Releasing Trigger Points

Trigger points are tight spots within the muscle (not at the ends or attachments as in stress points) that cause pain, sensitivity, tingling, burning, or weakness.  Trigger point therapy causes the muscle to have a twitch response, which resets and relaxes the muscle. This can be uncomfortable for a moment, but the results are worth it. Reduction or elimination of pain and improved range of motion can be seen and felt immediately.

Another way to release trigger points is through myofascial release. Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Fascia has multiple functions. It holds some structures together, providing stability.  It allows others to glide and move freely.

Trigger points can be caused by scar tissue, strain from repetitive movement, bad posture, poor nutrition, or injury. The most effective way to remove trigger points is through manual pressure. When the trigger point is released, the fascia will once again move smoothly over the muscle, pain will be reduced or eliminated, and range of motion will be increased.

Cold laser therapy can also relieve muscle pain caused by trigger points, and improve circulation.

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Trouble With a Canter Lead?

Recently I was called to work on a jumper that was having trouble with lead changes.  When I encounter problems with leads, there are a few spots that I check: triceps in the front leg, the illiacus by the pelvis, the glutes. But those places yielded no clues with this gelding.  I did find a lot of tightness in the muscles of his neck, particularly the brachiocephalicus (the blue muscle in the diagram).

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The horse flinched when I started work on this muscle on both sides of his neck and seemed to have a lot of trouble moving his head to either side.  I asked if the horse was having trouble riding turns and circles, and the owner confirmed that corners had been quite problematic of late.

The brachiocephalicus swings the head and neck from side to side, and also pulls the front leg forward, as it also attaches there. You can see what a long muscle it is. Carrot stretches were almost impossible for this horse. He was literally trapped by the spasms in his neck. I used all the tools in my hands: compression, direct pressure, cross fiber friction, and the horse closed his eyes and starting taking deep breaths. There was great improvement in his flexibility. The rider has reported improvement in his performance in every way: turning, jumping, lead changes, and length of stride.  If your horse is having similar problems, don’t overlook the influence of the brachiocephalicus.

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Is All Pain Bad?

Pain is a valuable and natural tool that notifies us when there is a condition that needs tending to.  Immediately taking or administering (in the case of our animals) painkilling medicine without first reflecting on what message the pain is sending is not useful. The medication will temporarily treat the pain, with side effects, but whatever caused the pain is most likely still there. I prefer a cure to treatment!

Pain is not a disease. Pain is a symptom.

Muscles have two major functions: they contract to create motion, and relax to return to its full length and allow another muscle to pull in the opposite direction.  No other tissue in the body does this.  Muscles move bones that are attached by tendons. To move bones back to their starting points, the muscle that made the movement has to relax so the opposite muscle in the pair to bring the bones back to resting position.

What happens if this dance doesn’t run smoothly? If the first muscle doesn’t fully relax, the bones cannot return to their restful, or healthy postural position. Alignment and balance are then adversely affected. Stiffness and immobility (lameness) gain control of the body, robbing it of strength, stamina, and graceful movement. When the body is balanced (the massage work I do is called body balancing) it is in a state of health.  When postural balance is restored, pain symptoms disappear.

I recently worked on a mare that looked to be in pain in her front end. One leg was twisted so that her hoof pointed in. Her walk looked painful as well. I found an area of very tight muscles in one shoulder (I have no idea how they got like that. This was my first meeting with her.) It did not take long for her whole posture to change. Her leg starting to turn until it was fairly straight. At the end of her bodywork session I asked to see her walk, and she just strutted out of the barn. We were all smiles, and once again I was elated to see an animal relieved of pain just by re-balancing some tight muscles.  A week later I heard from the owner that the mare is moving well.

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Trotting Over Poles

Article written by Natalie Voss:

Horse owners might spend hours improving their horse’s gaits and behavior under saddle with training exercises, but there is still much that we don’t know about the finer points of a horse’s gait. That knowledge gap has made it difficult to analyze the true effectiveness of certain exercises that are a common part of many riders’ routines.

Michigan State University researchers recently conducted a pair of studies to analyze and compare the way a horse’s legs and joints move during the “swing” phase when the leg is carried forward through the air and the “stance” phase when the hoof is grounded and the leg is bearing weight, both over level ground and over poles.

