Care of Your Equine Athlete

People often make comments to me like “You must have really strong hands” or “Your arms must have big muscles”, but Trigger Point Therapy, Myofascial Release, Stress Point Therapy are all fairly gentle practices. Accuracy, through knowledge of anatomy, reduces the need for brute strength.  The massage is deep, with firm pressure, stimulating endorphins, and the horse often helps me by leaning into my hands.

Trigger Point therapy targets areas of stress where muscle attaches to bone. The treatment specifically targets areas of constriction that refer pain signals to other parts of the body. Myofascial release is related to trigger point therapy, but focuses on tightness , or other disorders afflicting the fascia, a membrane that surrounds the muscles and may restrict their motion.  What makes my work so exciting is that I can switch methods as I move around the horse, using what is needed for each area of the body. 

All animals need to have their bodies in balance to live long and active lives. For show horses it makes the difference between winning and being withdrawn from the competition Tight muscles can affect  posture, and poor posture can cause spinal misalignments. The reverse is also true — spinal alignments can lead to muscle strain. 

Massage therapy should also be part of the process of rehabilitating from injuries, regaining lost range of motion, or coping with chronic pain conditions.  Body work for your horse can produce dramatic results in a short period of time: one of the many reasons it is so exciting for me to go to work!

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Help Your Pets Without Drugs

 Low Level Laser Therapy causes tissues to heal faster – muscle, skin and nerve – 66 percent faster, according to an FDA study. The study took 100 patients complaining of neck and shoulder pain. Half were treated with a useless red light (placebo group) similar to that on a computer mouse or grocery check-out, and the other half received LLLT. The treatment group beat the placebo group by 66 percent! That’s 66 percent faster and more complete relief – a remarkable margin. Similar studies have been passed by the FDA for carpal tunnel, wounds, and scar tissue.

Laser therapy is a non-toxic alternative to drugs. Animals with arthritis, skin conditions, injuries, and post surgical wounds can be safely treated with the cold laser. By avoiding over-use of medications, animals (and humans) will have more energy as they heal.  There are no risks to this treatment, which is why I use it so much with my clients.

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My Detective Work

I often say that doing body work on animals is detective work.  I get a medical history from the owner, but not from the client himself.  The horse or dog can’t point out where they might be feeling pain, so I have to tune in to all their subtle signals (and you would be amazed how stoic some animals can be!).

About 75% of trigger points are not where the pain is, so a thorough knowledge of anatomy, stress, and trigger points is essential.  I worked on a young mare that was expressing discomfort in her neck. She tossed her head a lot, especially during transitions. When her rider picked up the reins, she curled her nose to her chest. She was showing discomfort, but after examining her, I found her pelvis was very uneven. Her right pelvic crest (what some people might call the hip) was a good two inches higher than the left. It took three adjustments during the session to finally get her body level, but she was very focused on helping during the work. She walked off showing a fluid movement that we had not seen before, and she kept stretching her neck out.  Reports from the rider have been very positive: the mare continues to improve, stretch, move forward, and seek contact.

Trigger point referral patterns from multiple trigger points can overlap, causing a composite referral pattern. This has been the case with the young and green mare. As one problem gets resolved, it leads me to the next. Instead of resorting to gadgets to fix her head tossing, the wise owner had an inkling that the mare was feeling pain.  If I only work on the area where the pain is presenting, there will not be relief.

This mare is competing very well at her first show as I write this. I will continue to help her keep her body balanced and pain free. I’m expecting great things from this wonderful athlete who just needed a little help to take off!

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Myofascial Release and Breast Health

The following is excerpted from an article by Dr. Carol Davis:

New information reported by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, (Ann.Rev.Cell Biol. 2006,22:287-309) University of California, San Francisco,(J.Cell Physiol 227, 1553-1560) and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, (J.Bio.Chem 288(18)2013: 12722-12732;May 2013) among other prestigious universities, sheds important information on what happens when normal breast tissue becomes a cancer tumor. This new information, coupled with an understanding of how we can positively change breast tissue with our hands, directs us to an improved practice of self breast examination.

