Monthly Archives: October 2013

Do You Suffer From Sciatic Pain?

This is an excerpt from a self-treatment workbook,Trigger Point Therapy by Valerie DeLaume: “Referred pain from trigger points in the gluteus minimus muscle is frequently diagnosed by health care practitioners as “sciatic pain” because of the distribution pattern down the side and back of the leg. One study showed that at least 79% of pain down the leg comes from trigger point referral from either the gluteus minimus or piriformis muscles, and not from “pinched nerves”, a herniated disk, or stenosis (narrowing in the opening) in a vertebra. ”

Before you rush into drastic treatment for your “sciatic” pain, you might want to try trigger point therapy. A good professional can show you how to continue do it yourself treatment at home.




What Can Cause Trigger Points in Your Horse?

Trigger points can form in muscles due to a variety of reasons:

– insufficient warmup

– overusing some muscles while underusing others

– direct blows to the muscles (from a kick or fall, etc)

– fractures and tendon tears

– poor posture or lack of self carriage

– long periods of standing

Treating injuries early in the healing process can prevent trigger points from forming. Massage therapists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors can help avoid the cycle of pain that trigger points create.

Leave the Head and Neck Alone!

Lena Wedenmark is a dressage instructor based in Wellington, Florida. I love this quote from her:

Do yourself and your horse a favor and stop trying to control his head and neck. Just let them do what they’re going to do, including coming up and out from time to time. Just because you’re doing dressage does not mean your horse has to first be round in his neck. His head and neck are the last part of the connection, and trying to pull him in is the very thing that sets you on the wrong path and damages your ability to learn how to ride. Work on yourself according to the rider’s training scale, and connection and control will come naturally.

You Cannot Condition a Muscle in Spasm

There are hundreds of muscles in a body (whether horse, human, or dog, etc) and any of them can develop trigger points, or contracted bands of muscle fibers. When muscles are contracted in this way, they are not available for use due to pain, restricted motion, and distorted posture. While the degree of pain the body is in can vary greatly, most trigger points will be tender and painful when pressed.

A healthy muscle is free. It does not have knots or tight bands of muscle fibers. It is not tender when pressed. A healthy muscle feels soft (but not mushy) and elastic.

Trigger points can cause a loss of coordination and balance, since the affected muscles are not free to use. As we all know, lack of use causes weakness and atrophy. If the trigger points are not released, any attempt to strengthen the muscle will cause the surrounding muscles to pick up the slack, further weakening the muscle with the trigger point. It is a vicious cycle.

Trigger point therapy is a wonderful and quick treatment option if done in time. If a trigger point is left untreated for too, long muscle fibers can become damaged in a way that can not be repaired.

Does Your Horse Have Hollow Places On His Neck?

If you can see hollow areas right in front of the shoulders, on the neck, it is likely that the serratus muscles of the neck are not functioning properly. Unlike other muscles that get tight and need to be loosened, the cervical serratus muscles tend to become flabby and do not contract as they should. The serratus muscles of the neck are like fingers that attach to these vertebrae: C4, C5, C6, C7. When they are toned they help arch the neck, bend,  and lift the forehand.

Sports massage is a fast and easy solution to the problem of serratus muscles that are not contracting efficiently.

Temple Grandin on Calming Horses

Grandin on Keeping Horses Calm During HandlingAuthor and animal behaviorist Dr. Temple Grandin offered tips and basic concepts for working with livestock at the 2013 American College of Theriogenology Symposia and Conference.

Paying attention to details is crucial when considering unusual equine behaviors, their causes, and how to manage them.

Case in point: A new addition to the Louisville, Ky., zoo’s zebra herd had been skittish and generally experiencing a tough time acclimating to his new home.

Temple Grandin, PhD, featured speaker at the 2013 American College of Theriogenology (ACT) Symposia and Conference, held in Louisville Aug.  7-10, stopped in at the zoo, observed, and asked some questions. She recognized that the zebra had reason for not relaxing: an adjacent lion exhibit.

“Only a certain zebra had trouble,” Grandin explained to a veterinary audience in her Aug. 9 presentation, in which she emphasized the importance of factoring in such specifics when handling livestock. “There is individual difference in animal behavior. It was one particular zebra; he had lived in a much more wild (situation with) less human contact.”

So she advised that zoo facility managers install some shrubs so that this zebra could hide and feel protected from the big cats.