Study author Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, MRCVS, said many trainers use work with ground poles to improve the horse’s technical skills, while veterinarians and therapists use poles to rehabilitate horses from injury or neurologic conditions.

“Therapists use hoof-eye coordination exercises to rehabilitate horses after neurological diseases,” said Clayton. “These include walking and trotting over, around, or between poles or other obstacles. The challenge for the horse is to see the objects, plan where to put his feet, then use neuromotor control to place the feet correctly.”

Although the practice is tried-and-true for rehabilitation, scientists didn’t know how well or why it works, so they set out to study the specifics. Researchers attached markers to different points on horses’ legs and measured the heights and angles of the joints as the horses trotted over flat ground, over low poles, and over high poles. A series of force plates recorded the weight on each of the horse’s legs as they moved through the series of poles.

Of particular interest:

When horses trotted over the poles, they cleared the poles using increased flexion in all of their limb joints, rather than pushing their whole bodies higher off the ground.
Since horses weren’t pushing their bodies higher in the air to clear poles, the vertical force between the hoof and the ground did not increase, indicating that there was no increase in weight-bearing when horses trotted over poles—a point that might have been considered problematic for horses overcoming some injuries.
Based on the measured angles and forces, it is unlikely that the leg’s soft tissues are stressed more when horses trot over poles versus trotting over flat ground.

Like humans, horses learn about the experience of moving their body over an obstacle like a pole.

“During the first few times trotting over the poles, horses tend to exaggerate their response so they lift their hooves higher than is necessary,” Clayton explained. “As they practice, they learn that they don’t have to exert as much effort and that a lower hoof trajectory is adequate.”

That reduced effort doesn’t mean the exercise loses its benefits over time, however: The amount of flexion the joints undergo is still substantially greater over poles as compared to flat work, so the exercise helps increase joints’ range of motion, especially in horses that are recuperating from lameness, Clayton said.

Clayton recommended trotting over poles as a good therapy for horses being rehabilitated from physical injuries after their movement has become symmetrical at the trot.

She cautioned, however, that the study was performed in horses that were sound at the trot, and the effects of trotting over poles in unsound horses have not been studied. Therefore, do not begin pole work until your veterinarian confirms that the horse has returned to a satisfactory soundness level.

Additionally, although her study did not touch on how the work impacts older horses, Clayton said it would make sense that the exercise’s mental and physical benefits could be good for seniors if they are sound.

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Is Your Horse Heavy on the Forehand?

The goal in riding, in our bodies, and our horses, is balance.  Poor balance and posture is a symptom that the body is stiff and in pain.  A horse that is heavy on the forehand is a horse with bad posture. An uneven gait is often the result of bad posture.

I worked on a horse recently that was so downhill it looked like it’s chest was sinking to its knees. His rider said she was tired of having to hold him up, of having him lean on her.  I found his pectoral muscles to be tight but stretched out.  The pectoral muscles support the rib cage, and if they are stuck in an extended position, if they have not contracted back to a good postural balance, it is impossible to elevate the forehand. Trying to do collected movements on this guy was a losing battle.  He was severely limited by his weak and inflexible muscles.

There is a massage technique for raising the chest and I spent quite some time and effort trying it. At first I got nowhere. I had to go back and work more on the pectoral muscles (there are four) before he was ready to be lifted.  The second or third time around I started to see the withers and back raise just a bit.

 

This is the beginning. It will take a few sessions and good riding to reverse the effects of bad posture in this teenaged horse. I am confident that it will happen. The horse was relaxed and happy at the end of the session and I got a good report of a comfortable and relaxed ride today.  Working towards good posture and flexibility will be the key to prevent injuries that can occur when a horse is heavy on his forehand. With posture restored, horses feel more tranquil and less stressed. Postural balance is good for the mind as well as the body!

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An Important Supplement: Astragalus

This is an edited excerpt from a book I’ve been reading called The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic Plants, by Guido Mase.

“The science behind Astragalus is remarkable. Modern research is validating the uses detailed for this plant. Studies link it to improved immunity and reduced anemia when it comes to chronic infection, cancer, kidney disease, and more. It is a tonic that builds our resistance to all manner of ills, including  pathogens. Recovery from protracted illness or long term stress is another of its strengths. I have found this plant to be useful support for those undergoing difficult courses of chemotherapy.

