Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Big Improvement!

Last week I wrote about a pony that competes in combined driving. He had recovered from an injury in a hind leg, but had severe pain in his back. Today I went back. The pain was better, but I still felt spasms at both attachments of the long back muscles. The forward attachment is by the withers. The other end attaches on either side of the sacrum. I applied deep pressure at all the spasms and alternated that with spreading the muscle fibers of the longissimus dorsi (back muscle) itself. After about 40 minutes, the pony started to hang his head and really relax. The pain seemed to be gone. The owner walked and trotted him out for me and he looked great. I will go back in 2 weeks for a check, but I think it is time for him to go back to work.  I thought it might take six weeks to see this kind of recovery, but it just shows me how releasing spasms can provide tremendous relief.

Better Treatment for Horses and Humans with Turmeric

Turmeric is one the most thoroughly researched plants in existence today.  Its medicinal properties and components (primarily curcumin) have been the subject of over 5600 peer-reviewed and published biomedical studies.  In fact, a five-year long research project on this  plant has revealed over 600 potential preventive and therapeutic applications, as well as 175 distinct beneficial physiological effects.

Here are a few of the drugs that turmeric (with no side effects) can replace:

  • Lipitor/Atorvastatin(cholesterol medication): A 2008 study published in the journal Drugs in R & D found that a standardized preparation of curcuminoids from Turmeric compared favorably to the drug atorvastatin (trade name Lipitor) on endothelial dysfunction, the underlying pathology of the blood vessels that drives atherosclerosis, in association with reductions in inflammation and oxidative stress in type 2 diabetic patients.
  • Corticosteroids (steroid medications): A 1999 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that the primary polyphenol in turmeric, the saffron colored pigment known as curcumin, compared favorably to steroids in the management of chronic anterior uveitis, an inflammatory eye disease. A 2008 study published in Critical Care Medicine found that curcumin compared favorably to the corticosteroid drug dexamethasone in the animal model as an alternative therapy for protecting lung transplantation-associated injury by down-regulating inflammatory genes. An earlier 2003 study published in Cancer Letters found the same drug also compared favorably to dexamethasone in a lung ischaemia-repurfusion injury model.
  • Prozac/Fluoxetine & Imipramine  (antidepressants): A 2011 study published in the journal Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica found that curcumin compared favorably to both drugs in reducing depressive behavior in an animal model.
  • Aspirin (blood thinner): A 1986 in vitro and ex vivo study published in the journalArzneimittelforschung found that curcumin has anti-platelet and prostacyclin modulating effects compared to aspirin, indicating it may have value in patients prone to vascular thrombosis and requiring anti-arthritis therapy.
  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs: A 2004 study published in the journal Oncogene found that curcumin (as well as resveratrol) were effective alternatives to the drugs aspirin, ibuprofen, sulindac, phenylbutazone, naproxen, indomethacin, diclofenac, dexamethasone, celecoxib, and tamoxifen in exerting anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative activity against tumor cells.
  • Oxaliplatin (chemotherapy drug): A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that curcumin compares favorably with oxaliplatin as an antiproliferative agenet in colorectal cell lines.
  • Metformin (diabetes drug): A 2009 study published in the journal Biochemitry and Biophysical Research Community explored how curcumin might be valuable in treating diabetes, finding that it activates AMPK (which increases glucose uptake) and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression  (which suppresses glucose production in the liver) in hepatoma cells. Interestingly, they found curcumin to be 500 times to 100,000 times (in the form known as tetrahydrocurcuminoids(THC)) more potent than metformin in activating AMPK and its downstream target acetyl-CoA carboxylase.

Change is Possible!

Fascia is often confused with muscle. Fascia is actually connective tissue that wraps around muscles and organs in a protective layer. When damaged by an accident or surgery, the fascial tissue becomes thicker and shorter as it heals. That thickened tissue transmits strain in many directions and will restrict motion.

As a practitioner of Structural Integration, I strive to to sense how the mass of the body of a horse needs to balanced. Relieving rigidity through myofascial release improves muscle function and movement. With each treatment, change occurs, and as a result you will see a lightness and sense of ease in your horse. Anxiety diminishes.

What Kind of Massage Does My Hunter/Jumper Need?

Horses that show in the hunter ring are expected to be smooth, rhythmic, calm, and even. Jumping in a standing martingale can put stress on the pectorals, neck, and back.

Jumpers need to jump with speed and agility. They need to be balanced for tight turns, which can stress the costarum muscles.  During take-off, the hindquarters withstand much stress. Landing stresses the shoulder, chest, and back, especially the longissimus dorsi.

