In the not so recent past, sports massage for horses was considered a luxury. Now we know that it is one of the essential ingredients for keeping our equine athletes in top condition.
Massage decreases pain that is caused by tension and stiffness in the muscles. It releases cramped muscles.
Massage helps heal injured muscles.
Massage allows the body to move with greater efficiency.
Massage can help return an injured horse to full function.
Massage can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place by increasing blood flow and oxygen.Massage can help the removal of metabolic waste (lactic acid, carbon dioxide). This promotes healing.
Massage can prevent a potential injury. Tight muscles that shorten can cause a tear in the lower limbs. These muscles can not release themselves, but can be released through sports massage and stress point therapy. Massage therapists can feel potential problems in your horse before lameness and injuries occur.
Most tears and strain injuries are the result of tightness that has been accumulating over a period of time. Structural integration, also known as rolfing, or stress point therapy, is one of the best ways to prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place. Good horse owners regularly inspect the health of their horses’ tendons, but the tendons do not operate in isolation. Tight muscles that are an extension of those tendons are where the elasticity of the system exist. (tendons contain approximately 10% elasticity, and muscles the other 90%!). Once a muscle is tight, other muscles become tight as well, and the stress is passed along the body. Everything is connected!
So what should you do? Some will try applying heat. Heat does not penetrate further than an 1/8 of an inch through the skin, and then the blood that is circulating carries the heat away.
Muscles relaxers can relax muscle mass, but they travel through the central nervous system and are not accurate.
Applying ice is more effective. When ice is applied, the body rushes blood to the chilled area and the additional circulation is beneficial. But there are many places on the body where ice is not a good idea (such as the back of a horse).
So what is the answer? Direct pressure accurately applied to a spasm or knot is the most effective method of releasing a tight muscle. This is the basis of stress point therapy or structural integration.
I started the new week by playing and tweaking with this website. And I’ve decided to start a new weekly column. In my practice I am frequently asked the same question and rather than answering it hundreds of times, it seemed more efficient, and helpful, to share here. So send me your questions and photos and I will do my best to answer them here on Mondays. The questions can pertain to bodywork, cold laser, any muscle issue, performance enhancing massage, or whatever else you want to discuss. Can’t wait to get started!!