Those who take plants like Echinacea in the fall should switch to Astragalus instead. It’s a much more appropriate immune tonic and much more effective at keeping illness at bay. While its life-giving power is legendary in conditions of extreme depletion, such as cancer, compromised immunity, or recovery from prolonged infection, everyone would do well to take some Astragalus root every day. For those who get frequent colds, or whose respiratory tracts seem to be congested and weak all winter, this herb is just the ticket. Astragalus will improve overall immunity.

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A Vicious Cycle

What happens when your horse gets injured? There is the initial pain and then reduced blood carrying oxygen to the injury site. The reduced circulation then causes an involuntary spasm or contraction.  The spasm helps create a protective splint, which is natures’ way of immobilizing the injured area. The spasm, while in some ways protecting the area, creates more pain, and therefore more spasms. Quite a system, right?

In the beginning of recovery, there is inflammation.  There is a purpose to inflammation: it helps the body clear out damaged tissue and muscle fibers. Icing will keep the inflammation from becoming extreme.

New muscle fibers will form as the injury heals.  It is crucial, once the body is healed, to keep all tissue, new and old, flexible and pliable with massage and gentle exercise.  Cold laser therapy can help with healing damaged tissue, but spasms formed during the injury must be manually removed.  I never massage a newly injured horse, or work on any area that is inflamed. Once time has passed, massage is essential to keep the muscles pliable and encourage circulation.

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Transfer Factor and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the immune system attacks healthy tissue. One for hopeful treatment is with Transfer Factor. I have written often on this blog about my profound gratitude to the 4life company that is the source for Transfer Factor, which restored my body to equilibrium and allowed me to breathe without toxic drugs and inhalers.

TF was used in an experiment with 50 female patients with RA.  The patients were followed for 24 months, with check ups every three months. Of the 50 patients, 30% did not respond to the therapy. Excellent and very good results were obtained in the other 70%. The study confirmed the fact that specific immunotherapy with Transfer Factor represents an important adjuvant in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Here is a testimonial from a physician :

I have had quite severe Rheumatoid Arthritis for nearly ten months now. My Rheumatic Factor was exceptionally high and I was very sick with it.

The bones around the joints; particularly the metacarpophalangeal joints; have become enlarged and deformed. They are also very fragile and I have had a spontaneous fracture-dislocation of one of my finger joints already. It seemed that a wheelchair was in my near future.

However; since taking an increasing dose of advanced generation transfer factors; I am now walking with a normal gait instead of painfully and slowly waddling about.

Getting in and out of cars is no longer a major task; I can turn taps on and off and today I even; admittedly rather gingerly; kicked a soccer ball along the length of a park with my grandson.

If you had asked me a week ago whether I could ever do any of these things again I would have thought that you were either very ignorant or a bit cruel to tease me with these unattainable delights.

Apart from this I feel a lot more “switched on” and people have been telling me how well I look.

Thank you once again and God bless you for having done me so much good.

Dr Alexandra Rodda

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Words of Wisdom

A quote from Pete Egoscue, author of Pain Free:

Healing and health come from within the individual.

The human body has a genius for problem solving and coping with the unexpected, but when experts take charge by orchestrating onslaughts of toxic chemical compounds and traumatic surgical intervention, on top of a modern culture that features poor nutritional standards and acutely sedentary lifestyles, the cumulative damage can be enormous and lasting.

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What Happens During a Cold Laser Treatment?

Here is what you need to know: You cannot be burned by a low level laser. The treatment is painless.  You may feel some warmth which is the damaged tissue responding to the light. Light produces energy just the way photosynthesis does in plants.

Since the 1960′s, physicians have used laser therapy to repair damaged tissue and destroy unwanted cells. Lasers can be tuned to different wavelengths to remove plaque from coronary arteries, to seal off leaky blood vessels in the eyes of people with diabetes to preserve sight, and to reattach retinas, the light sensing structure in the back of the eye.

Doctors have used low-level light therapy to activate a number of biological processes, including hair growth and skin repair, without knowing how it worked. In an article in Science Translational Medicine, the Harvard researchers identify transforming growth factor beta-1 as the regenerative protein.

All I can tell you is that whenever I have an injury, pain, soreness, I use the laser and it works!

 

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