Research findings presented in December, 2012, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology in San Francisco, reported that, for the first time, science has shown how “mechanical forces alone can revert and stop the out-of-control growth of cancer cells…even though the genetic mutations responsible for the malignancy remain.” (Science Daily, 17 December, 2012)

Breast cancer researcher and Distinguished Scientist, Mina Bissell, showed from her studies at Berkeley that mammary tumor cells, when placed within normal growth medium, will continue to grow into a larger tumor. However, when she and her team manipulated the surrounding environment of the tumor cells in the petri dish by growing the tumor cells in a “gelatin –like substance that had been injected into flexible silicone chambers,” the compressed tumor cells reverted back to normal. This petri dish growth medium mimicked the extracelluar matrix of healthy, mobile breast fascia which surrounds every breast cell. It turns out that the malignant cells had not “forgotten how to be healthy; they just needed the right cues (from the environment) to guide them back into a healthy growth pattern.” In sum, a breast cancer tumor is not “doomed to become a malignant tumor, but its fate is dependent on its surrounding environment,” or the fascia. The fascia has to be mobile and flexible (like silicon) and allow space enough for the cells to organize themselves in relation to one another, and to bio-chemically communicate with each other.

What is fascia? Another name for “connective tissue,” fascia is a living spider web-like tissue that is the environment of every one of our 50-75 trillion cells. Not only does it surround and separate cells, organs and our muscles from each other, all our cells are embedded within this tissue – our brains, our muscles, our hearts and stomachs, and, yes, our breasts.

And this fascia tissue goes from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet in one continuous web that helps hold us all together structurally. Over time, the Jello-like ground substance dehydrates and becomes stiffer, less web-like and more “pancake” like, or even rope-like, sticking together to form rigid fascial restrictions. These fascial restrictions interfere with cells being able to communicate with one another and organize themselves into a normal pattern. Fascial restrictions can also congeal around fluid and form cysts and fibroid type tumors that press on pain sensitive structures and cause symptoms throughout the body. Many women feel these fibroid cysts every month when they do their self beast examination, and have been told that fibrous breasts are more likely to show tumor growth than non – fibrous breasts.

With this new information, we now can glimpse how we might contribute to the health of our breasts, and hopefully reduce the likelihood that normal breast cells will transform into tumor cells. 

Videos to show you how to protect your breasts with myofascial release:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWRuS9xAbMo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4QrvlwtBOU

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Benefits of Low Level Laser Therapy

Clinical and experimental studies have provided evidence that lasers can increase nerve function, reduce the formation of wounds, increase the metabolic activity of neurons, and enhance myelin production (Bagis et al., 2002). The non-invasive nature of laser photo therapy enables treatment without surgical intervention. Low level laser therapy began to be used in the regeneration and functional recuperation process of peripheral nerves in the 1970s. 

Many doctors dismiss cold laser therapy as quackery, which is one of the reasons I have used it so much on myself, family, and friends before I used it on animals that can’t give me verbal feedback. One friend said it did little for her carpal tunnel pain, and went ahead and had surgery. Everyone else reported moderate to complete relief.  On myself, it sometimes takes 7-10 sessions for pain to be gone from an injury that has caused chronic pain.

Low Level laser therapy has been used for at least 30 years for pain reduction and tissue repair. There is strong evidence it works and new research is constantly being conducted to refine it. 

It works by blocking pain fibers and slowing the transmission of pain messages. This pain blockade allows for a reduction in inflammation and for tissue regeneration. 

In one way, LLLT acts like a local anesthetic and reduces pain signals going to the brain. After several treatments the nerves in the affected area become less irritable and pain lessens, allowing muscles to relax and healing to take place.

While some conditions are curable, some need ongoing maintenance and people need to return for a treatment every three months. While not everyone responds to the cold laser,  it is used to treat a variety of conditions including neck and back pain, acute and chronic pain, migraine, wounds, arthritic pain, fibromyalgia and lymphedema.

