Wrapping that Horse’s Leg?

February 27, 2012 (published)

In equine medicine, bandaging leg injuries and wounds is a common practice and in many cases, bandaging and wrapping wounds is indicated. Severe wounds, fractures, and tendon injuries initially require bandaging to immobilize the area. However, it is possible that long-term wrapping and bandaging legs may be doing more harm than good in some cases. It has been shown in humans that appropriate loading of muscle and tendon tissues during healing can decrease healing time. It has also been shown that early controlled mobilization of injured tendons is better than immobilization. Immobilization of tissues with casts or wraps can lead to several problems including a decrease in bone mass and muscle mass when legs are immobile. Early controlled use of the injured area has been shown to decrease healing time and allows the injured tissue fibers to realign more normally and this will help prevent injury in the future.

However, if mobilization begins too early, the repair process can be inhibited and healing delayed. Rehab has been extensively studied in human medicine and even the angles of extension and flexion are known for all of the joints. Also, humans can be told that some pain is normal and required in the rehab process. In animals, this is much more difficult as they do not understand rehab is to help them heal and are not cooperative in rehab, and tranquilizers are not a good option. Rehab in small animals has come a long way in just the last few years and a lot is known about rehab of small animal orthopedic surgeries. Equine rehab is being performed but more studies are required. Regardless, long-term wrapping or casting injured horse's legs may be causing more harm than good in some cases.

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