The Science behind the therapy

Temperature:

The ECB Spa solution is chilled between 35 °F and 37 °F (2 °C and 4 °C) to take out heat and inflammation. The solution, at this temperature, provides analgesic pain management and inhibits enzyme degeneration of tendons post injury.

Salt Concentration:

The ECB salt solution acts as a hypertonic poultice, reducing heat while having a natural healing effect on wounds. Water density increases with salt concentration, which in turn increases pressure to aid fluid and waste dispersal.

Aeration:

Water aeration has a massaging effect on the leg and increases the dissolved oxygen content of the spa solution.

 

Depth:

The depth of the water is proportionate to the pressure exerted on the leg which aids fluid and waste dispersal. Water depth is adjustable dependent upon the position and severity of injury.

Biological Control:

Proper chemical and salt maintenance allows for thousands of successive treatments without water replacement. Temperature and chemical levels combine to eliminate the transfer of microbiological infection.

Dissolved Oxygen:

As water temperature decreases, its ability to carry oxygen increases. Increased oxygenation through the introduction of aeration is believed to enhance natural defense systems, much like the use of a hyperbaric chamber for humans.

Cold salt hydrotherapy can be used to treat all forms of lower leg inflammation... removing the painful fluid and swelling associated with injury. More specifically, these conditions are detailed below.

What It Treats

LAMINITIS

Chris Pollitt graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science from Massey University, New Zealand in 1968 and was a practicing veterinary surgeon in New Zealand, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland until commencing PhD studies in the Physiology Department of The University of Queensland.

To generate a critical mass of research personnel,  Dr. Pollitt created the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit in 1996.  The unit has become internationally competitive, attracting over $2 million in research funding.

With the mission of "Elucidating the mechanism of laminitis to make laminitis a preventable disease" the unit has become an international focus of laminitis and equine foot biology research.

Dr Pollitt has 61 publications in international peer-reviewed journals and 71 conference proceedings.

In 2009 Professor Chris Pollitt's paper was published into the success of cryotherapy in treating laminitis. The results are conclusive and prove that cold water therapy effectively ameliorates the clinical signs and pathology of acute laminitis. READ THE STUDY

A fantastic breakthrough for both Laminitis and the ECB Equine Spa.

Tendonitis

- Injury to Superficial digital flexor, Check ligament, Deep digital flexor

Tendonitis is one of the principal injuries associated with performance horses as often repair is not fully successful. For example, initial injury may start as a bruise or strain to the collagen fibres which then become inflamed and further deteriorate under the influence of collagenase. In repair new collagen fibres form but often form cross links due to lingering swelling which are weak and re-injure. Cold hydrotherapy treatment minimizes the effect of collegenase by keeping the leg temperature lower; and by reducing the swelling, allows collagen fibres to repair neatly.

Desmitis

- Suspensory strain or tear 

The suspensory apparatus supports the lower leg through attachment to the bones and injury is common when horses slip or twist the leg or where over extension of the fetlock occurs regularly during exercise. Injury of the ligament could occur in a similar manner to tendonitis or ligament separation from bone may result in intense inflammation and pain.  Repair is slow and replacement collagen must form correctly to prevent re-injury, hence the importance to keep swelling down for straight collagen repair.

 Arthritis

- Injury to Fetlock and pastern, Knee and hock, coffin joint

Bone provides the living scaffold for movement and injury can result in degeneration of bone and joint tissue with a weakening of the bone structure. Inflammation results in swelling and pain and unless the progressive changes are stopped deterioration will continue to worsen with concussion.

Hoof Injuries

- Over reach, Abscesses, Stone Bruise, Corns, Laminitis or Founder, Thrush, Nail Prick

All the different structures that go to make up the hoof can be injured either from concussion, trauma, shoeing or nutrition. Each form results in its own type of inflammation sometimes with associated infection. Cold poultice treatment to the hoof has been a traditional therapy and the spa improves this process in the above injury types.

Shin Splints

- Sore shins, Bucked shins

During exercise, pressure on the digital extensor tendon sheath down the front of the cannon bone, can cause the attachment of the sheath to the bone to lift in young horses. As exercise increases, the inflammation worsens with fluid separating the sheath and bone further. Spa treatment minimizes the inflammation.

Jar Up

- Bruising

Concussion soreness is a common result where horses work on hard surfaces after lead up exercise on softer going.  This may result from a change in the going on grass tracks or change from all weather surfaces to firmer going in racehorses. The bone tissues are stressed and inflammation commences throughout the bones without showing signs of fluid or swelling.

Bursitis / Synovitis

- Swollen joints, Wind galls or wind puffs

Result where stress injury develops in the tissues surrounding joints and ligaments.  The synovial membranes produce excess fluid causing the joint or tendon sheaths to swell.

Open Wounds and skin infections

- Dermatitis, Greasy heel / Mud Fever / Rain Scald

Skin Infection all commence with abrasion to skin cells which then allow entry of various micro-organisms resulting in inflammation. Both inflammation and the micro-organic cause require elimination and cold water hydrotherapy speed this process with the salt content of the water acting as a poultice.  Many of the artificial surfaces that horses work on are abrasive and can irritate skin on lower leg.

Normally the healing of these injuries may be prolonged with new tissue type being weak and prone to re-injury. Spa treatments resolve injuries faster in two ways:

  • By keeping the leg temperature lower it minimizes the effect of fiber deteriorating collagenase.
  • By reducing the swelling, it allows collagen fibers to repair neatly.

This reduced convalescence time is beneficial for the horse and all connections, however the perfect situation is to utilize cold water hydrotherapy for injury prevention. Prevention is always better than cure.  By regular use of cold therapy immediately after hard exercise, many of the stressors within tissues are removed before inflammation develops.  Cold also significantly improves surface bone density, reducing the opportunity for bone stress related injuries to commence.

Articles and studies: 

Principles and Application of Hydrotherapy for Equine Athletes - Melissa R. King, DVM, PhD
Response of Twenty-Seven Horses with Lower Leg Injuries to Cold Spa Bath Hydrotherapy - E.R. Hunt MVSc, PhD, G. Dip. Ed (Tert)
Equine laminitis model: Cryotherapy reduces the severity of lesions evaluated seven days after induction with oligofructose - A. W. Van Eps and C. C. Pollitt