Homoeopathics to Alleviate Pain In Equines
This is a topic with a huge scope of application from a multitude of homoeopathic remedies. Looking at a number of your own or your family's experiences, with the many ways that they may have encountered pain, will be akin to how many different remedies may suit a given type of situation that elicits pain. Most remedies in the Materia Medica will have some element of how pain may manifest within their symptom profiles, and they will all have many and varied expressions of pain.
The word pain is derived from the Latin word 'poena' which means punishment. Pain can be felt as a disagreeable sensation of suffering either bodily or mentally. At the physical level it can be the result of a disease manifestation, deteriorative disorder, an inflammatory process, an injury, rapid growth rate, a surgical operation, etc. Emotional pain can result from high stress, the loss of a loved one, abuse, resentment, fear, depression, etc.
Pain is a subjective feeling and an individual response to the cause. It may be mild or severe, gradual or rapid, acute or chronic, precisely or poorly localised, or referred (pain felt elsewhere other than the site of the cause). There are many ways to describe the sensation of physical pain. Some examples are: aching, burning, lancinating or sharp, dull, bursting, stinging, blinding, throbbing, sore, bruised, drawing, excruciating, gnawing, tearing, stabbing, shooting, stitching, pricking, tingling, neuralgic, spasmodic, paroxysmal, and the list goes on.
In the equine it is not possible to extract information accurately as to how the pain is felt. Consequently, we need to be careful about how we assume the individual is experiencing pain when fathoming out which is an appropriate remedy choice for treatment. This is one of the times when homoeopathy is generalised in its approach to remedy selection. It is more likely that broad terms such as general pain, sore pain, bruised pain, and aching will be used rather than the symptoms that fully describe a sensation and its effect, and where the pain might extend to, that we would normally be able to seek from a human patient.
Lacking these useful guiding symptoms the remedies considered will tend to be more of a specific nature to the complaint, region or organ affected. The following remedies listed are some of those most commonly used to mitigate pain in the horse. While these remedies are indicated for pain, they are not limited to painful situations, nor is pain limited to these remedies. As this is by no means a fully comprehensive listing I would advise that you further consult your Materia Medica for other possibilities and a full symptom profile. Should these remedies not be seen to give assistance, then the experience and understanding of a professional homoeopath should be enlisted to find a closer, more effective match. They are not intended as a replacement for the advice of your veterinarian! Under any worrisome or serious circumstances never delay to call your veterinarian for help.
Aconite - 'Tension' gives the best idea of the action and sphere of this remedy. Mental/emotional tension, as shown in fright or fear and anxiety. Tension of the systemic vessels, as in the effects of a chill or haemorrhage. Muscular tension, as in tetanus. Tension of involuntary muscles such as heart spasms. Tension of the semi-involuntary muscular apparatus of respiration and tension of the special senses in heightened sensation and heightened sensitiveness to pain. The key to this remedy is the suddenness of its ailments. They are violent and painful with a great fear of death. Restlessness, tossing, flushing and/or palpitation accompany a host of acute inflammatory complaints. Ailments often arise from exposure to cold, dry wind or after shock or fear. It is frequently used alternated with Belladonna for flare-ups of chronic complaints where there is anxiety, suddenness of symptoms, violence of symptoms, fever, bounding pulse, shining eyes, or when this happened after cold, dry winds, e.g. laminitis, or sudden onset colic. The horse is worsened by extreme hot or cold surroundings. Pain may be more evident during the night and the horse will try to avoid lying on painful areas. Please note that Aconite may only be helpful when a condition is caught early, in its first stage of development such as the beginning signs of a respiratory complaint.
Arnica - This is a leading remedy for bruising, shock, accident or trauma of any kind. It is useful for reducing the pain and swelling that accompany any new injury, and should be taken as soon as possible after one occurs. It aids in reducing blood loss, encourages reabsorption of blood from bruised tissues, and encourages healing of wounds. Some examples to think of are pre and post surgical and dental procedures to minimise pain, bruising and haemorrhage, stone bruises, over-used muscles and cramps, for a mare and foal that have had a traumatic labour to speed recovery, and for blows to the head or body. The horse is expected to feel bruised, aching, and sore with restlessness and discomfort. Sites of pain will be sensitive to touch. The horse may be emotionally sensitive to touch and wish to pull away and retreat from you, or avoid your approach. According to the severity of a situation Arnica may be used for several days while pain and soreness are prominent. Another remedy may be indicated later, to encourage further healing.
