There is Nothing ‘Micro’ About the Benefits of Microcurrent Therapy for Horses
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
There is magic in science and while microcurrent therapy has been around since the 1800’s, the modern day version and treatment options are a far cry from the cumbersome machines of yesteryear. There is indeed, a magic in micro.
Everyone wants the best treatment for their horse’s well-being and there are a variety of tools available on the market that the horse owner can learn to use to identify and treat health issues that may arise and to prevent soreness and promote optimal health for their competition equine.
Microcurrent therapy has been successfully used to treat injuries in human sports medicine, particularly for elite athletes, since the 1970’s but its availability in the veterinary world was slow to develop. When it began the machines were enormous and not very user friendly. The devices have drastically improved and today there are a variety of products available to help you and your horse. You can choose from gloves, large and small pads, massage rollers, stylish pens or probes, body and leg wraps and clips for use in acupuncture. The units vary offering dual and single electrode treatment options.
From a personal perspective I do have first hand knowledge of the healing properties of microcurrent therapy. As most of us equestrians know, injuries come with the sport. It was nearly twenty years ago that a young horse we had imported with high hopes for the Big Tour, arrived on our arena with some high jinx attitude. While noble husband was in the saddle, I was the ground person. We had worked on starting enough young horses together through our breeding program to trust that neither party would let the other down. When the horse reared I held onto the rein that was also grabbed by my husband. I was lifted into the air several feet, which resulted in a tear to my supraspinous ligament. Not my brightest decision. Note to self, next time let go. Off to the Chinese acupuncturist I went. She used microcurrent on two contacts to needles diagonally across my back to great result. I could feel the biphasic current zig-zag across my back in a soft and strangely calming manner. I was back riding in double quick time. Over the past several years through other injuries and chiropractic visits, I have experienced the use of this modality many times and always with positive results.
Today the research and development of this therapy has blasted forward to hand held devices and devices vary offering dual and single electrode treatment options for use with horses.
The positive results in both prevention of health issues, optimizing performance and treatment of both acute and chronic health issues are apparent and well worth exploring as a horse owner and could revolutionize how you treat your horse. To further investigate the options available for use on horses we spoke with Deborah Powell, the founder of Matrix Therapy Products, one of the leading manufacturers of microcurrent products that are available for equines.
What Exactly is Microcurrent Therapy?
Microcurrent is a very low-level of electrical current that operates in the microamperes (amperes scale), and microcurrent therapy is the surface application of this current. Microcurrent units produce electrical current just above the levels of the electrical exchanges that occur at a cellular level in the human body. Microcurrent therapy should not be confused with other devices in the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) family, which operate at much higher electrical current (milliampheres) and are used primarily for pain control.
Our bodies and those of our horses (and dogs or other mammals for that matter) are electrically charged throughout. Unfortunately when our cells are damaged through injury or inflammation they become electrically imbalanced. Our body’s electrical current will find a way to go around the defective cells rather than heal the now electrically imbalanced cells. Think of the current in our body leapfrogging over damaged tissue to create a new route. When you apply microcurrent therapy the electrical current will also mimic the body’s own electrical current and go around the injured area. However, if you apply microcurrent directly over the damaged cells it will actually help re-balance those cells effectively healing the tissue.
We asked Deborah to further explain how microcurrent therapy aids the body in healing damaged cells:
“By applying microcurrent to the site of an injury, the microamperes current is able to pick up where the body fails. Through regular microcurrent treatments, the current is able to gradually close the gap and help heal the damaged area. This helps stimulate healing and will accelerate the body’s healing process, as well as increasing the level of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).”
To delve a little deeper we asked Deborah what does an increased level of ATP accomplish?
“ATP is considered by some biologists as the “currency of life.” It is a dynamic reservoir of energy that is integral to the function of nearly every cell in the body. For instance ATP is used in muscle contraction, protein biosynthesis, and nerve transmission. One of the exciting elements of microcurrent therapy is that research has shown that application of microamperes can increase the level of ATP production by up to 500%. This is extremely important because at the site of an injury ATP supplies can often become diminished. Also, unlike other forms of electric therapy, microcurrent has a cumulative effect on ATP levels. Therefore by applying microcurrent ATP levels can be increased and in turn the body’s healing process accelerates.”
What issues can microcurrent therapy effectively improve?
