Updated: Apr 27, 2021
What is it?
H-wave (or Hoffman’s Reflex wave) is an electrotherapy which uses electrical currents to mimic muscle contraction and relaxation to increase circulation and lymphatic drainage to the area treated. This can provide prolonged cumulative effects after the treatment has finished such as reduce pain, increase range of motion and reduce muscle spasms.
H-Wave Therapy in Action
I first learnt about H-wave at university and immediately knew I wanted to have one when I graduated. I truly believe in it. The muscle bellies of the horse are so large when you compare it to a human hand, and I find, if a horse has pain in the back or hindquarters, the muscles in that area are tight and difficult to work with when using massage alone. However, when the horse has had a H-wave treatment, the tissues are much softer, pliable and easy to work with, meaning I can get a better tissue response from massage.
Case Study: Millie
An example of this was when I treated Millie, a 12 year old mare that presented with a very sore back, hindquarters and sacroiliac- joint. This was seen by a very stiff looking back in trot and muscle fasciculations (spasms) along the back and gluteal muscles. These muscles were very hypertonic (tight) to feel and resulted in a mild forelimb lameness because she was shifting so much weight forward off of the painful areas.
Millie barely tolerate being touched in these areas, so I tried the H-wave machine. This was Millie’s first time using H-wave, and to begin with she was unsure, but she quickly settled for the full treatment. I was able to get a great level of contraction and relaxation which would have caused an increase in circulation and tissue permeability to that area, helping to deliver more nutrients and remove metabolic waste from the cells.
Millie receiving her first H-wave treatment
After her treatment, the muscle spasms had reduced significantly and she did not shy away from my touch. Her muscles felt so much softer and more fluid, meaning I was able to massage the back and hindquarters, much deeper than I would have without H-wave.
After the massage, we tried a back extension stretch (carrot stretch) which asked her to reach her head between her front knees. This instantly gave a great release of the intervertebral joints all the way along her spine. A very satisfying and audible ‘crack’ could be heard, known as cavitation. This meant a change in the spinal joint capsules tension had occurred, allowing for greater fluidity and nutrient delivery into these joints and the surrounding soft tissue. I do not believe this would have been achieved without the H-wave first releasing the tightness of the area.
Millie receiving her H-wave treatment
I’ve been continuing to work with Millie and she seems much happier. Her owner reports she is brighter when being ridden and feels much more effortless and flowing, she says she has her Millie back!
If you think your horse is tight or sore in the back or hindquarters, 'puts their back up' when ridden or would like an assessment because you are unsure, please get it touch- as H-Wave and veterinary physiotherapy could really help!
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