Apis mel - Oedema is the most prominent symptom of this remedy. It is very useful when its especial manifestation occurs after the stings of insects, punctured wounds, dissecting wounds and operations. In the injured part the skin becomes inflamed with puffy swelling and is very sensitive to touch. The horse likely feels a stinging pain in the affected part. There is often a lack of thirst as there is retention of bodily fluids. Its timely use will alleviate painful stocked up legs, serous effusion, pitting oedemas, swellings around the eyes, swollen sheaths, joint/bursal and musculoskeletal inflammations where there is the characteristic heat and swelling. Keep on hand for allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock. Affected areas are better for uncovering and cold hosing.
Belladonna - This remedy is similar to Aconite in its sudden and violent onset with throbbing and pulsating pains, dilated shining pupils, and inflammations, but it produces more redness, burning and heat or fevers with violent mental symptoms such as striking, biting, and kicking. There is extreme sensitiveness to pain with the consequent symptoms of the horse being averse to touch, jarring, light and noise. Keep handy for sudden acutes such as painful, inflamed joints, sudden laminitis with bounding digital pulse (alternate with Aconite), a sudden violent fever, distressing episode of colic as it first kicks in, and newly developed eye pain (if cold dry wind aggravates or was the cause, then alternate with Aconite). Some complaints may be right-sided, e.g. an inflammation of the right eye, or be seen to appear after a hair clip or wash. The horse may seek comfort in leaning his head against something.
Bryonia - When a horse is in so much pain that he resists the slightest movement then think of this remedy. It is suitable for muscle, bone and joint pain, acute rheumatic affections, constipation that results from travelling away from home, gradual onset of flu (not the rapid development of Belladonna), pleurisy, bronchitis, and pneumonia with a hard, painful cough. You will frequently see a marked thirst for large, cold drinks at long intervals due to the dryness of mucous membranes. Naturally the horse is worse for any motion. He can also be worse in the evening or morning, after rising from a lying position, and after eating. An interesting feature of this remedy is that the horse will desire to lie on the affected side, e.g. if he has pleurisy in the left lung he will lie on his left side in order to create pressure to the affected region and restrict movement. As you could expect, a Bryonia horse will appreciate bandaging of painful limbs.
Cantharis - This is a frequently used remedy for uncomfortable urinary inflammations and infections such as cystitis or nephritis (also Apis mel, a complementary remedy to Cantharis). There may be burning and smarting on passing urine, haematuria (blood in the urine), and the flow can be scanty. As burning pains are an indication for this remedy you will also find it useful for sunburn, and nasty burns or scalds of second or third degree. It will assist in preventing blister formation (when blisters are already forming use Causticum) and helps relieve the burning pain of a 'blister beetle attack' in the mouth. The patient will respond appreciatively to cold applications.
Causticum - Most suited to raw and burning pains hence another remedy to address severe 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The Causticum horse will be acting more dejectedly than the Cantharis horse who tends to be more restless. Symptoms of illness can develop slowly and insidiously following a period of stress leading to a general state of debility and growing exhaustion. Pains are characteristically raw, burning, cramping, contracting, and paralytic, and occur anywhere in the body. It is quite specific to contracted tendons and leg stiffness. Think of it also in facial nerve paralysis, or bladder paralysis. This horse may be wary and irritable in nature especially while ill. The Causticum patient has an intense sympathy for the sufferings of others and a hatred of injustice. An example of this may be seen in a horse that lives nearby an abattoir who has developed a suspicious and irritable disposition while being off colour with a chronic ulcerated sore of the coronet band.
Chamomilla - The Chamomilla horse is over-excitable and oversensitive. You will need this remedy if the horse can't handle the pain and is in a frenzy. A good example is a young foal that is irritable, colicky, distressed, and sweating from pain. Teething pains, especially when there is also diarrhoea, will take good effect to this remedy. Diarrhoea that is very green, like spinach, is another characteristic. Please note that it may be contraindicated to give Chamomilla to a patient that is constipated. When the mare appears to be cross during cramping labour pains and doesn't want people near give her a few doses of this remedy. Ensure she has ample water as these horses get very hot and thirsty. Beware of reprimanding the sensitive Chamomilla horse as this can lead to further ailments. They fear the wind, are worse for anger, and symptoms are often worse at night. They are better when gently distracted.
