Red Light Therapy for Horses
While attending Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute in 2009, I discovered a conjunctive modality that many practitioners were using–known as red light therapy. So when I started my own equine acupressure business, I decided that buying a red light would likely be a good investment. Even though I no longer do acupressure as a ‘business’, I still employ my red light quite a bit.
So what exactly is red light therapy (also known as photonic therapy) and how can it help horses? That’s what I’d like to focus on for this blog post.
Red light is a low-intensity light, used mainly at one wavelength (660nm). It’s emitted from super-luminous light emitting diodes (LEDs) that painlessly penetrate the skin in order to induce certain physiological responses in the body.
Although light therapy has seemed to emerge only recently, it’s actually been around for a while. Danish doctor, Niels Finsen, studied and employed light therapy, then known as phototherapy, with his human patients in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He won the 1903 Nobel prize for his work in treating smallpox and lupus with this technology.
Much of Finsen’s work was forgotten after the discovery of antibiotics, but by the 1960’s, red light therapy and other forms of light therapy had re-emerged in Europe for treating chronic pain, arthritis, joint rehabilitation, and soft-tissue injuries, as well as other medical ailments in humans. It also began to emerge in the U.S. for treating joint and soft tissue injuries in horses.
In recent years, more research on red light therapy has been conducted, even by the likes of NASA. The effects of red light therapy, once viewed with skepticism, have been demonstrated in study after study.
Today, red light therapy is commonly used by both professionals and horse owners alike. Anyone can purchase a red light (photonic torch) and their are several different brands on the market. I own the Equinix Photonic Torch.
I’ve used my red light on acupressure points–especially those that are very sensitive to finger pressure, sore or tight muscles, joints, and also injuries (such as a torn suspensory ligament). I’ve found that my horses react quite well to red light therapy. I’m currently using it around Lee Lee’s TMJ area and jaw since she is having extreme sensitivity issues in that area. I’ve also used my red light on myself and family members for various conditions.
Red light therapy has been shown to have the following effects:
- Reduces pain and swelling;
- Increases lymphatic activity;
- Accelerates cell regeneration and healing;
- Increases circulation;
- Relaxes muscles;
- Encourages collagen production (this is why it’s used cosmetically for people as well);
- Regulates serotonin levels (Serotonin mediates inflammation and allergic reactions. It also aids in blood clotting, initiating sleep, and fighting depression); and
- Has anti-viral properties- increases antibody production in the blood stream to allow the body to fight off viruses.
Aside from the fact that a red light can be used to stimulate just about any acupressure point on the horse, it can also be beneficial for the following specific conditions:
- arthritic joints;
- sore muscles;
- back pain;
- tendon/ ligament injuries;
- hoof abscesses; and
- navicular and laminitis-associated pain.
Additionally, red light therapy is a very safe modality. There are no known side effects for horses. So if you’re looking for an alternative healing modality that you can use at home with your horse, red light therapy may be the way to go!