Physical rehabilitation improves comfort and promotes healing, whether your horse is recovering from an injury or needs to maintain peak performance.

Along with traditional medical and surgical interventions, physiotherapy services are available at the Equine Medical Center.  Physical rehabilitation accelerates recovery after injury, manages pain after surgery, and improves the well-being of your horse.

Rehabilitation therapies should be considered when you notice any performance change. Uneven gaits, refusal to perform usual tasks, or unusual anxiety and behavioral changes all signal that your horse may be physically uncomfortable.

Our Therapies

Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture needles placed in particular areas of the horse influence the nervous system, restoring function and stimulating circulatory and immune systems. Acupuncture is used for a broad spectrum of applications:

  • Pain from musculoskeletal injury or disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease or other internal organ dysfunctions
  • Allergy or immune-mediate disease
  • Fear and anxiety

Malalignment of the horse's skeletal structure causes performance issues, affects gait, and negatively affects organs and nerve pathways. Chiropractic therapy, which uses quick, low-intensity, precisely placed adjustments to restore structure and function, can be used to:

  • Improve lameness and gait abnormalities.
  • improve muscle function.
  • Improve response to infections by improving immune function.
  • Correct undesirable behavioral issues.

Penetrating the skin with no heat or incision, therapeutic lasers use photobiostimulation to accelerate the body's natural healing process and reduce pain. This noninvasive, non-pharmacological, scientifically proven rehabilitation therapy can:

  • Restore diseased or injured cells, assisting healing at a cellular level.
  • Reduce post-surgical pain and inflammation, shorten recovery time, and reduce scar-tissue formation.
  • Treat muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries.
  • Hasten wound healing.
  • Reduce pain associated with degenerative joint disease or back pain.
  • Stimulate acupuncture points prior to needling.

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is a high-energy acoustic pressure technology, delivering pulses of energy via a fluid medium to stimulate healing and relieve pain. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is used in the treatment of:

  • Muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries, decreasing inflammation, repairing tissues, and improving quality of healing.
  • Alleviating pain associated with degenerative joint disease.
  • Stimulation of bone remodeling by increasing blood flow to bone-ligament junctions.

Hot and cold therapy has long been considered the go-to remedy for orthopedic discomfort in the horse. Recent equipment advances combine massage, which improves vascular and lymphatic circulation.

Warm therapy improves blood flow and elasticity of tissues, which is beneficial in chronic conditions. Cold therapy decreases blood flow and inflammation, which is beneficial in acute injuries. Since there is no direct contact with water or other source of moisture, there is no risk of skin or hoof complications. 

Specialized thermotherapy units are designed to help reduce and prevent joint disease, muscle strains, and ligament and tendon injury:

  • Cold therapy in combination with rest and compression decreases tissue damage, swelling, muscle spasm, and pain, reducing severity of acute injury and speeding recovery time.
  • Warm therapy decreases stiffness in soft tissues, improving suppleness of tendons, ligaments, and joints.

TheraPlate whole-body vibrational therapy is a dynamic physiotherapy to treat the entire horse in a time-efficient and effective way. The horse stands on the floor that provides a subtle vortex-wave motion. Horses enjoy this powerful but gentle treatment, which can:

  • Decrease inflammation and reduce pain.
  • Improve healing time.
  • Increase bone strength and density.
  • Improve joint health.
  • Increase hoof growth.
  • Improve balance.
  • Reduce stress.

Therapeutic kinesiology taping is used during injury rehabilitation. Kinesiology tape lifts and decompresses tissues, increasing oxygenation and blood flow without restricting range of motion. K-tape can be used to:

  • Decrease inflammation and improve lymphatic circulation.
  • Increase blood flow.
  • Decrease muscle tension and spasm.
  • Decrease edema.
  • Support tendons, ligaments and joints during injury rehabilitation.
  • Relieve chronic stiffness.

Horses with any physical pain or dysfunction compensate by putting stress on other areas of the body. Compensatory or secondary stress on the musculoskeletal and nervous system leads to asymmetric movement, increasing risk for additional injuries.

Once a physical anomaly or injury has been identified, exercise and physiotherapy are prescribed to strengthen and balance your horse's movement. Working with you, we customize physiotherapy with appropriate exercise to stabilize the musculoskeletal system, eliminate pain, and improve injury outcomes by recommending warm-up and cool-down strategies, specific stretches, and in-hand and under-saddle exercises.

Emergencies and Referrals: 703-771-6800

To schedule an appointment, refer a patient, or inquire about our rehabilitation therapies or other clinical services, please call 703-771-6800 or email emcinfo@vt.edu.