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Is whole-body vibration therapy helpful or harmful to horses?

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A research group at the University of Western Ontario studying the effects of high-frequency, low amplitude whole-body vibration (WBV) on the joint tissues of mice found that over time it can cause joint damage and changes resembling osteoarthritis.

Mice were subjected to vibration conditions that mimic those used clinically in humans for 30 min/day, 5 days/week for 4 weeks. Skeletal tissues were examined by micro-computed tomography, histology and immunohistochemistry, revealing intervertebral discs showing degeneration, disruption of collagen organization and increased cell death. Examination of the knee joints revealed meniscal tears and focal damage to the articular cartilage.

WBV is used for humans and animals (including horses) to treat a range of musculoskeletal disorders. The UWO study revealed significant negative effects of WBV on joint tissues in the mice, findings that suggest the need for future studies examining the effects of WBV on joint health in humans. The research also found that as WBV is actually a very reliable method of inducing osteoarthritis in mice. Work is continuing to further develop this model, as it could be extremely useful for understanding the progression of the disease, and how to control it.