Monthly Archives: May 2014

Should My Horse Rest After a Massage?

I am often asked after I do body work how much time the horse should have off afterwards. The answer in most cases is: None! If the horse is sound, or even rehabbing from an injury, one of the best things to do after the body has been balanced by a massage is to move. Even a long walk will help the body of the horse create muscle memory when he is moving more freely. Bad patterns created by tight muscles can best be re-patterned after a massage.

At a horse show I can pinpoint certain areas of the body to work on depending on the event. Before stadium jumping I often use the cold laser on shoulders and joints of the hind legs to enable quick response at a jump. For dressage I might focus on the muscles of the top line and haunches for maximum pushing power. Before cross country I will make sure the pectoral muscles and jaw are free to enable deep breathing. There are over 700 muscles (and that is not counting cardiac muscles, eye muscles, etc!) and releasing tight ones can hugely benefit performance.

For a nervous horse, body work can be very soothing and relaxing. For a lazy horse, he can feel free and energized after a massage session. My job is to observe reactions and adjust accordingly. I love the challenge!

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Help for the Arthritic Horse

When a horse is lame from an arthritic joint, massage to the surrounding muscles can help reverse atrophy. When a horse is in pain in a limb, he will stop using that leg, causing the muscles to waste away. In compensation, other legs will take up the load. One of the first things I do when assessing a horse is to make sure the body is symmetrical: all muscles on one side should be the same size as on the other side.

Massage can help little used muscles regain their tone.  Along with correct shoeing, nutrition and supplements, the right turnout and exercise, a horses’ athletic career can be greatly extended.

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Long Lasting Relief!

When there is pain, it is safe to assume that there is something wrong in the function of tissues. Those tissues could be in muscle, ligament, tendons, nerves, or cartilage.

Every tissue in your body is made of very small cells. An injured tissue is merely cells not working, and struggling to recover.  Light at specific frequencies can stimulate the cells to function better. That is the beauty of low level or cold laser therapy. The light energy from the laser gives a jump (just like jumper cables to your car battery) to cells.  Treatment time can be measured in minutes.  There are no side effects. And best of all patients, whether two or four legged, get relief because their injured tissues are restored. There is no chemical masking of the pain with a drug.

The laser can speed the healing of sprains and strains, tendinitis, wounds ,and other chronic conditions that are stubborn to respond to any other therapy.

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Negative Side Effects of Steroids

Corticosteroids can be life saving. That was the case with me and severe asthma. Steroids are anti-inflammatory; they decrease pain, swelling, and relieve itching. The problem is that what should have been a very short term treatment turned into 14 years, until I was introduced to Transfer Factor which I have often written about on this blog.  When treating our dogs, horses, cats, and ourselves, it is imperative to be informed.

The negative side effects of corticosteroids are the reason they should be used as briefly, and in as low doses as possible. They decrease the ability of wounds to heal. They increase the chance of infection.They can contribute to destruction of joints by decreasing collagen. They suppress the immune system.  They increase appetite and thirst. In cats, an increase in diabetes has been seen.  Steroid use can also upset laboratory tests, causing misdiagnosis of other problems.

A holistic approach to replacing toxic steroids will include nutrition, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, Vitamins such as C, A, E, glucosamine, MSM, yucca, bromelain,and so many more. These approaches are safe and non-toxic.  You will save money on drugs and vet bills.

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Cold Laser or Ultrasound?

I have written many articles on this blog about the wonders of cold laser, or low level laser, therapy. Recently, an equine client of mine pulled a muscle on an upper level cross country outing, and therapeutic ultrasound was added to the arsenal of healing technology used on him. His treatment also included cold laser therapy, body balancing, rest, ice, and arnica. He has made a complete recovery (in about 10 days) and is fit and ready to compete again.

Therapeutic ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves that provides heat that vibrates soft tissues deep within the traumatized area. The energy from these sound waves can penetrate as far as five centimeters, though the intensity of the waves (and thus effectiveness) decreases the further it penetrates. One chief benefit is that these waves cause microscopic air bubbles that seem to stimulate the parts of the cell membranes important in healing inflammation, thus helping alleviate both sore muscles and joint pain.

Ultrasound was first used in the 1940’s and is the longest standing form of electrotherapy to still be in regular use. It is still used extensively in physical therapy (physiotherapy, sports therapy, chiropractic and osteopathic) clinics to treat patients with soft tissue injuries.

