Powerful Regenerative Medicine or Just a Light Show?
In recent decades, regenerative medicine like laser therapy has changed the landscape for treating and managing musculoskeletal conditions in horses. The word “Laser” stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Rays” and works by concentrating and focusing light at a specific wavelength that can then be directed towards muscles, tendons, bones, and skin. The application of this therapy can be used to prevent and/or treat conditions like arthritis, back pain, tendon or ligament strains, and wounds.
The two most common types (or “Classes”) of therapeutic lasers are cold lasers (also known as low level or Class 3) and high-power (Class 4) lasers. The biggest difference between the Class 3 and Class 4 therapeutic lasers is how powerful they are – how much energy is delivered to the tissue and over what length of time. As the power of the laser increases, so does its healing ability (as well as the risk of injury to the eyes and skin). Because of this, Class 4 laser therapy is only offered through a licensed veterinarian and requires certain precautions to protect eyes and skin from burns. Class 3 lasers are called “cold lasers” because their lower energy output doesn’t cause the same thermal effects as the high-powered lasers in the Class 4 category. Although the lower level lasers can be beneficial tools for those who use them, they don’t pack the same therapeutic punch as the Class 4 laser that VEI offers.
Like extracorporeal shockwave therapy, another form of regenerative therapy offered by VEI, significant biological processes are impacted within the targeted tissue through laser therapy. Anti-inflammatory, pain modulation, and tissue repair are achieved through:
- Increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage
- Increased tissue oxygenation and delivery of pro-healing factors to stimulate healing
- Altered cellular metabolic activity affecting extracellular matrix composition and increasing both growth factor release and cell permeability to uptake these molecules
- Enhanced tissue realignment and revitalization leading to healthier healed tissue
One of the most important considerations for regenerative therapies such as laser and shockwave is their utility in preventing repetitive stress injuries. Proactive treatment prior to competition for known problem areas as well as initiating prompt treatment with a laser package once an injury is diagnosed can change the course of healing and lead to a better overall recovery. Another benefit of both laser and shockwave is that they can often be used in concert with each other and can be powerful adjunct therapies depending upon your horse’s individual needs.