Monthly Archives: February 2014

Retraining Tight Muscles

There is an extraordinary degree of organization in the muscular system in order for movement to occur. Many different parts need to work together.

When there is muscle tension,  movement patterns become disrupted, and some muscles will have to work too hard or remain too lax. Movement will then become more strenuous and less efficient. This dysfunctional movement can become a bad habit if it is not quickly corrected. It starts to feel familiar, even if it is not right. This can lead to hardened muscles, tendon strain, and degeneration of cartilage.

One of the easiest and fastest ways to prevent muscle dysfunction (and to retrain muscles) is through massage. You and your equine partner can be returned to supple, balanced, free movement. Comfort and effortless movement can be restored with body work.

If your horse is suffering from any of the following, a massage session may be in order:

Sore back
Hollow back
Difficulty picking up a lead
Difficulty bending in one or both directions
Paddling with front legs
Little or no swinging motion in hips and barrel
Difficulty stepping under
Lack of impulsion
Pain and stiffness associated with arthritis or injury
General lack of coordination or balance
General resistance or grouchiness

Releasing tight muscles can eliminate all of these problems.


Cold Lasers Promote Healing

Cold lasers promote healing through a photosynthesis process.  Cold lasers induce a complicated chain of physiological reactions within damaged cells, which respond more to the photosynthesis process than do healthy cells. Essentially, the cold laser is stimulating that photosynthetic response in the damaged cells, inducing them to rebuild tissue or reduce pain and inflammation.

I have addressed the issue of muscle fatigue often on this blog. What if there was a simple effective method not only to treat muscles after exercise, but also beforehand, to prevent excessive buildup of serum lactate and creatine kinase (CK), which lead to muscle fatigue? A randomized trial published in the Jan. 23 issue of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery found that low level laser therapy might be the solution to treating debilitating muscle fatigue in athletes.

The researchers concluded: “Laser application either before or after fatigue reduced the post-fatigue concentrations of serum lactate and CK. The results were more pronounced in the post-fatigue laser group.”

Based on this research, it would appear that low level laser therapy can be a valuable addition to any massage treatment regimen to reduce muscle fatigue for those animal or human clients who regularly exercise or participate in sports.


Understanding How Injuries Occur

The automatic response of a muscle to stress is to tighten. Ideally, when the stress (pressure, pain, strain) passes, the muscle would then relax. However, prolonged stress or pain can cause a muscle to tighten and maintain the contraction indefinitely.

Muscles are anchored to bones by tendons. The fibers of a tendon, unlike a muscle, do not have the ability to lengthen and shorten. They are fixed. If muscles lose their flexibility, the danger of a tear or injury to a tendon increases greatly.

Ligaments attach bones to each other, and like tendons, they are tough and non-elastic. In essence, the entire body is reliant on muscles being pliable to avoid tears and strains. Muscle strength and tone are important, but flexibility is as important, and often overlooked. Relaxed and supple muscles can be used more fully than tight, tense muscles.

When I work on horses I often encounter muscle spasms: painful, involuntary muscle contraction either in the belly of the muscle or at the attachments. A muscle in spasm is unable to return to a neutral, relaxed, and supple state.

Regular body work can help shorten the recovery time between workouts and prevent tightening up and stiffening of muscles.

The goal of massage is to improve performance by promoting mobility and suppleness in your horse, and to reduce injuries by reducing tension and strain on joints, tendons, muscles, and ligaments.



Does My Horse Really Need the Luxury of a Massage?

We ask a lot of our competition (and pleasure) horses. A little body work will go a long way to make them happier, healthier, and more willing to put out extra effort.

Massage lengthens their stride. The horse can run farther and faster. Massage can relieve many of the nagging ailments that can get in the way of a successful show: muscle aches and soreness, as well as speeding up the healing process from injuries that sideline them from the show season.

I am well aware of the doubters, but I can spot a horse that needs a massage in a heartbeat.

I can see right away that the saddle is not fitting properly. The horse is probably thinking, ‘Don’t you know why I’m so grumpy?’”

If there is an injury or overuse, the body will create connective tissue, which begins to glue the muscles together — sometimes even to the bone. Once that happens, the rest of the body starts to get stuck.

If there is any change in your horse’s attitude ,or in the way it is moving or performing, give me a call, send me a message,  and I can help you evaluate and remedy the problem.


Fatigue and Your Horse

Muscle fatigue results in a decrease in athletic ability. It is a normal consequence of exercise at high intensity or for prolonged periods of time. Fatigue actually protects muscles from damage.

How does fatigue manifest itself? Change in gait, stride length, and speed can all occur.

Electrolyte imbalance may also play a role in fatigue. During intense exercise water moves into muscle cells and concentrations of potassium decrease, decreasing the strength of the muscle contractions.

Intense training over many weeks can result in a form of chronic fatigue. This over training causes decreased performance which, oddly, is not reversed by a couple of weeks of rest. Massage and a high quality diet can turn this syndrome around.

Temperature and humidity have a huge impact on the degree of disturbance to muscle during exercise.

