PEMF: Is it just snake oil? Yes or No: Back Pain Stories and Solutions--EPM, Neuro, Bone Chips in necks and more

Update at beginning because the whole post is long but I would encourage you to read it if you don’t know how this started it may help you!!

Update 1: I went into this thinking it was SI, symptoms at the canter checked out with a lot of research that I did online about SI and my trainer agreed. The other symptom of main concern was muscle soreness along the spine and down over his rump and overall lack of muscle especially for a big athletic warmblood in full work, we kept gradually working up expecting muscle to come up but it wasn’t. I had the vet out and we now have a plan of action. I will put in paragraphs.

Update 2: We started with a basic lameness with flexions and trot up. We brought him out and she did a mobility test with his back legs and tail to check SI. She said his SI seemed totally fine, but was slightly less flexible and stable she thinks due to lack of muscle. He trotted up clear and perfectly sound. He has a slight fusion in one hock but that is very small the vet said it didn’t effect him or any performance career he would have. Lunging went well and he passed that too. He often becomes disunited and switches front or back or both at different times or at the same time while lunging, he didn’t during that session but I did inform the vet of what is normal for him. So lunging is also check, all clear but issues at canter I informed her of noted.

Update 3: We then moved on to a neurological test. Neuro test done and we went back to his stall so he could eat hay while we talked to the vet about her findings, conclusion, and a plan moving forward.

Update 4: We talked about what she found which I will bullet point:

  • Lack of muscle is concerning for age of horse, body weight, and work level
  • SI looked fine and within normal if a little bit stiff and inflexible again she thinks due to lack of muscle and hock was fine as well despite the baby fusion, maybe some kind of injections down the road but not needed currently
  • trot and lunge were clear but the usual disunitedness was noted
  • She also stretched his neck and was slightly stiff but he does have a bone chip that he has had from birth in his neck so one side is not as flexible
  • In the neurological exam he showed a few mistakes
  • She also recommended that we give him a Vitamin E supplement as his level was within normal but very low

Update 5: Treatment plan we decided on
For the next two weeks

  • Start the Marquis Treatment for EPM
  • Get a Vitamin E supplement
  • Work on only light riding once or maybe twice a week–work the other days using either the Pessoa or Equiband system and incorporate poles with lunging–focusing on non ridden work

Update 6: Treatment Plan after the two weeks
everything here is based on what she finds when she comes back after the two weeks and how he responds to EPM treatment

  • Continue with Vitamin E supplement for muscle building
  • Continue using lunging exercises to build muscle but gradually move in more riding work with and without the EquiBand
  • Finish up the Marquis and take it from there. Hopefully that solves the issues but if not we are back to diagnostics

Original Post Starts Here:
Ok, I recently moved my horse after about 6 months of ownership. He was getting more back sore every week and developing some issues because the barn wasn’t turning him out enough. I had some pro rides set up for him as I was struggling with his gaits, particularly his canter.

The very first ride with my new trainer and she said she suspected he had some SI issues. I bought him a custom saddle as nothing second hand was working so saddle issues are not what we are dealing with.

I am pretty sure he has had issues with his SI for a few years as some very very minor arthritis came up on his hocks, probably caused by SI pain and not being in proper work before I bought him. I am looking into PEMF treatment for him (maybe), does anyone have any experience with it and does it work? Vitamin B12 injections were also suggested by my trainer for his back muscles. Anyone ever tried these? Overall injections kind of make me back off a bit.

Please share any experience or knowledge you have learned! I have a vet set up to look at him but would like to go ready with questions about any possible treatments if for no other reason than to learn about them and why they may or may not work.

His walk and trot seem fine even though he struggles to work through his back, but his canter is very hollow and inverted, rushing, switching leads, becoming disunited. I have not been cantering him because I do not have the ability to do so well considering how bad he can get in it, not his fault and thats why I am having the vet out, I just am not good enough to help him through it so I do walk/trot with him and we are happy until we can figure stuff out.

So anyway, I am looking to get him back in shape but the mystery issue is holding us back a bit. He is only 10 and really well built and has Grand Prix jumping bloodlines. I want to take him in the jumpers or an event or two for fun after his former career of fox hunting. I don’t want to “just make him comfortable” and cause damage to his joint just to jump the sticks. I am very injection wary because at my old barn they would inject everything just to keep it going.

I looked into PEMF because we did a blood test to eliminate EPM and Lyme and his inflammation numbers were high but not positive for either. He demonstrated sensitivity along muscle and not on spine along his back. The vet put pressure on his SI/hunters bump area and that was sensitive but the muscle around it was more sensitive. Hence, I looked into more muscular things like PEMF and massage (anyone tried Equilibrium, not gonna solve the problem but looked interesting).

I want to have some ideas before the vet appointment so I can ask my questions. I appreciate any and all responses!

It is not total quackery, at least in human medicine. See for a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled studies. So that at least makes it better than 75% of the crazy therapies or supplements that horse people use.

However, the research for the efficacy of PEMF in equines is pretty lacking. Often times treatments developed for humans either do not translate or translate poorly into horses. You’re right to be checking into it.

I’m glad you got your boy out of that situation.


I think that PEMF can help some horses and some conditions. My main problem with this treatment modality is that (in my area at least) the people who own and operate the machines are not very knowledgeable. They don’t know a ton about their machines and what they’re best used for and they have almost know idea about anatomy or function.

If possible, I would go with a veterinary driven treatment. Chiropractics, acupuncture, shockwave, are all things you could try before injectioning. Your vet may even have a good body worker they work with. There’s nothing wrong with injecting the SI, though. Depending on how old your horse is, his history, your goals, it may be the best thing to do.