Microcurrent therapy has many known benefits and is an excellent foundation for other types of therapies. Some benefits include:
• Improved circulation and dilated blood vessels.
• Increased amount of red blood cells.
• Nerve repair and healing without scar tissue.
• Stimulating lymph circulation.
• Elimination of wastes and toxins.
• Increased ATP production up to 500% (ATP=adenosine triphosphate)
• Increased excretion of fluids through the kidneys.
• Lengthening the connective tissue, reducing or preventing formation of adhesion and reducing the danger of fibrosis.
• Improved circulation and nutrition to joints.
Like any device it is important as a purchaser to be aware that all devices are not created equal. A well designed device will have an accurate delivery system and offer many features for versatility in use. Electrotherapy has been around a long time and the companies that have stayed the test of time have proven the modality works when correctly applies. In the veterinary community there is not too much exposure to clinical studies and the use of these units, which is surprising. The book “ The Body Electric”, by Robert O. Becker, M.D. and Gary Selden provides a great introduction to the science behind this therapy.
Deborah explained that over the years Matrix Therapy Products has developed a myriad of products.
“It is important to note that each unit has varying specifications and it is necessary to match your device selection with your animal's specific needs in order to improve the treatment outcomes. Devices such as the advanced biofeedback units interact with the body, providing a dynamic treatment that typically results in shorter recovery time.”
As with any device it is important that you understand how to use it for the best outcome. You can locate a health professional who is trained in the use of the products by the manufacturer and it is a good idea as always to check references. Or, you can take the bull by the horns and learn how to use the devices yourself. Matrix Therapy Products offer a variety of packages for training to fit a variety of budgets.
So think about all the tendons, ligaments, muscles of your horse. All the minor and major damages and tears that can and unfortunately do occur in our equine partner inhibiting them from at best the highest level of performance and at worst a life changing debilitating injury that cancels their future chances to be a happy, healthy horse. Here’s a sampling of injuries and uses for the microcurrent products from Matrix with their variety of units and accessory electrodes available that make it possible to customize treatments to match your needs - length of treatments, methods, frequency, etc.
• Annular, check, and suspensory ligament injuries
• Tendon injuries
• Hoof conditions
• General body soreness
• Boosting immune system
• Healing wounds
• Speeding up the healing process
Microcurrent therapy offers a non-invasive, diagnostic and trackable method that can be used quickly and effectively without fuss, and can be used in conjunction with your vet and/or without the cost of a vet in direct attendance.
In fact with the biofeedback feature on the devices that detects, measures and analyzes the information about how the body is responding to the microcurrent therapy you may be able to help your vet figure out your horse’s health issue. You will certainly be able to be much more informed and useful in aiding your vet’s diagnosis. This makes the therapy a great foundation for other modality use. For simple cases microcurrent therapy treatments alone can resolve issues in as little to three to five treatments. Obviously all cases are individual and you must look at acute versus chronic issues, age etc.
These devices are also extremely versatile. Microcurrent therapy can be used to treat soft tissue injuries but it has also been used to resolve bowel impaction colic and resolve EIPH (bleeders). And yes, microcurrent therapy is FDA approved. It takes spa day to a whole other level. Not only can it be used to heal, but also to optimize the health of your horse and he will love you for it.
“Can you think of any other product that let’s you switch from spot treatments to all of the body using your hands, like massaging with special electrode gloves, or changing out the pads your horse wears while you have a cup of coffee?” said Deborah.
It’s true, the product line is extremely user friendly. Matrix Therapy Products also offer a comb unit, that you can run over your horse after a bath to help prevent soreness after a work out. The massage gloves and rollers are clean and easy to use and all the time you are spending with your horse will help you bond even closer with him. Additionally because of the biofeedback device you are able to learn exactly where his weak or sore points may be and possibly avert injuries because you are maintaining electrically balanced cells with the microcurrent therapy.
On a closing note my husband had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to go over his MRI results for a shoulder injury. I suggested he ask the Dr. about the use of microcurrent therapy for his injury which included a small labral tear and age related arthritis (all that hay making and horse riding takes its toll!) and whether it would be of benefit. The answer was a resounding yes, particularly for the recovery of the tear.
For more information and expert advice from someone experienced in this medical arena please do not hesitate to contact Deborah Powell and her team at Matrix Therapy Products. There is a wealth of advice and information on the website, books and products that you can purchase on site to get started. Your horse will thank-you for it!