October 2017 - Bone Health

Whole Body Vibration adds a rare disease to the list of more common conditions it helps heal.

Whole body vibration is well established as beneficial to overall equine well-being. Bones get stronger, muscles grow and digestive tracts do what they’re supposed to with help of regular time standing on floors that deliver carefully-calibrated vibrations throughout the horse’s body. All of those benefits make it a valuable treatment in recovery from various common injuries, too.

The therapy has also proven a big benefit to a not-so-well known but potentially deadly disease called Silicosis Associated Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is familiar as an age-related degenerative bone condition in humans, but SAO in horses is not an-age related disease. It’s a “disease that involves both the lung and bone organ systems,” per a 2015 article in Veterinary Practice News. Citing research from UC Davis, the article explains that SAO “occurs in horses in specific geographic regions of California where soils contain high concentrations of certain toxic forms of the mineral crystal, silica dioxide.”

Along with affecting bones, the inhalation of silica dust can cause lung and respiratory issues. Vibration therapy has proven beneficial to the bone density and fragility effects, as well as coughing symptoms common in SAO patients.

Nicky Oostveen of Dutch Dream Horses in Monterey County’s Aromas has seen the facility’s Vitafloor work wonders on several cases. Of two past cases, one horse already had a fracture: that’s typically the point at which SOA is diagnosed because it first affects bones that are higher in the horse’s skeletal system and, thus, harder to x-ray in routine diagnostic procedures. Another horse did not have any fractures yet, but had been rendered unrideable by the disease, which presented as numerous “hot spots” on the results of a scintigraphy diagnostic test.

The owner of the horse with the fracture wanted it to get the one medication currently known to treat SOA, an injectable drug called Zoledronate. But that medication would impair the healing of the fracture, so the veterinarian recommended that the horse first go for Vitafloor sessions that helped speed the healing. Through twice-daily sessions, about half an hour each, the fracture healed and bone density improved over the course of just a month. It’s not a quick fix, Nicky explains, but the therapy can return a horse to comfort and, in some cases, to becoming rideable again.

UC Davis’ veterinary school has been studying SOA for a few years. In the process, scintigraphy scans have shown the positive impact of vibration therapy, manifested both in healed bones and in the reduction of hot spots that show up throughout the body in horses affected by SOA.

Whole body vibration’s ability to significantly help treat this relatively rare disease speaks volumes about its ability to treat more common concerns. Bone density, Nicky notes, must be kept in mind for horses on lay-up for any condition. Restricted physical activity often leads to diminished bone mass. Vibration therapy helps maintain bone density during lay-ups without subjecting the horse to the wear and tear or risk of re-injury that comes with normal exercise.

-by Kim F Miller