I think the fact that anyone can buy a PEMF machine and start charging people makes me really skeptical.

My vet spent a lot of money in school learning how to treat horses.


Jumping in here to ask what are thoughts on Bemer blankets? I know someone who has had tangible success using one. I also know my daughter’s adores his Bemer time. That has to count for something right-if a therapy can lull them into a place of bliss?

As for the OP’s horse-first off, so sorry you were at a factory barn. Glad you got out. Second, I think I have read that there is a treatment similar to Pro Stride that works on SI’s but is cheaper. Anyone know what I am referring to?


It’s a biased opinion but I’ve heard Bemer blankets doesn’t as deep or aren’t as effective - not sure if it’s because it’s blanket based as opposed to movable tubes or just the technology - bare minimum, it doesn’t seem to hurt, so if he loves it, great?

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That’s the problem up here. A 1,000 times, this.


I looked into Bemer as well and apparently it is supposed to work like a PEMF but lesser so it can be used daily. I can’t seem to find a price for them so I wasn’t sure to consider it.

I was also considering Chiropractor. Back in May or June the old barn had theirs out for their horses and he did an evaluation for my horse and I think he adjusted his SI, or something like that. He charged $180 and the ride the day after was really good. But after that it was back to where he was before. Is it normal of it not to last?

I think it can be a nice session for horses that are muscle sore or stressed, but as others have said there isn’t enough research in horses to conclusively say it’s going to solve/help with serious medical issues.

There is someone who comes and does one of my trainer’s UL horses who is a windsucker and gets a very tight topline and neck from it. Acupuncture and PEMF helps this guy relax a lot. So, I had her do a session on my guy and yes, he liked it and was relaxed afterward, but I came out of it thinking it’s not something he needs or that has a lasting therapeutic effect.

I read something I came across randomly the other day where a vet who works with different modalities pointed out the idea that if you can see the muscles twitching with PEMF that means it’s working is actually an indication that the level is turned up too high, and (therefore) that the practitioner doesn’t understand the technology. The twitching is too much and can do damage over the long term. My horse was twitching a lot more on one side than the other and the person told me that was an indication he is more tight on that side or whatever. Given what I read, however, it seems more like it was just too intense for him on that side. :confused:

Other horses who have had PEMF either like it, but again, it’s just a nice relaxing session for them and not much else, or they were angry and tense afterward. One of them bucked off his owner after a session, which was the first and last time he’s ever done that! In retrospect I’d guess the level was turned up too high for those horses and it made them twitchy and uncomfortable.

For the most part I am open to trying new things, but this seems like an unresearched tool in the hands of people who don’t really understand it.

ETA: Bemer seems like another relaxation tool, but less potentially harmful because it’s less intense. I look on that stuff as I do my Back on Track items: for relaxation, warming up muscles, etc. When it’s cold I put the BoT sheet on my horse while tacking up because it is very effective in warming up his back. I use the BoT/Thinline Contender II pads, or arnica rub for the same reason, as a helpful tool for his back.


I have a TB mare with SI pain as well. Our barn has a PEMF blanket, and she really enjoys it. She will fall asleep with her lip hanging. However, it won’t solve the SI pain in the long term, or at least it didn’t for her. We had her SI and stifles injected and I had a pro work with her to carry herself better to get the majority of the pain resolved. She’s been a little sore from lack of turnout due to snow and mud and it does help with that, along with some Surpass, so I think there’s some value for maintenance once the majority of the pin is addressed—if you can access it without paying a fortune. It’s worth the small fee my barn charges because she enjoys it, but I don’t think I’d pay the going rate for a massage therapist to bring out one of these or for someone with a magna wave.

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“Injections” don’t have to be just injections into the joint. You may want to start with something like Adequan or Pentosan, especially if the horse has several areas of mild complaint. Pentosan made a difference with my older mare, until it didn’t and we had to go to actual hock injections for her.

Shoeing can also make a big difference for hocks and SI to be sure to consider that as well–if the old trainer had a one size fits all approach to training were they also using a farrier with a one size fits all approach to shoeing? You might need to make some changes there as well.


That’s good to know. I wish more information was more streamlined because I read another article saying they have used it in Europe for years, so forth and so on. I want something that will help my horse get more comfortable and more willing to work over his back and use those muscles.

What are Adequan and Pentosan, is it like an oral supplement? Also, the farrier is a good point. I will look into what the new farrier will do when he as them done at the new barn and talk to her about it. PS: Your profile pic is so cool. My Mum used to compete sidesaddle and it just looks so awesome!

Adequan and Pentosan are IM injected treatments prescribed through vets. Adequan is polyglycan, Pentosan is…pentosan. Both are very very common in treating/maintaining sport horses. Usually a loading dose, then once a month there after for maintenance.

I’d definitely ask the vet and new farrier about the horse’s hind shoeing angles and the shape of the foot.

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Really shocked to see not everyone buys into this stuff hook line and sinker because out in the real world I often feel like the ONLY person who cares whether there’s actual science to back things like this up!


Chiropractic adjustments often need to be repeated every few weeks or so in the beginning, as a horse learns to use himself differently. That price seems fair. You could do 2 or 3 adjustments for the cost of one injection or a bottle of Adequan.




looks good, thanks for sharing! I will definitely read this!

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Please get an examination and advice from a vet before you start any treatments.
You don’t know what is causing your horse’s back pain and you can do more harm than good until you have a proper diagnosis (not to mention waste a lot of money.)