Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines

Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines is Santa Barbara's only free standing, full service animal rehabilitation facility led by certified professionals. In June of 2017, Karen Atlas, MPT, PT, CCRT, teamed up with Dr. Bill Otto, DVM, to open ARC and offer physical rehabilitation services to pets. ARC is fully equipped with the latest underwater treadmill, cold laser therapy (class 3b), therapeutic ultrasound, Alpha-Stimulation (CES and MET), pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF), electrical stimulation (NMES and TENS), as well as innovative land based exercise equipment.

Radial Shockwave therapy 


Radial shockwave is a pressure wave system. The transmitter contains a small metal bullet that gets rapidly forced against the transmitter, creating a pressure wave that transmits into the tissue that the transmitter is pressed against. The end result is a stimulus that increases blood flow to the affected area which can help stimulate healing and pain relief and cause the release of growth factors and recruitment of stem cells. Most animals feel good after treatment. Occasionally, they are a little stiff immediately after application, but it is usually short lived and resolves with movement.


Conditions that can benefit from radial shockwave therapy:

  • Subacute or chronic soft tissue injuries such as tendinopathies, muscle strains/sprains, and ligament strains/sprains

  • Myofascial pain therapy

  • Calcific lesions

  • Subacute/chronic joint pathologies such as osteoarthritis, meniscal injuries and labral tears

  • Muscle and connective tissue activation

  • Tendon attachment site and ligament illnesses

  • Delayed union/non-union fractures (most effective when the bone has reached the stage of callus formation)

  • Stress fractures

  • Lumbosacral disc disease

  • Avascular necrosis

  • “Mechanical back pain”

  • Neurogenic muscular spasticity and hypertonia


Potential side effects

Side effects from radial shockwave therapy are uncommon, but can occur. These include:

  • Swelling, reddening, hematomas

  • Petechiae

  • Pain

*If your pet experiences any of these side effects, they will generally abate after 5 to 10 days.


How does radial shockwave therapy work?

The device is a compressed air-operated ballistic shock wave generator. The shock waves in the device are generated with a precision ballistic mechanism in the handpiece. A projectile is accelerated by compressed air and the motion and weight of this projectile produces kinetic energy. When the projectile impacts against an immovable surface, the shock transmitter, this kinetic energy is converted into sound energy. This acoustic pulse is transmitted into the tissue to directly via the hand-held transmitter.

These waves are physically classified as radial pressure waves. The applied pressure pulse propagates radially within the tissue and has a therapeutic effect on areas of the tissue near the surface, in particular. The primary result is a high-energy acoustic wave directly impacting the target tissue, provoking the body’s healing and repair processes.

Pain Relief: Shockwave relieves pain via the Gate Control Theory of Pain. Pain is transmitted from a location within the body via signals in the nervous system. The Gate Control Theory of Pain refers to “nerve gates” in the spinal cord that can open or close. If these gates are open, the pain signals will continue to travel to the brain. If these gates are closed, the pain signals are prevented from reaching the brain, resulting in suppressed pain. Radial Shockwave closes these gates resulting in greatly reduced pain, and at times, eliminates pain all together.

Cavitation: Similar to therapeutic ultrasound, radial shockwave therapy causes cavitation within tissues. Cavitation is the rapid formation, expansion, and forceful collapse of vapor bubbles in liquids (or in this case tissues).  There are 2 types of cavitation: stable and unstable. Stable cavitation occurs with radial shockwave therapy. The gas bubbles within the tissues cause a cavity, which acts to enhance the acoustic streaming effects of the kinectic energy waves. Acoustic streaming can alter cellular diffusion rates and membrane permeability. The end result is increased cellular activity.

While the mechanism for the effects of radial shockwave are still being studied, the most strongly established treatment effects are: mechanical stimulation, increased local blood flow, increased in cellular activity (release of substance P, prostaglandin E2, NO, TGF β, VEGF, and other inflammatory cytokines), transient effect on afferent nerves, and break down calcific deposits. When used on a chronic injury, these physiological effects will essentially re-start the healing process by taking the injured tissue from the chronic state to a more acute state.


Is radial shockwave therapy painful?

Generally no. The pressure system feels similar to an intense massage. If the area that is being treated is particularly painful, the treatment may be uncomfortable. We want your pet to have a positive experience with treatment and make sure to keep everything within his or her tolerance levels. If your pet seems uncomfortable at any time, we will either decrease the intensity of the treatment or may stop the session if he or she simply is not tolerating it.


What does radial shockwave therapy sound like?

There is a small projectile within the handle of the radial shockwave system which rapidly bounces back and forth creating the actual “pressure waves”. During treatment, you will hear a rapid knocking sound. This sound can be intimidating for some pets. For this reason, we will always begin your pet’s first session by acclimating him/her to the sound of the machine. In some cases, if your pet is very sound sensitive, it may take 2-3 sessions of acclimation prior to applying the treatment in order to ensure that he or she continues to have a positive experience.