Magnetic therapy has been around for over 2,000 years, and can offer enhanced healing benefits for your horse.
Type “magnetic therapy” into a search engine, and you’ll find many articles and studies telling you about the vast benefits of magnets for rehabilitation and healing. You’ll find just as many articles stating how and why magnetic therapy doesn’t work, while others will claim there isn’t enough information in the form of formal studies and experimental evidence to say whether it works or not. The studies that have been done have caused much discord among scientists, doctors, and veterinarians in recent years, with many practical arguments both for and against it.
It is theorized that the body’s tissues may be affected in a number of different ways by the application of an accurate level of electrical current. Whether you believe it works or not, magnetic therapy is a technique that has been around for more than 2,000 years, and is setting a stage for itself as a viable, non-invasive, alternative therapy for use in equine injury rehabilitation.
The benefits of magnetic therapy range greatly depending on the size, strength, and application of the magnetic field being used. Magnetic therapy is said to aid in the healing of many conditions such as:
• Soft tissue injuries (tendonitis, bowed tendons, chronic tension, muscular strains, sprains and general stiffness, bruising)
• Bone conditions (fracture, arthritis, bucked shins)
• Circulatory problems
• Hoof conditions (navicular, laminitis, stone bruises, poor hoof growth)
How it Works
Basically, it is said that magnets promote healing by helping to maintain an electrical homeostasis within the body, as well as increasing circulation to damaged tissues. We are all electrically charged. Horses and humans are almost physiologically identical in the way our cells function. Blood is the delivery system that carries nutrients and oxygen to our living tissues. This includes the transportation of ions such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium, which are a few of the key electrolytes responsible for proper cell function and metabolism. These ions carry a positive or negative charge.
Every cell in our bodies maintains a “resting electrical potential”, which is regulated by the cell’s membrane. When a cell suffers a trauma due to injury or disease, the membrane’s functionality is altered. The resting potential of that cell may spike, while a cell affected by a long-standing injury will have a very low resting potential.
This is where magnetic therapy comes in. Magnetic therapy is believed to positively affect ion exchange and regulation within the cell, aiding in the cell’s ability to return to a normal resting potential and assisting in its rehabilitation. Magnets also affect the blood, which contains many electrically charged particles. The magnet causes blood vessels to dilate, allowing even more blood to flow to the area. This increase in circulation allows for more oxygen and nutrient exchange in the tissues, and the removal of metabolic by-products to encourage healing.
Things to Consider
Magnetic therapy is generally considered safe, but there are a few things to consider before going ahead and trying it on your horse. Beware of any implants that would be affected by magnets, such as microchips or surgical screws. Caution should also be taken if your horse has a condition with active bleeding, hematoma, an acute viral disease, a neurological disease such as Wobblers Syndrome, or any tumors. Talk to your veterinarian before making any decisions regarding injury rehabilitation and the use of magnetic therapy.
Which Type is Best?
There are two main types of equine magnetic therapy systems:
1. Static Bipolar Magnets
Bipolar magnet treatment is the type offered in magnetic therapy boots, leg wraps, and blankets. Small magnets are incorporated into the product and set so that the magnetic field of each magnet is the opposite of the ones next to it. Visualize forcing the opposing ends of a magnet together; let go, and they’ll push away from each other. That is the magnetic field. One side of the magnet will be positive, the other side negative. When blood flows past the magnet, charged atoms are moved either towards or away from the magnets, depending on whether the field is positive or negative. This causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing circulation to the injured area.
2. Pulsating Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Systems
Pulsating Electromagnetic Field Systems use battery power to send a current into an applicator, which may come in the form of a pad, boots, wraps, or sheets. The applicator houses a coil of wire that carries and distributes the electromagnetic current to the area being treated. By rapidly turning the current on and off, we are able to achieve the same basic effects as static bipolar magnets. The most significant difference is that PEMF systems tend to be stronger, which makes them capable of greater tissue penetration. As well, the operator has the ability to control the strength of the magnetic field, the frequency of the pulse, and the duration of the treatment. It is recognized that this type of system achieves the greatest results.
Numerous companies are now developing magnetic therapy products for use in equine injury prevention and rehabilitation. There is no clear scientific data to determine which magnetic design or strength provides the most prominent results. In fact, magnetic therapy remains such a controversial issue among scientists that it really is best to do your own research and talk to your veterinarian about the options available to you. Massage therapy, equine chiropractic and acupuncture are other practices that have proven extremely effective in injury prevention and rehabilitation. In any situation where you are considering alternative at-home treatment modalities for your horse, discuss the options with your veterinarian.
Brittany Cameron is a lifelong horse enthusiast and rider who turned her passion and love of horses into a career through equine massage therapy. With a solid foundation of training through the D’arcy Lane School of Equine Massage Therapy, Brittany was able to achieve acceptance into the International Federation of Registered Equine Massage Therapists in 2012. She is based in Truro, Nova Scotia, and provides service to clients throughout the Canadian Maritime provinces. 902-957-1667, CameronEquineMassage.com