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Article Published in Holistic Horse (October 2013)

Microcurrent Therapy: Holistic Option for Equine Lung Health

by Matrix Therapy Products

Microcurrent therapy is a holistic option for improving equine lung health, and can even help horses with exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (EIPH). When performance horses of any discipline regularly sprint at fast speeds, their bodies cannot always handle the force. Due to their anatomy, when horses run their organs slam into each other, squishing the lungs. This impact can damage the lung’s tiny alveoli and capillaries, which causes bleeding in the horse’s lungs. The result is exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhaging.

When a horse has EIPH it is often called a “bleeder,” which is an apt name because the horses sometimes bleed out of their nostrils during intense physical exertion due to damaged lungs. Bleeders are extremely prevalent in the race horse industry, however they can also be horses competing in barrel racing, show jumping, and other speed events.

According to a study in the Merck Veterinary Manual, actual nosebleeds are only present in approximately 5% of the racehorses with EIPH. This means that your performance horse may be suffering from a lung condition even if you have never seen a nosebleed. Despite this low percent, based on endoscopic exams there is blood in the tracheobronchial tree of 44-75% of the racehorses with EIPH. And in 93% of the racehorses there is hemorrhaging in the bronchoalveolar lavage. So even if your horse does not bleed from the nostrils, it might still be suffering from EIPH if it is regularly stressed to race against the clock, whether from running barrels, jumping, or racing.

After the damage to the lungs occurs, the horse’s air passages become clogged with blood, which ultimately limits the horse’s ability to compete at maximum potential. Once bleeding in the lungs begins it is labeled as exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage and it tends to be a life long and chronic (happening with each race) condition.

The standard treatment to reduce or prevent the symptoms of EIPH is a medication called Lasix® or furosemide. This is an accepted medication in the U.S. and it allows a horse with EIPH to race, however, it does not repair the damage done to the horse’s lungs.

Pad electrodes on the horse's lungs following the Matrix Lung Setup.
Microcurrent: A Healthier Option

Microcurrent therapy is an alternative method that has been used for years to avoid medicating with Lasix®. Using microcurrent therapy is a non-invasive option that provides healing elements, making it a safer and healthier option for the horse. Unlike Lasix®, the microcurrent Lung Treatment has been reported to actually help heal the horse’s lungs, which can provide longer-lasting results. Additionally, this treatment method is beneficial for horses with allergies, heaves, or any type of respiratory issues.

Microcurrent therapy is the use of very low-level electrical stimulation, applied to the horse using special conductive accessories. Applying this outside source of electrical stimulation can help jumpstart the body’s own self-healing mechanisms to promote healing and faster recovery.

The microcurrent Lung Treatment involves placing three electrodes on specific locations to target the treatment on the horse’s lungs. One method is to place a conductive electrode on either side of the horse on the lung area, with a third electrode on the horse’s withers. There are several preparation protocols to follow to maximize effectiveness, and treatment duration and device settings will vary depending on what microcurrent device is used.

More than Symptomatic Relief

Betty Fetters, a multi-racetrack microcurrent therapist based in Louisiana, discovered that she could greatly improve the odds and comfort of a racehorse with EIPH. She did this by treating the horse with microcurrent three times on consecutive days before a race, which completely stopped the bleeding. This eliminated the need for Lasix® and clear lungs were verified prior to the race by a veterinarian's check with an endoscope.

At sanctioned U.S. racetracks, when a horse dies a necropsy is required to confirm the horse’s cause of death. A track veterinarian where Fetters worked shared with Fetters that the horses she had worked on showed signs that the alveoli and capillaries in their lungs had healed.

While there was no documented research on the horses Fetters treated, the microcurrent lung treatment has been reported to be successful and consistently reliable from various therapists. In contrast, studies on the effects of Lasix® have conflicting results on the medication’s ability to prevent bleeds. So in addition to having more reliable results, using the microcurrent treatments can heal the horse and possibly prevent future bleeding, rather than simply reducing the symptoms.

Ideally, once a horse is diagnosed with EIPH or suspected to have it, the horse would be treated three days in a row with the microcurrent Lung Treatment prior to a race or any intense exercise. Using microcurrent therapy greatly improves the horse’s comfort levels, and pre-race checks with an endoscope have showed previous bleeders to have clear lungs.

Correlated Healing: In addition to specifically treating horses’ lungs, Fetters would treat other areas of a horse’s body if it was sore or in pain. For example, with all the different track surfaces horses run on they often have sore feet or heel pain. Perceptive trainers realized that if their string of racehorses received regular microcurrent treatment then the horses stayed more comfortable (while on less drugs) and had reduced downtime. This same improvement is possible for performance horses in any discipline.

For further prevention, these stress-induced ailments could often be abated if horses’ work demands were reduced and they were given proper rests on large pastures over several months. This way microcurrent could be used more as an insurance against wear and tear rather than only at crisis stages.

 

Want to learn how? Check out MicroCurrent for Horses, an in-depth therapy manual that covers a wide range of therapy tools and protocols. To learn more about microcurrent, view Matrix's Articles or contact Matrix Therapy Products directly at info@therapyproducts.net or (503) 632-7187 (PST).

 
As published in Holistic Horse, Ocotber 2013, p. 20

Copyright © 2011, Matrix Therapy Products Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.

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