Many competitors look for miracle products to give their horses that extra edge. Magnetic therapy is a non-invasive, effective way of naturally healing injuries and relieving pain.
As the competition in equestrian sports increases, so do the demands we place on our horses. We continually ask our equine athletes to step up their game as we hunt that big win. We are training longer, harder, and at a higher degree of difficulty. In the process, we undoubtedly place greater stress on our horses’ joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments -- making their maintenance programs more important than ever.
While magnetic therapy has become a front runner in alternative therapy in recent years, the use of magnets for healing purposes was first documented thousands of years ago. Ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Egyptians all recorded utilizing magnetic stones to correct health imbalances and manage pain.
A MAGNETIC WORLD
Magnets play a greater role in our well being than you may imagine. The earth consists of a magnetic north and south pole, its magnetic field extending infinitely into space, growing weaker as you travel further from the source. The importance of this magnetic field may not have been fully recognized until man traveled into space. NASA did not, at first, understand why returning astronauts needed a full six weeks to recuperate from space travel. Extensive research revealed that the problem was a direct result of being outside of the earth’s magnetic field. Now both space suits and the space shuttle are lined with a magnetic material that eliminates the need for extensive recovery time.
IT TAKES TWO
Magnets are made up of two poles, north and south, just like the earth’s magnetic field. A magnet simply is not a magnet without both fields, as the two poles are dependent on one another to function properly. Opposite poles attract each other; like poles repel each other. To allow the magnet to stimulate motion in the body, it takes opposing poles working together to achieve the desired therapeutic results.
The strength of a magnet is called gauss. The Earth’s magnet field has strength of 0.5 gauss. Most therapeutic magnets have a gauss of 10 to 1200. Magnets that possess a gauss greater than 1200 should be avoided for therapeutic use due to the amount of damage they can cause if used incorrectly. An example of such type of magnet would be Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which measures in at over 10,000 gauss.
TYPES OF MAGNETIC THERAPY
• Electromagnetism is the combination of electricity and metals resulting in the creation of a magnetic field. Electromagnets require an external power source to reap the benefits of the magnet. The electromagnetic field’s energy travels along the same path as nerves, which can potentially cause agitation. Additionally, due to the outside power source, the strength of the magnetic field can become extraordinarily powerful. For example, the same electric field that creates the magnet may cause overheating, resulting in damaged tissue because the heat was not created by the animal’s own biological resources. Consequently, operating this type of machine does require a significant amount of training to prevent misuse.
• Permanent/static magnets are naturally derived from the earth and are referred to as permanent or static because their magnetic field is constant. Unlike electromagnets, permanent magnets never need to be replenished by an outside energy source and they function as an interconnected network. This means the lines of force continue through each pole rather than stopping at them. Furthermore, the heat produced by a permanent magnet is generated by the animal’s own body.
A common misconception is that all permanent magnets are created equal. However, there are many different designs, with varying degrees of effectiveness. The strength, material, pole configuration, and energy source all need to be evaluated when choosing a therapeutic magnet.
A commonly asked question is “How do I tell what type of field pattern the magnets I bought have?” The answer is easy! There is a neat little children’s toy called a Magna-Doodle. You simply place it over the magnet to see what’s inside the magnet and how it’s going to work.
Common field patterns are:
• Craft Magnet: An inexpensive, non-patented magnet that will either have a very low or very high gauss. You will see a solid mass in the shape of the magnet or multiple straight lines all going in the same direction.
• Therapy Magnet (A): A patented product with lines ranging from a triangular to checkerboard pattern.
• Therapy Magnet (B): A patented product with lines in a circular bull’s eye pattern.
In any therapeutic magnet you want to see lines separating the north and south poles to ensure the appropriate cross over the blood vessels. The greater the cross over the blood vessels and the farther apart the lines, the more effective the magnet will be.
KEEP THE DOCTOR AWAY WITH A MAGNET A DAY
A quality therapeutic grade magnet increases muscle elasticity, allowing the muscle and affected joints to return to normal range of motion which will, in turn, aid in the prevention of future injuries. The goal is to augment the healing process by increasing the circulation of blood to the affected area, resulting in pain relief, a quicker recovery, and increased performance.
Magnetic therapy is used for a wide range of injuries, including tendonitis, bowed tendons, bucked shins, muscular strains, cuts, and musculoskeletal disorders. Always introduce the magnet slowly and follow any instructions included with the product, and contact your veterinarian with questions on the appropriate method to treat injuries.
Heidi Pichotta is a freelance writer from Menomonie, WI. Her articles have been featured in “Performance Horse Magazine” and various regional publications. Heidi owns Mechanics for the Equine Athlete, which provides soft tissue modalities for athletes, including sports massage, acupressure, myofascial mobilization, and deep tissue manipulation. She is also an Independent Saddle Fitter and a certified personal trainer with the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association. In her free time, Heidi enjoys showing her horses, spending time with her husband, and competing in agility with her Border Collie.