Physiotherapy in the human medical field has become an essential form of musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory care from paediatrics to geriatrics and sports medicine and now, the use and benefits of physiotherapy in the veterinary field is becoming more widely appreciated. 

According to the definition adopted by the World Health Organisation, physiotherapy is “the art and science of treatment using therapeutic exercise and physical agents such as heat, cold, light, water, massage, electricity, etc.”

In addition, physiotherapy includes the execution of manual and electrical tests to determine the level of intervention required to recover muscle strength, joint movement and the range of vital capacity, as well as diagnostic aids for monitoring recovery.

Physiotherapy aims to develop, maintain and restore the maximum degree of functional capacity in animals with musculoskeletal disorders, injuries, or following surgeries or medical interventions.

Ultimately, physiotherapy assists the body in healing as efficiently as possible to return the body to as close to fully functional as possible, reducing pain and improving quality of life as a result. 

Using science to help the body heal

A range of therapeutic equipment may be used as part of your animal’s physiotherapy treatment.

Therapeutic ultrasound

ultrasound therapy is highly effective for treatment of tight muscles, damaged ligaments, tendons and cartilage. 

Ultrasound uses sound waves above the human hearing range of sound (20Hz to 18000Hz) to improve circulation to the area of concern, thus increasing delivery of nutrients and improving healing as well as improving the quality of repair by helping to soften fibrous adhesions and alligning collagenous scar tissue formed when healing. Ultrasound therapy can also help to reduce pain and inflammation.  

Photon Therapy

Using red light over a trigger point on a canine patient

Ultrabright red light and infra red light have numerous effects on the body including;

 The proliferation of cells essential for tissue repair

 Increased delivery of blood and nutrients to the treatment area by increasing dilation of capillaries.

 Infrared works just below the skins surface accelerating collagen synthesis, the base requirement for tissue repair.

 Visible red light has also been shown to stimulate epithelial cell production and activity and helps to reduce scar tissue and prevent proud flesh.

Application over acupuncture points changes the conductivity of the skin and causes the body to react with a release of endorphins- ‘happy hormones’. When used before massage, in most cases, the animal will relax, even if they are very tense initially. This helps to prevent bruising and discomfort and also allows accurate feedback from the animal. 

Using a cluster probe of 690nm red light on an equine patient

It is long known that there is electricity in the body: electrocardiogram (ECG), electroencephalogram (EEG) and electromyogram (EMG) are ways to measure the electrical activity of the heart, brain and muscles. The combined effects of electric and magnetic force explain that pulsing electromagnetic fields induce electrical changes on a cellular level within the body and cell metabolism is influenced. Disturbances in blood circulation and in metabolism are thought to be major factors of disease development.

Electromagnetic therapy is found to be successful in treating various forms of physical and emotional pain. The body produces very subtle electromagnetic fields, which occur through chemical reactions within cells and pass through the nervous system as a current.

Pulsing electromagnetic fields influence cell behaviour by inducing electrical changes around and within the cell. Improved blood supply increases the oxygen pressure, activating and regenerating cells. Improved calcium transport increases absorption of calcium in bones and improves the quality of cartilage in joints.

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy can have incredible uses for treatment of soft tissue injury, chronic pain and even help bone to repair. 

H – wave therapy

H-wave is a form of electrostimulation which relieves pain but also treats the root cause of the pain as well as reducing inflammation. 

H – wave can be used to strengthen atrophied muscles after an injury to muscle or nerves, after injuries to bones or joints which have affected normal muscle usage and can be effective in some neurological cases. 

It can also be used to improve range of motion in cases of contractures or the presence of fibrous tissue. 

Massage, mobilisations and exercise therapy

The above technologies certainly help to enhance the quality of healing, relieve pain and improve comfort but hands on palpation of the body tissues; muscles, fascia and skin are still an essential part of rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Using appropriate exercises can help develop muscles to support posture and prevent injury or strain to joints