four important things to know about laser therapy

Laser therapy for horses is a drug-free, surgery-free, non-invasive therapy that can be applied to most conditions that are painful, swollen or not healing.  Here are some things to keep in mind about this increasingly popular treatment option.

1. Laser therapy can reduce equine pain

Laser therapy stimulates tissue changes through a process known as photobiomodualtion (PBM). Infrared light is absorbed by the part of the cells that produces energy, thereby up-regulating the cells and stimulating them to do their jobs more effectively. Improvements in blood supply (vasodilation and new blood vessel growth), as well as changes in pain perception (decreased nerve conduction and pain mediators), can also be observed. The end result of effective PBM is a reduction in pain and inflammation and an acceleration of the healing process.

2. Laser therapy is being used as a primary treatment option for horses

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Notley

Non-pharmaceutical modalities like laser therapy are now considered the standard of care rather than “alternative” or “optional” parts of a treatment plan. Laser therapy is being effectively utilized for the following common applications:

  • Injury prevention/intervention
  • Post-exercise recovery
  • Post-surgical care
  • Treatment for acute injuries and wounds
  • Treatment for chronic conditions and joint problems.

3. Laser therapy works for a wide range of conditions 

Laser therapy is an effective treatment for a wide range of clinical conditions, including:

  • Bowed tendons and suspensory injuries
  • Sore backs
  • Hock, knee, stifle and fetlock problems
  • Sutured or granulating wounds
  • Laminitis (founder)
  • Anything painful, swollen or not healing.

4. Treatments are pleasant and restorative

Laser energy is best introduced into deep tissues with an on-contact applicator, and into superficial tissues with a non-contact treatment applicator. Most horses experience a pleasant massaging, warming sensation and do not require sedation. It is common for horses to lick, chew and even fall asleep during laser therapy treatments. Individual equine joints require five to ten minutes to treat while a large area of the back can take 30 minutes. Most conditions require six to 12 treatments applied three times per week. The majority of cases show significant improvement in three treatments, and dramatic improvement in six treatments.

Contraindications and precautions

Laser therapy is a safe, effective and easy-to-administer modality, with a wide range of clinical applications. As with any medical treatment, there are a several contraindications and precautions of which therapists should be aware.

  • Follow administration, dosing and delivery technique protocols as recommended by the manufacturer for maximum effectiveness and patient comfort.
  • Do not apply laser energy to actively hemorrhaging sites.
  • Always wear the eye protection provided by the manufacturer for the patient, therapist and any bystanders.
  • Do not treat suspected tumors or cancer, like melanomas or sarcoids.
  • Use a low dose and administer a minimal number of treatments for epiphysitis.
  • Do not apply laser energy over recently injected medications.
  • Do not treat the testicles or ovaries of breeding animals.
  • Do not apply to the uterus of pregnant patients.
  • Do not apply laser energy to IR reactive medications.

To learn more about laser therapy, contact Pegasus Therapy at 302-709-0408, or online