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Cold Water Therapy Proven Beneficial for Equine Recovery and Preventative Maintenance

Cryotherapy and Hydrotherapy are the simplest, arguably the safest, and the most effective forms of equine therapy. They prove to be most beneficial when used in conjunction, both as a powerful rehab option, as well as, for preventive care.

Cryotherapy is defined as: “the use of extreme cold during medical treatments,” this results in decreased blood flow and edema in the target area.

Hydrotherapy is defined as: “the use of water for the treatment of medical conditions.” Utilizing water in treatment sessions allows for decreased pain levels and decreased stresses on joints with conditioning and rehabilitation.

Three main effects of cold-water therapy:

  1. Analgesia- Reduction or eradication of pain

Cold water can decrease nerve conduction velocity (slows down electrical signals from the site of the injury to the horse’s central nervous system). This is essentially what tells the horse they are in pain.

  1. Hypometabolism- Reduces metabolic rate of targeted cells

Cold water decreases the amount of oxygen and glucose cells needed to survive. This can help prevent the effects of oxygen deprivation, otherwise known as hypoxic damage. (Further described below).

  1. Vascular Response- Vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels)

With narrowed blood vessels, the amount of blood passing through is decreased which can result in decreased edema.

Benefits of Cryotherapy on the bodies healing process:

When utilizing cryotherapy and hydrotherapy together, the patient reaps the benefits of both modalities resulting in better treatment outcomes in less time. While cold-water treatments speed up the body’s healing, it doesn’t override the beneficial effects of the natural healing process.

  1. Blood vessels constrict with cold application, resulting in decreased edema and ensuring surrounding tissue continues to receive adequate oxygenated blood supply.
  2. Cold temperatures slow down electrical impulses to the brain signaling pain.
  3. As the depth of the water increases, so does the hydrostatic pressure. The increased pressure on the tissues acts as a compression garment and helps to reduce swelling.
  4. Utilizing turbulence jets adds even more benefits:
    1. Because turbulence is created by injecting air into the water, it is thought that the dissolved oxygen level of the water increases, aiding in the healing process.
    2. The turbulence provides a massage effect to the soft tissues, increasing the cold penetration into joints and tissues, aiding in the dispersal of fluids, and helping to decrease pain.

The AquaPacer Plus underwater treadmill is available with a cold saltwater system to allow you to utilize the benefits of hydrotherapy and cryotherapy, with one machine, in the same treatment session. Fill the exercise chamber to the desired water height with cold saltwater (ability to achieve cold temperatures as low as 38 degrees Fahrenheit), engage the turbulence jets, and start the treadmill belt (all from the HMI touchscreen) to begin the session. Horses recovering from injury, or recovering from a workout, can benefit from a cold saltwater treatment in the AquaPacer Plus.