What is cold hosing?
Tuesday 22 May 2012
Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist Kirsty Haines fills us in on cold hosing: the rationale behind it, how it works and the benefits.
What is cold hosing? Myth, mystery or wives tale?
The idea is that by applying cold, the blood vessels contract (vasoconstriction), which, in the short term, reduces blood flow and swelling. It offers pain relief, helps to reduce blood loss and bleeding into the tissues (bruising) and therefore assists in early clot formation, which is the first stage in healing.
I learnt my bread and butter horsey skills at a ‘bit of’ yard. I call it a ‘bit of’ because we did a bit of teaching, a bit of dealing, a bit of competing, a bit of everything! And having so many horses in one place meant it was common to see knocks and bruises, sprains and strains on almost a daily basis, and the standard treatment was always cold hosing. Never did I question - just stood there for about 20 minutes until my finger over the end of the hose was numb and then we were done. This process was to be repeated at intervals, depending on how severe the injury seemed. But why 20 minutes? Why cold hosing? What about using a boot, an ice pack or one of those mud packs that look like something a spa charges a small fortune to apply?
It’s only now that I am in the privileged position of being able to look at the research behind some of the things we do and so can advise horse owners on the best methods for cooling tissues. And that’s the key. When we have an injury, we don’t want to get cold into the tissues. It’s all about drawing the heat out: think first aid when you have a burn – at least 10 minutes under a cold tap to remove the heat from the tissues. The heat occurs as a natural part of healing and repair.
Straight away, thinking of what you’re aiming to do gives you an idea of why cold hosing is as good method. The running water means there is a constant difference in temperature between the water and tissues. Boots and packs may heat up, reducing the temperature difference and therefore the speed at which heat is drawn out. It’s cheap (unless you’re on a water meter – oops! sorry mum!), it’s readily available and instant.
The only caution that needs to be taken when cold hosing is to make sure you don’t exceed 20 minutes. You see the body is very clever, and while it tolerates cooling of an area for a certain period, research suggests that after 20 minutes the body thinks ‘uh oh’! It quickly opens up the blood vessels to prevent over-cooling which causes a rush of blood to the fragile areas. This can reverse the good work of the clotting cells and cause the bleeding into the tissues to re-start.
So cold hosing key points:
Kirsty Haines MSc MCSP ACPAT Cat A is a Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist practicing at Westfield Veterinary Physiotherapy, Tel: 0774 8788564, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Scott Robinson
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