Grandin designs livestock handling facilities and is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She’s authored more than 400 papers and seven books and was recently the focus of an HBO movie highlighting her journey as a visionary in her field with autism. While she focused much of her ACT presentation on production livestock, such as pigs and cattle, she shared tips from her experiences managing horses as well.

“When you have a behavior problem with an animal, (what’s most important is) getting a good history,” she said. “People tend to overgeneralize: ‘My horse goes berserk,’ (for instance) and I don’t know what that means. What I find out is it only went berserk in the cross-ties, no other place.” In such cases, the solution is simple, she said. “I can just remove the cross-ties from that horse’s life.”

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The Importance of the Rhomboid Muscle

The rhomboid muscle is very important for several reasons:

The shoulder blade hangs from the withers by the rhomboid, making it responsible for the swing of the shoulder.

The rhomboid goes from the withers all the way up the neck to the poll, making it responsible for the ability of the neck to stretch.

If a saddle is placed too far forward it will put pressure on the rhomboid, interfering with the muscles’ function. If the saddle is too narrow, it will pinch the rhomboid muscle, eventually causing it to atrophy. If a saddle is too wide, it will sit directly on the withers, eventually causing lameness. If you see a hollow looking spot behind the scapula, there is most likely muscle atrophy.

Where the rhomboid attaches to the withers it is very thick and strong. When there is a problem with the rhomboid, you may notice tightness in the shoulders and a loss of coordination in jumping. Massage to the stress points in the rhomboid is extremely effective, and improvement in the horse will be immediately apparent.

It’s All Connected!

Over the weekend I worked on a client who is a very easy keeper. When he is ridden daily he can keep his weight under control, but as soon as the summer is over and his rider goes back to school, he plumps up. He has so much padding that it is often hard for me to feel his pelvic crest (otherwise known as hip bones) where many muscles attach. It is important for me to feel where the muscles attach, as that is where stress points form.

He looked quite stiff in his left hind, almost lame, and I found that the illiacus was unusually tight for him. No matter how I worked on it, I was not getting the release I hoped for. It seemed that there were too many layers between my hands and the muscle. So I decided to go higher and work on his gluteal muscles. He started licking his lips and relaxing when I did that, so I continued. Lo and behold, when I went back to the tight illiacus, it had softened. I watched him walk and he was back to his normal walk without the restricted look I had seen just an hour earlier.

For me, this was a wonderful reminder that the body must be looked at as a whole. When I focused on one small problem spot, I got nowhere. As soon as I had a more holistic approach, the problem was easily resolved.

Can Myofascial Release Prevent Tendon and Ligament Injury?

Fascia wraps around every muscle, organ, bone, and nerve and connects every structure of the body from head to tail.  When fascia is damaged due to injury, inactivity, or trauma, it sets off a chain reaction that can compromise the nervous system, movement, and the flow of body fluids. Left untreated, fascia tightens like a  shrinking spider web. Frequently fascial pain will go undiagnosed since it does not show up on Xrays, MRI’s, or CT scans.

Massage therapists who work on fascia will feel for ropey or thickened bands of tissue. I recently worked on a horse who had thick bands around his throat latch that were causing breathing problems. In one session of releasing and softening the hardened tissue he stopped coughing and struggling for air and could resume his job as an eventing horse.

Tight fascia can also sometimes be seen as a ripple under the skin. When I work on a horse, I walk around them and look for places where the texture and appearance of the skin looks different.

Fascial restriction not only affects flexibility and movement, but also strength. Muscles will tire more quickly when they are restricted as they fight to overcome the power of the tight fascia. Tendon and ligament injuries will then be more likely to occur. Myofascial release can restore elasticity in the connective tissue, preventing many career ending injuries.

Tendon and ligament injuries are common in the competitive equine world. Because of the limitations that fascial restrictions place on the contractile elements of muscle, muscle strength is inhibited by approximately one third of its normal strength in the presence of fascial restrictions. So fascial restrictions not only affect flexibility, but also limit a horse’s inherent strength and stability. Muscles will fatigue more quickly because they will have to overcome the enormous tensile strength of a fascial restriction. Muscle and tendon strain is then likely to occur where there is fascial restriction. – See more at:


X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or EMGs
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or EMGsReleasing fascia through myofascial pressure techniques, and with the cold laser on meridian points, can immediately restore normal movement and eliminate pain.

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