformities, shoeing or trimming problems caused by a poor quality farrier, old injuries, neglect, age, years of training and performing, and more.⁵
For example, LLLT has been used to benefit equines with: back pain, temporal mandibular joint disease of the jaw, osteoarthritis, neck pain, tendinitis, post-operative healing, muscle pain, bursitis, repetitive motion stress syndrome, degenerative disc disease, ligament and tendon injuries, open wounds and more.
So what can an equine owner do to mitigate this damage and pain, and to ensure each horse lives its best life?
Low Level Laser Therapy, or Cold Lasers
LLLT is a therapy that can be administered at home or taken on the road. It does not require special training or a visit to your veterinarian. And it can provide significant relief to horses experiencing chronic pain.
Cold laser therapy has been in use since the 1960s for musculoskeletal pain. In one clinical study, LLLT was as much as 90 percent effective when combined with specialized exercises for decreasing pain and increasing range of movement in patients with certain types of arthritis.⁶ In another study it was found to speed up wound healing.⁷ ⁸
The National Institute of health conducted some of the oldest clinical research on cold lasers, using horses.
“The NIH found horses (offered) a great early introduction to the technology because the results are so clear and visible. Animals cannot get any placebo effect from cold laser therapy so when an animal changes it's stride or behavior immediately after a Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) session, you know it is working.”⁹
Treatment with cold lasers has no side effects because the device emits no heat or vibration. As such, the patient will feel the device touching but no more than that. It’s safe for just about any condition, although it should not be used on areas of cancer or where cancer has been removed; near the thyroid; or on or by pregnant women. Additionally, like with all lasers, practitioners should wear approved eye protection at all times.
Why Not Just Use Traditional Medications?
If you’re wondering why not treat your horse with traditional medications, there are several compelling answers.¹¹
While certainly no one disputes pharmaceuticals administered under the care of a licensed veterinarian can provide relief, their uses carry with them their own share of issues:
- Medications can be difficult to secure on an ongoing basis.
- Professional equestrian competition organizations banned some treatments.
- Medications mask problems but may not get to the root.
- Some medications have significant adverse side effects, especially it taken long term.
Tips From Troy
This cold laser therapy device is great for use on horses, dogs and other larger-sized animals. It is gentle enough for people but also strong enough for animals. As a result of this intensely effective, handheld device, your animals no longer need to endure debilitating joint pains. Because the cold laser is mobile you can take it to the horse with no hassle. You can also take it on the road wherever you go, never missing a therapy appointment again, and never again will you miss your favorite show while the device does its job.
I find with the handheld laser, if we treat each point for 60-90 seconds 3 times, we will get the best results. The more treatments you can do the better so to start with I recommend once or twice a day. Treat a spot for 60-90 seconds, then move to the next spot and repeat. Meaning, work all the points and go over them 3 times. This cold laser therapy device has been clinically tested and proven to work quickly to heal and reduce pain.
When it comes to using the cold laser device, keep in mind that the Pulse and Continuous modes are different, and will have different effects on each horse. The Pulse setting is best for arthritic or old/chronic injuries while the Continuous mode is for fresh, acute injuries.
I like to watch the horses’ reactions when they are receiving treatment to get the best response. When using this device, I start at the outside of a wound, or at the top or bottom of a tendon, and work my way around the area. I find the best way to get relief is to hold the laser in one area for 90 seconds and then move it to the next area and continue until I have done this three times in each spot.
Troy recounted the case of a horse suffering from a gaping chest wound. After using the cold therapy laser for 15 minutes a day for 14 days, the there was marked improvement to the wound, it began closing and launched the early stages of healing.
Troy also used cold lasers with great success on a horse experiencing pain in his temporomandibular joint – or jaw. Notice that in the beginning the horse did not want to be touched, but as treatment went on, he actually started to fall asleep.
LASER TYPE: Class 3B Cold Laser
LASER WAVELENGTH: 650nm & 808nm
NUMBER OF LASER DIODES: 5x808nm and 10x650nm
MAXIMUM OUTPUT: 800mW
150mW each 808nm laser diode and 5mW each 650nm laser diode
WORKING MODE: Pulse mode and continuous mode
TIME SETTING: 5 - 30 minutes in 5 minute intervals
POWER ADJUSTMENT: 3 levels intensity for adjustment
POWER LEVEL: 1 - 267mw, level 2 - 533mw, level 3 - 800mw
BATTERY: built-in lithium battery 5200mAh (4,000 hours use)
TIME USAGE: 2-3 hours on a full charge
PENETRATION: 808nm laser beams can penetrate to 4-6cm depth roughly. 650nm laser beams reach about 2-3cm depth.
PEAK POWER: High – 800mW (a quarter watt) in micro-pulses, with five 808nm laser beams concentrated at the center surrounded by 10 - 650nm laser beams.
HOW TO USE THE LLLT COLD LASER
TROY'S TIP: When it comes to use if either the Pulse or Continues mood it’s different for each horse or person. It’s recommended the Pulse is best for arthritic or old injuries and continues is for fresh, but I like to watch the horses reactions to get the best response. I tend you start at the outside of a wound or at the top or bottom of a tendon and work my way around the area. I like to hold the cold laser in one area for 90 seconds, then move it to the next area and continue until I have done this three times in each spot. Repeat this process until your have reached your desired treatment time. Most treatments range from 5-30 minutes.
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Resources for Acupressure in Horses & Dogs
Dr. Bruno was a member of the group of acupuncturists who founded the first two schools of Acupuncture in the United States. He is the past president of the American Association of Oriental Medicine. In addition to the extensive research on developing animal acupuncture, Dr. Bruno has done research at Harvard Medical School and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, looking into the practical applications of acupuncture for the treatment of pain.
Dr. Bruno is the founder and a director of the American Board of Animal Acupuncture and currently teaches animal acupuncture at the Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture in Arizona. Dr. Bruno uses the Brandenburg Laser on horses and small animals, and has found it superior to other lasers on the market.