Sports massage can counteract many of the negative symptoms of muscle fatigue: before the event, massage can warm up the muscles. After the event, soreness can be minimized. The benefits are numerous:

Decreases muscular / skeletal pain
Improves quality of movement
Alleviates stress
Reduces risk of injury
Improves alignment

Improves blood circulation

Promotes healing

Prevents future injuries
Enhances muscle tone
Increases range of motion
Eases muscle spasms
Reduces inflammation and swelling
Relieves tension
Hastens elimination of waste products and toxins
Lengthens connective tissues
Breaks down adhesions
Improves temperament
Creates synovial fluid in joints from increased circulation
Boosts performance and endurance
Restores mobility
Extends the overall life of the horse


A Vicious Cycle

Muscle pain can be caused by tension, poor posture, a fall or other trauma, or even from stress. Some people assume that increasing muscular stiffness is due to aging, but it can also be due to a steady increase in muscle tension. After a while the body gets used to the tension.

Without realizing it, the body recruits other muscles to help compensate for the stiff areas. These other muscles were not meant for the job they are recruited for, so they become fatigued, which causes further pain. The increase in pain causes the original stiff muscles to contract even more. What can be done to reverse this cycle of tension, pain, and dysfunction??

A skilled body worker can help stimulate the body’s natural healing system.  It is my job to evaluate and treat an individual’s structure. It is essential that nutrition, massage, diet, acupressure, exercise, and education all are utilized to help restore balance and harmony in the body and maintain well-being throughout life.



Say Good-Bye to Illness

I’m reading a book called Say Good-Bye to Illness by Dr. Devi Nambudripad. It is packed with information to help people take control of their health, get off toxic medications, and eliminate many common medical problems. Dr. Nambudripad is known for her allergy elimination techniques, also referred to as NAET. She has devised a drug free, natural solutions to eliminate all allergies, including those so severe they cause anaphylactic reactions.

Here are some of the natural cures she recommends:

Coriander strengthens the nervous system, glandular system, and sinuses

Lemon rind and rice strengthen the lungs

Pepper strengthens the heart and circulatory system

Ginger root strengthens the stomach

Brown sugar strengthens the spleen

Dandelion leaves strengthen the liver

Coconut oil strengthens the gall bladder

Turmeric and cumin have antibacterial properties and can help clean the small intestine

Rock salt rejuvenates the kidneys

Lemon leaves strengthen the bladder

Pomegranate strengthens the large intestine

Garlic is a natural antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antioxidant.

This is a very small selection from the book and I recommend reading one of her books yourself. I will continue to share little gems as I come across them.



How Does Pain Affect the Body?

When something hurts, we (or our horse or dog) instinctively try to keep the area as still as possible. We move the rest of the body around that still point. When the pain is severe, we immobilize almost everything. This response to pain can become habitual because it works: pain is minimized. Mobile, flexible bodies become closed and stiff.

Healing deeply ingrained and restricting habits can be achieved with chiropractic, acupuncture, cold laser, and myofascial release. Massage therapy complements chiropractic treatments by allowing muscles to relax. When you get muscles staying in the right area, then bones will stay in their right place.

Myofascial Release is one of the best ways to
improve your horse’s comfort and performance. Myofascial release techniques will loosen restricted tissue to allow your horse’s body to work at it’s highest potential. Myofascial release, along with Stress and Trigger Point Therapy, is the best way to correct structural problems in your horse.

Fascia isn’t only found around muscles and bones, it’s connected to the brain, all other organs, glands, too. Restrictions in the fascia are in a hardened state causing circulation issues. So the muscles aren’t necessarily in a contracted state, but more of a distressed state and can’t relax or contract  properly. Myofascial release  allows for the rehydration and flexibility to return to the fascia and then whatever it was ‘glued to’ — a muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, gland, and/or organ — will have improved circulation and function optimally.

Correct massage will help move the bone by addressing the actual problem: the soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament). The bone is a slave to the muscle. It can only move if the muscle tells it to move.
And, it can only be where the muscle allows it to be.

If you move the bone, but the horse’s muscle is still tight, the muscle will pull the bone back “out of place”. Did you ever wonder why chiropractors schedule so often in the beginning stages of therapy? It is because the muscle (which still has a problem) will continue to pull on the bone.  By moving the bone often enough, you will hopefully change the muscle – eventually.


Why Is Massage Necessary?

Bodies are unstable. They are designed for motion. The skeleton has hundreds of joints that are moved by muscle and tissue that are nearly 70% water. We all know how stable water is! This fluidity makes bodies able to assume a huge variety of positions.

As babies grow they learn to stabilize their bodies. They learn to control their limbs and movement. This learning process is not always easy. There are times when we brace ourselves with tension. Gaining weight as bodies develop adds to instability.

When a horse walks, the muscles of one leg contract to provide a moment of stability so another leg can swing forward. At times the contracting muscle can shorten, narrow, or flatten too much. The over-contraction of the muscle compresses the joint. Little by little these missteps can lead to poor movement and unhealthy posture.

Equine massage is one of the quickest and most inexpensive ways to insure that your horse doesn’t get so tight that an injury is inevitable. Massage relieves muscular tension, improves balance and posture, reduces soreness, decreases pain, improves circulation, among some of the many benefits.


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