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Extend The Career of Your Equine Athlete

Many riders tell me their horse feels off when they first get on, but works out of it. In some cases, this could be the sign of something serious needing further investigation.  Soreness can disappear as the horse warms up, and then reappear a few hours after the work out. The reason is that soft tissue injuries almost always cause more pain when they are cold, because that is when the muscles are tightest. As the muscles warm up, they stretch out and send fewer pain signals.  After the work out, all the soft tissue cools down and tightens again, often adding a few more muscle fibers to the tight area. You can see how, over time, this scenario can turn into more pain and escalate into an injury requiring a long lay-up.

Just because an injured area feels better after it warms up doesn’t mean that everything is okay. Stiffness and pain mean something, especially if they create a pattern over time. That is not to say that all muscle soreness is bad. Some aches are inevitable in becoming fit.

Sports massage for your horse can help ease soreness and pinpoint areas that are prone to tightness. Massage is helpful both before and after (after the horse has cooled down; I never massage right after a workout) exercise.

Massage therapy benefits the body in ways that most warm-up routines fail to do. Over time, select muscles may tighten and shorten. This greatly endangers the body, and unfortunately, an athlete is rarely aware of it until after an injury has occurred. A further benefit of regular sessions is that oxygen flow is naturally improved, which creates healthier conditions for muscles, optimizing body tissue. Increasing the flexibility in soft tissue can greatly reduce the incidence of injury.

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Benefits of Myofascial Manipulation

Fascia is still a medical mystery. In October, 2007, more than 100 scientists from around the world convened in Boston, Massachusetts to discuss the latest research on fascia: an enigmatic, gauze-like matrix of connective tissue that envelopes the muscles, surrounds the nerves and swathes the organs in a body-wide-web of fibrous collagen. But the researchers had some unlikely company. Also in attendance, and outnumbering researchers 5:1, was a group of alternative-medicine practitioners with a mutual interest in fascia. United by their fascination with this medically neglected tissue, the two camps comprised the attendees of the first-ever International Fascia Research Congress.

Ida Rolf , the founder of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, described her work on organizing the body as this:  Rolfing works on the web-like network of connective tissues, called fascia, to release, realign, and balance the whole body, potentially resolving discomfort, reducing compensations and alleviating pain.”

For decades, anatomical dissections and representations have presented the body as stripped of its fascial tissues, and the majority of physiology textbooks make little mention of it. “Most scientists,” says Wallace Sampson, alternative medicine skeptic and professor emeritus at Stanford University, “even those wary of alternative therapies, admit that the field of fascia research is a field of neglect, and remains sorely under-investigated.”

The basic concepts of myofascial release are these:

1. The body functions as a total biologic unit

2. The body possesses self-healing and self-regulatory mechanisms

3. Structure and function are interrelated, and

4. Abnormal pressure in one part of the body produces abnormal pressures and strains upon other parts of the body.

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New Applications for Cold Laser Therapy

Almost every day, there are new and exciting announcements on ways that low level laser therapy can help keep us and our animals healthy.  The following is from Valerie C. Coffey, Science Writer:

It started with mouse hairs. In 1967, Dr. Endre Mester of Semmelweis Medical University in Budapest, Hungary, recognized that a low-power ruby laser could stimulate faster hair regrowth in mice. Since then, lasers have increasingly become an important instrument in the physician’s toolbox. 

Today, research is advancing toward the use of lasers to diagnose and treat a plethora of conditions. Recent rapid technological developments in lasers have contributed to their safe and effective use in surgical settings, aesthetic treatments, ophthalmology, oncology, cardiology and many other biomedical applications, including veterinary settings. 

Lasers’ efficiency, safety and precision are the drivers behind this growth. In surgical applications, medical lasers are more precise than conventional surgical scalpels, and therefore cause less damage to surrounding tissue. Although systems are expensive and operators of medical lasers require special training, the advantages of reduced pain, bleeding, swelling and scarring are compelling enough to justify their widespread adoption. 

Much current cutting-edge research is focused on biophysical and physiological studies at the molecular and cellular level, and on lasers’ effects on whole organisms. A group at the University of Texas at Arlington, led by assistant professor of physics Dr. Samarendra Mohanty, has used low-power near-IR lasers and crystalline magnetic carbon nanoparticles (CNPs) to perform photothermal delivery of impermeable dyes and plasmids (self-replicating DNA molecules) into live human prostate cancer (PC3) cells (Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038/srep05106). The noninvasive technique involves directing a CW Ti:sapphire laser at 800 nm toward the cancer cells in the presence of plasmids and CNPs measuring 5-10 nm. The heat causes the CNPs to stretch the cell membranes and increase fluid flow to allow exogenous substances (plasmids, for example, or an agent that kills the cancer) to be delivered.

