What Is It Good For?

One study shows that 85% of horses with bone spavin improved at least one lameness grade after treatment. Initial uses for shockwave focused on treating bone-related disease, such as spavin (a degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis of the hock) and navicular syndrome, which had little other treatment recourse. Despite how the name sounds, it does not use electricity, but instead uses acoustic pressure waves directed into tissue and bone to encourage blood flow, increase cellular metabolism and speed healing. It is now used to treat everything from soft tissue injuries such as suspensory ligament strains, bowed tendons and back pain to bony issues, like stress fractures in the cannon bone (bucked shins), navicular syndrome and bone spavin.

Shockwave therapy:

a) enhances/improves circulation to the area,
b) stimulates/turns on local stem cells,
c) promotes tissue release of growth factors which collectively promotes healing and tissue remodeling.

 Shockwave is most effective when targeted to treat an area with a confirmed diagnosis. The procedure takes about 10-20 min and is performed under mild sedation. Most injuries require a series of three treatments performed about 2-3 weeks apart. This may vary depending on the type of injury, the severity of the problem and whether the injury is new or chronic.  Shockwave can also benefit horses during a competitive season or as part of a physiotherapy rehabilitation protocol.

Shockwave is routinely used for:

– Tendon injuries (tendonitis)
– Ligament injuries (desmitis)
– Joint disease (arthritis)
– Back pain (kissing spine, muscle pain)
– Ringbone (pastern arthritis)
– Bucked shins (stress fractures)
– Splints
– Navicular syndrome
– Delayed unions
– Muscle 

Shockwave can be used in conjunction with other therapies such as Pro-Stride (regenerative medicine) and OsPhos. It has demonstrated great success in treating persistent lameness associated with a wide array of injuries. We will recommend a specific shockwave protocol for your horse which will maximize return to performance as soon as possible and improve quality of healing.

Shockwave therapy is often initiated at the same time as the controlled exercise rehabilitation program.  While some horses will receive additional treatments throughout their career to help maintain performance levels.

How  Does It Work?


Doctors began using shock wave therapy in humans several decades ago as a nonsurgical way to treat kidney stones, a process known as lithotripsy. The pressure waves break up the stones, allowing them to pass. Tests in animals began in the mid ’80s, and shockwave machines were first imported into the United States from Europe in the late ’90s.

The machine consists of a body that generates the shock wave and the head, which administers it. Little of the wave is absorbed by the tissue, and it produces no heat. The supersonic acoustic pressure waves created by the machine last only nanoseconds. They flow from the head of the machine, nearly uninterrupted, through fluid and soft tissue to the focused depth and area . 

Focused or Radial Head, what's the difference?

A focused shockwave is generated by electromagnetic or piezoelectric devices. Radial shockwaves are typically produced by pneumatic/ballistic devices . Much of the early research in ESWT for musculoskeletal conditions utilized focused shockwave therapy. Focused shockwaves have higher energy and generate maximal force at a selected depth, whereas radial shockwaves are lower energy and generate highest pressure at the skin surface with subsequent weakening at greater depth.  At KVS we have always utilized focused shockwave technology  to ensure efficacy of treatment even though these machines are much more expensive.

Shockwave therapy
Veterinary Assistant shockwaving a horse
Veterinarian shockwaving a horse
Focused VS Radial Shockwaves