Coffea cruda - Acts strongly on the nervous system (like Chamomilla). These horses are very active both mentally and physically, highly alert and quick to act. They tend to be over-excitable and oversensitive, especially to touch and noise. They are seldom seen to rest. They have acute senses and pain is almost insupportable to them. They will be very restless with the pain, often tossing about in agony. Use for painful toothaches especially when relief is provided by cold applications. Chamomilla is also good for tooth pain but the horse will find a warm application aggravating and does not find relief from cold applications as does Coffea. For inflammatory conditions where you see the nervous sensibility of the horse while also displaying fever symptoms it can be useful to alternate Coffea with the remedy Aconite. Colic with excessive pain, pains that may threaten abortion in the mare, severe labour pains, or foaling afterpains may all be helped by this remedy. When the horse is emotionally overwhelmed by sudden surprises, a sudden parting with a companion, severe fright, noises, or strong aromas he will find this remedy helpful. You will do well to remember Coffea for pains anywhere that appear intolerable when there are few leading symptoms.
*Please note that Coffea is a remedy that is
often an effective antidote to the undesired effects of another
Consult your Materia Medica to check that it won't act as an antidote to a remedy already in use that is working well.
Colocynthis - This remedy is my first choice for episodes of colic pain, particularly when the cause is unknown. The horse is restless with the pain and wants to lie down. Pain can be sudden, violent, and cramping making the horse want to bend over double (seen by a hunched over appearance). The pain of Colocynthis is twisting, contracting and distorting with neuralgic paroxysmal pains that can be likened to what the horse will be feeling from acute digestive affections. The pain may improve after passing stools or flatus. This remedy can also be helpful in pains of the small joints and hips, 'as if dislocated', e.g. slipping stifles. The symptoms may be worse in damp or cold weather. The Colocynthis horse may be irritable and indignant.
Hepar sulph - Has a strong characteristic of hypersensitiveness to pain, touch and cold air. Some remedies are worse for light touch but can endure pressure, not so for Hepar sulph. Hepar sulph cannot stand touch of any kind. It is a major remedy for abscesses, swollen glands and painful inflammatory conditions such as infected sinus, strangles and large suppurating wounds. High potencies (200c and above) promote resolution of the condition before pus has formed and consequently can abort the remainder of the inflammatory process, while low potencies (30c and under) encourage expulsion of purulent matter when it is near to being formed, or already formed. The weepy, purulent nature of greasy heel often responds to this remedy. The sensitivity of the Hepar sulph horse is not restricted to the physical, he may be irritable and aggressive, and is sensitive to cold draughts.
Hypericum - It is known as the "Arnica of the nerves". Specific to trauma of nerve abundant areas, especially in spinal concussion, injury to coccyx, and in traumas to the tips of fingers, toes and nails (i.e. injuries of the hoof or coronet band). The pains are violent, shooting, lancinating, and highly sensitive to touch with puncture wounds being the most delicate. The pain can seem more severe than the extent of the injury would seem to merit. A must for any nerve related injury or condition such as: bites from animals, neuralgia, insect stings, pains in scar tissue, head injuries leading to convulsions, back pain, crushed parts, deep lacerations, post surgery or dental work, eye injury, numbness, burns, etc. It acts as tetanus prevention before an injury may occur, or as immediate treatment in the event of an injury (usually alternated with Ledum, Ledum first followed by Hypericum).
Ledum - A remedy also specific to puncture wounds. Pains are characteristically sharp and stabbing but can also be bruised and aching. They shift about, often moving from lower limbs to upper areas of the body. Affected areas become swollen and taut, sometimes with fluid retention. Skin tends to become septic very easily and quickly and has an unusual characteristic symptom of being painful, stiff, and chilly while being soothed by cool bathing or cold compresses. There can be a bluish discolouration of the skin. Think of Ledum for insect stings, boils, sprains and strains, black eyes, and tetanus prevention or treatment. The Ledum patient can be withdrawn, cross and irritable. He is worse for warmth and walking, and better for contact with cool air.
Mag phos - An important pain remedy that covers a great variety of pains. They are sharp, cutting, piercing, stabbing, knife-like, shooting, stitching, and lightning-like in coming and going (Belladonna has this too), intermittent, the paroxysms becoming almost intolerable, often rapidly changing place, and cramping. Cramping is the most significant symptom and is commonly found in the stomach, abdomen and pelvis. For colic in youngsters it ranks with Chamomilla and Colocynthis. Abdominal pain compels walking about which improves the condition. Crampy pains that are accompanied by the characteristic modality (something that makes the patient better or worse), better from hot applications, make for a good indication to use this remedy. Involuntary twitchings, muscle spasms, cramps, and radiating pains may also render it useful in tetanus-like symptoms. Think also of arthritis when the symptoms fit. The Mag phos horse may have an appealing look for sympathy.