Laser therapy is one of several emerging medical and veterinary techniques using high-intensity light to stimulate cellular function in tissue, or to shrink and destroy tumors and precancerous growths. Doctors can direct laser therapy on the surface of a body, or use it to reach where conventional surgical techniques can’t, via a flexible fiber optic endoscope inserted through the mouth, nose, colon or vagina.

Photodynamic therapy is another laser therapy approach that activates an applied photosensitive agent that kills only the cancer cells.

Recent medical research theorizes that the mechanism of low-level laser therapy is primarily via the absorption of light within mitochondria, the numerous “power plants” within cells that convert the oxygen and pyruvate from food into cellular energy via adenosine triphosphate (ATP). As it happens, cytochrome C oxidase, a critical protein involved in the regulation of mitochondrial activity, is a photoacceptor of light in the near- to far-IR. At the cellular level, LLLT displaces nitric oxide from the respiratory chain to increase levels of ATP and reactive oxygen species. The deep-tissue application of laser or LED devices in LLLT techniques may work via this mitochondrial mechanism to promote tissue repair, reduce inflammation and induce analgesia, according to James Carroll, medical researcher, and founder and CEO of Thor Photomedicine in Chesham, England

In 2012, researchers at the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London applied LLLT to eye disease. Researcher Dr. Rana Begum and colleagues found that when the retinas of aged mice were exposed to five 90-s exposures of 670-nm light over 35 hours, key inflammatory markers in the mitochondrial membrane were significantly reduced (Neurobiology of Aging).  The hope is that, someday, the noninvasive approach may help to slow the progression of dry age-related macular degeneration, according to founder and CEO Clark Tedford.

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What is the Secret to Horse Show Success?

The number one cause of injury is overuse: working too much, too fast, too soon, or too often. As riders, it is a huge responsibility to protect your horse from these training errors.  It is tempting to overdo it when there are shows you want to go to, or if you have a young and talented horse. There is a limit to how much training the body can absorb. Rest and recovery are as important as hard work.  Realigning the body with massage therapy is another key to preventing injuries.  Flexibility is an important indicator in the prevention of injuries. The horses I know that avoid injuries and are at the top of the leader board  are the ones who are on a carefully planned fitness program, have superior nutrition, regular body work, are ridden on good footing, and have knowledgeable farriers.

Pain is a warning signal that needs to be listened to. Pain is an important signal that something is about to go very wrong. If you saddle up your horse and he has a strong reaction, pay attention to that. If your horse starts refusing jumps, listen to him. If your horse comes out of the stall very stiff, or is taking longer to warm up, there is discomfort present. If dealt with early, many sources of pain can be alleviated through deep massage. If pain signals are ignored, they will inevitably get worse. Something minor can lead to something very serious, or permanent,  in a muscle, tendon, ligament, or joint. When in doubt, use the cold laser, or have body work done. Needless suffering can very often be avoided.

Once an injury occurs, scar tissue forms as it heals. This tissue is not as elastic as the original and thus is more prone to re-injury. As I keep saying, prevention is the key to a long and successful athletic career.

 

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Cold Laser Works for Skin Conditions

Cold laser, or Low Level Laser Therapy, is an excellent option for treating dermatologic conditions. The most common diseases that benefit from the use of the therapeutic laser are lick granulomas in dogs , burns, ear infections and inflammation (otitis), “hot spots, anal gland rupture (cat and dog)  and ulcers.

Cold lasers are used for pain management and to hasten the healing of wounds.  The laser stimulates an increase in various cellular activities that promote a decrease in inflammation and also stimulate receptors that release pain-relieving substances

There are no known side effects with low level lasers.  The short treatment times (often less than 15 minutes) are well tolerated by pets.  Some conditions require only 1-2 sessions, whereas chronic conditions can benefit from weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly therapy.

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