Quote is from Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain by Donna and Steven Finando
On this blog I often talk about individual muscles of the horse, and their function. However, muscles are mostly arranged and function in groups. They wrap around each other, share fascia and points of insertion and origin.
Muscles must work together to control movement: as one muscle, the agonist, initiates movement by contracting, the antagonist relaxes, allowing the stretch into the motion. Then the two muscle types switch actions to allow the opposite motion.
Sometimes when I massage a client, I am not sure which muscle is causing a problem. For instance, the trapezius muscles lies on top of the rhomboid. I might suspect the issue I’m seeing in the horse is in the rhomboid, but the massage I do will work on both muscles. Without x-ray vision, I might never know exactly which muscle was in spasm, but I will feel and see the effects of the release.
Massage gives muscles the best possible opportunity to function fully and freely.
Chronic shortening in any muscle fiber of a flexor (agonist) muscle forces the pairing muscle (the antagoist) must maintain a constant counter-balancing tension to prevent unwanted movement. The body might look like it is at rest, but the muscles are working constantly. Pain and muscle fatigue are the result.
In order for muscles to rest, they must be balanced and free of tension and spasms. When spasms, trigger points, and stress points are released, energy and vitality return to the body. Any repeated posture or movement can shorten muscle fibers if the body is not properly balanced. Appropriate massage allows muscles to be reactivated to function at full capacity.
Known as Davis’ Law: When soft tissue or ligaments are placed under tension, the tissue will lengthen. When ligaments or soft tissue remain in a loose state, they will gradually shorten. Over a 90 day period, if left in a loose state, 50% of strength can be lost. Reloading of tension must happen gradually to prevent injury.
This can be seen in muscle imbalances, where one set of hypertonic, or over-tight muscles ,have shortened and become hypertrophied while their antagonists have weakened in response to their being overstretched. (i.e., a person with rounded or forward rolled shoulders will have tight, hypertrophied pectoral muscles while their rhomboids (overstretched muscles in back, will be weak.)
When one set of muscles is in chronic contraction, the antagonists, or partner muscle, will be weakened and shortened. What constitutes the right amount and kind of stress is extremely hard to determine — it probably depends on some genetics, nutritional state, ?. There is no conclusion to this article. When working with our beloved horses, there is a lot of guesswork and intuition as to how much to “Use It or Lose It” in their workouts. Part of my job is to find areas of imbalance and correct them.