Rhus tox - A largely used remedy for muscle pain with stiffness and bone soreness especially when accompanied by the modality, 'worse at the beginning of motion but improves with continued motion', i.e. warming up. Its suitability for inflammation and swelling of long bones renders it as one of the remedies useful for shin soreness. There is also soreness of prominent projections of bones. Consider it for arthritis when worse in cold, wet weather or before a storm, rheumatism, tendonitis, shin splints, and muscle fatigue. An uncomfortable outbreak of poison ivy, or oak poisoning, causing vesicular, red, intensely itchy and burning eruptions that are worse at night and better for hot bathing can be addressed by this remedy. Effects can be seen more often on the right side than the left. The horse is restless and wants to change position all the time.
Ruta grav - A specific remedy for sprains, injuries of overuse, and damage to periosteum of bone. Main affected areas are the tarsal or carpal joints. Alternated with Symphytum it relieves pain and aids formation of a bony callus after fractures. Parts of the body are painful as if bruised with soreness, aching, and restlessness. It is useful for most cartilage, muscle, tendon/ligament, and connective tissue ailments. Think of Ruta grav for neck strains, frozen shoulder, overzealous exercise, damaged tendon sheaths, dislocations, fibromyalgia, rheumatism, etc. Pain can be produced on bending the joints with occasional cracking of joints too. Though the horse is better for motion he is easily tired from physical exertion and finds it difficult to climb up and down hills. The horse may have an increased thirst for cold water and drink much and often. The Ruta grav horse benefits from a good rub or massage.
Staphysagria - Frequently indicated in injuries due to sharp, cutting instruments, e.g. a well-defined laceration. An excellent remedy for post-surgical pain, especially when of abdominal origin. Emotionally, the patient may feel indignant and angry to the invasive process of the operation but tends not to openly display it and may act as if humiliated. Having an affinity to the genito-urinary tract, this remedy is often employed in cystitis and is quite specific to inflammation caused by catheterisation. Also applies to problems for the maiden mare after her first serving, or when done by artificial insemination. The patient is generally better after breakfast, warmth, and rest at night.
Symphytum - A principle remedy for bone and cartilage injuries with excessive pain. A number one remedy for blunt trauma injuries, especially those to the eyes with great pain in the eyeball, or retinal bleeding. It is the most commonly used remedy for fractures and bone ailments slow to repair. It favours production of a callus. Consider it for any inflammation of bone, bone cancer, stone bruises, periosteum damage, cartilage damage e.g. OCD, phantom limb pain, torn ligaments or tendons, penetrating wounds to bone, prickling and sticking pains at the site of old wounds. May sometimes be useful in low potency for treating gastric or duodenal ulcers.
Urtica urens - A remedy used for burns of a less serious nature such as mild sunburn, or urine scalding. Pains are characteristically burning, prickly and stinging. These sensations will also be encountered with the itchiness of urticaria (hives or nettle rash) and insect stings. It is similar to Apis mel in this department but Apis has more pronounced oedema and the sensitivity does not invite the rubbing and scratching to the degree that is so desired by the Urtica horse. Regions may develop a blotchy appearance and form a panorama (general survey of a region) that are often found around the tail and anus, or areas such as the udder of a mare or the sheath/scrotum of a gelding/stallion. For the mare that is going to have her foal weaned this remedy can assist a painful, swollen udder and encourage drying up. Please note that a low potency (30c and under) must be used to dry up the mare as a high potency (200c and higher) has the ability to restore milk flow! It is frequently useful for the elimination of uric acid deposits in nephritis.
Remedies for pain can be very useful for acute situations. Chronic cases of pain can come into an entirely different sphere of remedies because a constitutional remedy will be prescribed on a larger totality than when directing remedies more specifically at pain relief alone. A full constitutional case may call for any one of a huge number of remedies not considered in this article's pain-orientated listing of remedies. For either situation, matching the remedy to the symptom picture is the way to choose the appropriate remedy, as is always the way with homeopathy.
This article is for educational purposes only and in no way replaces veterinary advice or treatment. Always call your veterinarian when serious events arise. If you desire to follow a holistic path then I would recommend that you obtain approval from your veterinarian to seek the professional services of a qualified classical homoeopath or other certified holistic health practitioner.
About the author:
For more information, and to find a homoeopath near you:
Tanya Nolte, Classical EquiHomoeopath.
Whispering Horse Therapies
PO Box 22, Nimbin
NSW 2480. Australia
Phone 0266 897296
Australian Homoeopathic Association
PO Box 396 Drummoyne
NSW 1470. Australia
Phone 0297 192763
Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia
PO Box 202, Ormond, Melbourne
Vic 3204. Australia
Phone 0359 688100
The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
751 N.E. 168th Street
North Miami Beach, FL 33162-2427
National Center for Homeopathy
801 North Fairfax St., Suite 306
Alexandria, VA 22314
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
2214 Old Emmorton Road
Bel Air, MD 21015