As an emerging new therapy for equines, SCENAR may offer natural pain relief benefits for your horse.

Originally developed in Russia as a treatment option for cosmonauts in space, SCENAR (Self-Controlled Energy Neuro Adaptive Regultor) therapy is now emerging as a natural pain relief therapy for horses. As an equine veterinarian, I specialize in rehabilitation in addition to the usual day-to-day equine medicine, surgery, and dentistry work. I also am heavily involved in the horse rescue community, so I see both ends of the spectrum of rehabilitation. My day ranges from severe neglect/emaciation cases to fine-tuning upper level performance horses that just seem off their game. Veterinary rehabilitation is challenging yet rewarding work and I am always looking for new techniques or healing devices for natural pain relief that are effective and can help me do a better job for my patients.

Overcoming skepticism about SCENAR

There are a lot of therapeutic devices out there, some of which are ineffective or marginally effective, so I have a healthy margin of skepticism when I am looking at new things. When I first learned about the SCENAR device from a friend of mine who is a naturopathic doctor, I was skeptical. It sounded similar to an E-stim or Tens unit, both of which I already had in my bag of tricks. But my uncertainty turned into a second look when I experienced it firsthand. My friend treated me for two separate acute injuries and with each injury treatment I was significantly better the next day.

From there I set up an introductory training session to see how the SCENAR device could be used on animals and I started my own clinical trials to see for myself what it was capable of. I found that most of my patients liked the SCENAR as it is minimally invasive, which allowed me to treat areas that are difficult to treat with acupuncture. I also found that I could use the device in conjunction with my acupuncture treatments to make them more effective and last longer, or I could use it as a stand-alone treatment with good results. It didn’t fix everything every time, but it seemed to come close!

Benefits of SCENAR

Now, over three years later and with hundreds of SCENAR treatments under my belt, I rely on the SCENAR heavily for many of my rehabilitation cases. I’ve used it for laminitis, navicular syndrome, arthritis, tendon and ligament injuries, back and neck pain, and sacroiliac injuries to name a few. I even use SCENAR to aid in some cases of wound healing or post-op surgery site recovery. One thing that I like about SCENAR is that it is user friendly so in cases that would benefit from frequent ongoing treatments, I can teach clients how to use the device at home and successfully treat the patient by renting or selling home unit devices for clients to use independently. I can also refer clients with pain issues of their own to my naturopath so they can learn how to use the device on themselves as well as their animals and maximize the benefits of purchasing the device.


How does SCENAR work?

Are you curious enough to get into the science behind SCENAR and how it works? There is a lot going on behind the scenes in this simple looking device. The SCENAR device is similar to a Tens unit or an EStim in that it emits an electrical signal that creates a tingling sensation on your skin, but is made with a more advanced technology — Self-Controlled Electro/Neuro Adaptive Regulation. It is ‘Self-Controlled’ in that the signal it emits is based on biofeedback technology, a two-way street of information between the skin and the central nervous system. One sensor sends out carefully modulated electrical signals while the other sensor reads the electrical impedance of the cutaneous nerves (skin).

The ‘Adaptive Regulation’ part is the device’s ability to modulate the signal it emits based on what it is reading in order to reset the pain cycle. In technical terms, it is constantly using the information from the body to find the waveform needed to stimulate the “fast” pain blocking A-fibers and the “slow” pain producing and peptide generating C-fibers in the nervous system [editor’s note – why do you stimulate the pain producing fibers?]. This stimulation activates the right and left anterior insula in the brain — this is the part responsible for homeostasis and is where the brain perceives pain. In addition to resetting the pain cycle, it also causes a local release of endorphins and other sensory neuropeptides such as Substance P and Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide. This makes the treatment feel good and have a relaxing effect on the patient.

If you want to get even more technical, the basic signal component is a bipolar pulse, consisting of a negative square-wave followed by a positive saw-tooth, starting and finishing at zero and lasting for a few microseconds. A number of these pulses may be packaged into a discrete burst (intensity) which itself may be repeated at a fixed default frequency. The individual pulses in these bursts (intensity more than 1) can themselves be spaced out (Z=10/close together, to 80/wide apart) to give a concentrated (deep) or diffuse (shallow) penetration, depending on local body density or depth of pain location.

That was probably a bit too technical for our discussion here and likely a bit over all of our heads, but my point is to show you that the SCENAR, while similar to an Estim or Tens, is a much more advanced technology and actually quite different. I look forward to seeing this technology advance and become more popular for both people and animals as the SCENAR device continues to be fine-tuned!

Spreading the word about SCENAR

If you are interested in seeing what the SCENAR can do for your horse (or pet) firsthand, feel free to schedule an appointment with me. If you don’t live near Monroe, Washington, please share this article with your local veterinary acupuncturist and I would be happy to bring them up to speed on how to get started with adding SCENAR to their practice!