Tag Archives: bone

Preventing Injury in Your Riding Horse

What would your horse be like if all his muscles were in a state of relaxation, free from tension? Deep tissue massage, stress and trigger point therapy, and myofascial release
will help the connective tissue become more elastic, thereby allowing the muscle to  return to its natural shape.

It is very important for horses to maintain a comfortable and free range of motion.  If certain muscles are tight, other muscles in the body will compensate and take up the extra workload. They may be ridden like this for weeks, months or years, until the body can no longer call on extra resources because it does not have them. This ultimately leads to ruptures of soft tissues and thickening of the tendon and ligaments, which eventually can cause permanent dysfunction of the affected area.

Muscles attach to  bones in pairs of opposites, and cross one joint or more. Muscles free from tension will carry out the function of keeping joints in alignment.  This allows joint fluid to flow evenly within the joint, and this reduces unnatural wear and tear of joints.

Each muscle is attached to bone by tendons. Muscles are designed to take 90% of workload and tendons the other 10% The muscle is where the elasticity is. If the muscle is not functioning properly then the tendons will take more load and can eventually tear.

Equine massage therapy is a very powerful tool in injury prevention for horses.


How the Body Regulates Muscle Tension

Tendons connect muscles to bone. There are groups of cells within a tendon, where the fibers of the muscle meet the tendon, called Golgi tendon bodies. Made up of strands of collagen, the Golgi organ also contains nerve tissue. The major function of this organ is to sense muscle tension when a muscle is contracted, sending signals to the brain about how much force is being exerted.

Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindle cells work together to prevent injury to muscles. The more the muscle tries to stretch and the faster it tries to stretch, the more the Golgi tendon organs cause it to contract. 

These nerve cells and fibers can be influenced by massage. Golgi tendon organs react to sustained  pressure such as trigger point therapy and stress point therapy,  by telling the muscle to relax.


The Importance of a Gentle Warm Up

Probably the biggest problem I observe is riders demanding a “frame” from their horse within moments of mounting. Using hands to force the head and neck into a fixed shape causes damage that is difficult to reverse.  Without a good period of time that allows the horse to stretch, warm up muscles, and find their balance under the rider, muscles and fascia tend to get stuck into adhesions.

Superficial fascia is the connective tissue that is found beneath the skin. This tissue links and covers blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and bones. The fascia and muscle combine to form the mysofascial system. Adhesions limit muscle movement which interferes with performance.  Adhesions can also cause severe pain, reduced flexibility, and tender trigger points. 

To release adhesions, I use a technique called ‘myofascial release.’ This technique involves applying gentle but sustained pressure on the soft tissue. During this technique, it is also important to target the fascia. This helps to lengthen and soften the fascia and break up the adhesions and any scar tissue that is present between the bones, muscles, and skin. Scientific evidence shows that myofascial release offers relief from different types of joint and muscle pains. Flexibility and movement is then restored.

th (1)


Using the Cold Laser to Prevent Injuries

Alberto Salazar is a running coach to Olympic medalists and many other successful runners. Observers have noted that Salazar’s athletes are not only fast, they seem to avoid the injuries that plague others in the sport. An article in the Portland Business Journal reveals the latest Salazar method: the use of laser therapy to prevent injuries, or speed healing.

“We use the lasers at the first sign of injury to limit an exaggerated inflammatory response that can delay healing and help the athlete return to training more quickly,” Salazar says in a short interview.

Proponents believe that laser treatments can reduce pain, and speed healing of all body tissues–muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone. Some studies have found it superior to ultrasound.

Before tendons become inflamed and swollen causing pain to the patient (whether two or four legged) and causing a  loss in strength and motion, low level laser, or cold laser, can be a very effective therapy.


Think About Your Car!

When the wheels of your vehicle are not in proper alignment, there is abnormal wear and tear on the tires and other parts. Perfect alignment and maintenance allows your car to run properly and get full longevity on all of its parts and pieces. Your body ,and that of your horse, are exactly the same.

Injury and repetitious patterns can change the body of an athlete from ideal functioning as the fascia gradually shortens, tightens ,and adjusts to accommodate misalignment. Fascia is the glue that holds everything together, providing shape, support, and reinforcement to muscle, bone, and movement. It often forms attachments (gets stuck), and needs to be loosened for free movement.

Any body, whether horse, human, dog, etc. that has had proper massage and myofascial release, feels balanced, capable, comfortable, and  fluid in movement. Structural integration realigns and resets the body, giving freedom of movement often not seen in years. Every athlete needs maintenance, as much as any car!


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.


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.


Is Your Horse Holding Tension Patterns?

Fascia surrounds, supports, and penetrates all of the muscles, bones, and organs throughout the body. This net of fascia is the body’s internal system of flexible support, and gives strength and shape to the body. The fascial system responds to injury, chronic tension, and habitual movement patterns by shortening and thickening, thereby locking in unhealthy patterns of strain, and pulling the body out of alignment.

Structural Integration works systematically to release areas of tension and restore flexibility in the body. It literally changes the shape of the body, sometimes quite dramatically. While working on a horse I often will step back, and every time I am amazed at the visual change in the outline of the horse. The back comes up; the neck rises out of the withers gracefully; the horse stands more balanced. It is one of the reasons I am so passionate about this work.

After a session of structural integration, the body should feel lighter, energized, and balanced. Breathing capacity will be greater, range of motion will increase along with ease and fluidity of movement, and the body will be more resilient to injury.

Dr. Rolf, the founder of Rolfing, or Structural Integration,  believed yoga was the best exercise system ever devised if done with the right teacher. She also believed that hands-on manipulation was needed to fully free the structure and to achieve ultimate length and separation in the joints.


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.



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.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...