Sports massage can prevent injuries and pain from the rigors of competition.

Ida Rolf

Today I step aside from writing to quote Ida Rolf, the creator of Structural Integration. She was born in 1896. Interestingly, her father was a civil engineer who built docks and piers on the east coast. Rolf developed her system of body balancing in the 1920’s:

“For too many of us, willful ignorance of our own processes keeps us in the dark. This ignorance has been compounded by many factors, not the least of which is a teaching called by the misnomer ‘physical education.’ The assumption in most Phys.Ed. school departments is that endless ‘doing’ – calisthenics, acrobatics, violent sports, gymnastics – builds good bodies. The ideal, they think, is the body beautiful of the newsstand magazines. A modicum of truth baits this trap and makes it attractive. It is clear that heavy, repetitious exercise, by bringing blood and fluid to muscles, does cause them to enlarge and, up to a point, improves their functioning. After this point, however, the body becomes rigid and muscle-bound.

“Structural Integration underscores the need for patterned order in the body. It is a physical method for producing better functioning by aligning units of the body. ”


Tennis Elbow and Golf Elbow

Clinical trials have shown that cold laser therapy is the most effective treatment for tennis/golf elbow. Studies have shown that 324 patients who failed to respond to drugs, surgery, and other therapies had full recovery in 82% of those with acute epicondylitis (the medical term for tennis elbow.) No brace or medication required. The beauty of the cold laser is it does not just decrease inflammation – it stimulates the body to heal itself.

Why is Stress/Trigger Point Massage Essential?

In animals and humans, stress and trigger points form during the course of daily life, and even more during athletic pursuits. The ONLY way to remove these points is through direct physical pressure. Relaxing will never remove stress/trigger points. Stretching not only will not remove them, it could aggravate them, as a muscle in spasm will tighten defensively when stretched. Heating pads and/or ice might provide temporary relief, but will not change the points. As I discovered in my own leg, cold laser will also provide some pain relief, but will not dissolve a stress or trigger point.

Some physicians and veterinarians will suggest injections to remove trigger points, but I have learned a much easier way that uses just my fingers. No needles necessary! Nerves and blood vessels can be damaged during injections. Trigger point therapy is completely safe and fast when done with knowledgeable hands.

Is Pain Always Bad?

Any form of massage that will effect structural change is going to be painful. When my fingers cause pain at a stress or trigger point, the electrical impulse that is created actually disrupts the neurological charge that maintains the point.

Pain also brings a flood of endorphins. It is another one of Mother Nature’s gifts to endure difficulty. The endorphins are a natural pain killer said to be stronger than morphine, and will dull the pain.

When posture and movement is not balanced, muscles tighten, fascia gets rigid. Persistent imbalance and distortion of posture is what I strive to correct, and that can cause temporary pain. But that minute of pain can relieve days, months, or years of chronic pain.

Knock on wood: I have never been kicked or hurt in any way by a horse or dog. I do cause them pain when I treat stress and trigger points, but not only do they not get upset, most lean into the pressure and help me cause them temporary pain. And most are very happy to see me again for the next session!

How Flexible is Your Horse?

A surprising thing about a horse is that its spine is almost completely rigid. The backbone of a horse was originally designed for a very different environment and activity than it needs in modern times. It amazes me that with the limited range of motion of the femur (hind thigh bone), along with the inflexibility of the spine, that our horses are able to lift their heavy bodies over big fences, or perform the lateral movements of a Grand Prix dressage test. When you see how awkward a horse is as it lies down, gets back up, or attempts to roll over, the stiffness of the back is apparent.

When you see an advanced horse that appears uphill, it is because it has lowered the haunches. The bulk of the spine remains fairly rigid. Where the pelvis is attached, the vertebrae are welded into a solid mass: the sacrum.

The tail and neck are the exception to flexibility in the vertebral column. The neck moves up and down freely, but is still limited in sideways movement.

Humans and dogs have spinal disks with a soft center.  The horse has disks that are made of tough fibers.

When Does a Massage Do No Good?

If a massage is done in the wrong place, it might feel good, but do you or your animal no good at all. The place that needs to be massaged is usually not where the pain is felt. Referred pain, also known as reflective pain, is pain that is not felt at the source of the problem. A well known example of this is the pain of a heart attack: pain is often felt in the arm, shoulder, or neck, rather than the heart, where the actual problem is.

I was recently working on trigger points in my own right leg (where I had 4 surgeries 20 years ago) and felt a shooting pain up to my shoulder blade on the same side.

The beauty of Stress Point and Trigger Point massage is that it can pinpoint the source of the pain and literally put a finger on the problem!


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