It is most commonly used to treat superficial localised conditions such as muscle strains, tendon injuries,and bursitis. The treatment is applied via a treatment head using a gel to aid smooth movement and adherence to the skin. Ultrasound tends to be most effective on tissues with a higher collagen density (such as ligaments and tendons), than muscles and cartilage.

Cold laser therapy was first developed in 1967, but has only recently been used extensively in injury and pain management clinics. It is used to treat a range of conditions, for example tendon injuries, neuropathic pain ,and joint pain such as osteoarthritis.

Laser and LED beams stimulate the cells that repair tissues, reduce inflammation and pain. These effects are photochemical, not thermal.

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Natural Approaches to Arthritis

Lameness is a common symptom of arthritis in older animals. Many veterinarians prescribe corticosteroids, or other potentially toxic medications, but there are more natural and safe options. Conventional therapies treat pain and inflammation, but rarely help the stiff and swollen joint to heal .

Each animal is an individual and a dedicated owner may have to try several treatment options before the magic cocktail is found.  The goal is not just to suppress symptoms, but to actually heal the body in a holistic way.

I have discussed acupuncture, cold laser therapy, massage,Transfer Factor (wonderful for the inflammation of arthritis) and other homeopathic and herbal remedies on this blog. Many natural remedies can relieve pain and supply nutrients to help cartilage heal.

Arthritis results from erosion of the cartilage lining of the joints. Since there are no nerves in this cartilage, a great amount of damage can occur before the surrounding joint tissues become inflamed and painful. So once again, prevention is the key. The earlier diagnosis is made, the greater the chance for healing.

Glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, enzymes, fatty acids, can all help heal cartilage.

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TMJ and Cold Laser Therapy

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition that affects the jaw. Symptoms include radiating jaw pain, difficulty opening and closing the mouth and clicking or popping sounds with movement. Cold laser therapy, or Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has long been a popular treatment option used by European dentists.

The laser has been shown to stimulate tissue repair while minimizing swelling and inflammation. This can reduce pain and discomfort associated with TMJ.

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Where is the Problem?

Myofascial release is a technique of applying extended pressure to the complaining body part. Normally fascia is relaxed, but any kind of trauma, scar, or emotional tension can create kinks in the fascia. This not only impacts the problem area but can spread throughout the body. Think of the fascia as webbing or a sweater that encases all of our muscles, bones, veins, nerves, ligaments and more. Pulling one thread in the sleeve will send shock waves throughout the sweater. Everything is connected.

If you try myofascial release on your own body, you may wonder why I am still alive! The animals, mostly horses and dogs (though there have been pigs, llamas, and goats in the mix) seem to recognize that I am there to help. The process of balancing the structure of the body is not always pleasant. Animals seem to be better than we are at not avoiding hard stuff! Maybe it is more natural for them to let go.

By offering our animals the healing that massage and alternative bodywork therapy can give, we can give something back to them for all that they have given to us.

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Is Laser Therapy Right for Me or My Animal?

Cold Laser Therapy, which is also known as Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), is used to improve tissue repair, reduce inflammation and pain.

The treatment has been proven to help relieve pain in areas like the neck and also in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Cold laser has many other uses, including helping wounds heal and treating muscle, tendon, bone or nerve damage.

Because the light beam triggers the repair of damaged cells in its path, without the need for the therapist to identify the exact problem, it can lead to a reduction or resolution of hundreds of different illnesses or conditions.

In horses, laser therapy has proven useful and effective in treating hoof abscesses, bone chips, navicular problems, and laminitis.

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How Can My Horse (and Myself) Perform the Best?

The process of participating in sports and getting a body conditioned strains muscles and tendons even when no injury is present. The simplest way to relieve this strain is through myofascial release.

Fascia is a specialized connective tissue layer surrounding muscles, bones, and joints, and gives support and protection to the body. It consists of three layers – the superficial fascia, the deep fascia and the sub serous fascia. Fascia is one of the 3 types of dense connective tissue (the others being ligaments and tendons) and it extends without interruption from the top of the head to the tip of the toes.

The fascia, or soft connective tissue that surrounds muscles, is stretched and made supple during performance enhancing massage. The massage increases blood flow and spreads muscle fibers that have been squeezed together. Both processes can help repair micro-tears and prevent further injury.

Myofascial release can be done before exercise to release any knots so the muscles can work properly. Afterward, massage can push out some of the waste product (lactic acid), for example, to prevent common muscle soreness.

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