Massages feels amazing, especially after a grueling workout—and their benefits aren’t just skin deep. Soft tissue massage is exceptionally good for bone-weary athletes and people with inflammation-related chronic conditions like arthritis and muscular dystrophy, according to research from McMaster University. Vigorous exercise causes small tears in your muscle fibers, and your body’s natural repair process naturally leads to inflammation and soreness.
To see if massage truly aids recovery, the researchers biopsied volunteers’ legs over the course of three sessions—once while at rest, a second time after they’d vigorously exercised on a stationary bike and received a 10-minute massage on one thigh, and a third biopsy two and a half hours after the second to track the repair processes between the massaged and un-massaged legs.
Unsurprisingly, massage reduced the production of cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation, and stimulated mitochondria—the tiny powerhouses inside your cells that convert glucose into energy for cell function and repair. So make sure to schedule regular massages; your muscles will adapt better to the demands of increased exercise.
This important article, by veterinarian Nancy Loving, is a must read! Originally posted in the Horse magazine.
Bone was once considered an inert material with its structure defined by genetics. But it turns out there’s a lot more at work, explained Larry Bramlage, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS: “Selective breeding dictates the initial skeleton, but adaptive training in response to exercise modifies it further.” He and other racehorse surgeons are striving to better understand the balance between tolerable and excessive damage—the adaptive kind that occurs naturally and the type that sidelines animals or ends their careers.
During his presentation at the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn., Bramlage, of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Ky., explained that bone is the only tissue capable of entirely reconstituting itself. With this capacity to change, he noted, there are several ways long bones strengthen themselves in response to training, including modeling and remodeling. Modeling is the process in which bone adds to itself, both inside and out, while remodeling is how existing bone tissue alters itself.
Bramlage started by describing the dynamic nature of bone activity on a cellular level. Two types of bone cells are involved in bone modeling and remodeling: osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts become trapped in the bone and become osteocytes, which are key to sensing biomechanical loads on the skeleton during exercise and directing bone tissue response accordingly. As they detect mechanical loads, they prompt additions to (formation) or reductions in (dissolution) bone mass, to achieve correct bone density for current athletic demands. Osteoclasts then tunnel through and cut canals into the bone, with osteoblasts following to make new bone. Continue reading →
This is adapted from a lecture given by Kristine Urschel, PhD, an assistant professor of equine science at the University of Kentucky:
Forty to 55% of a horse’s mature body weight is comprised of muscle. Muscle itself is comprised of roughly 70% water; 20% protein; and 10% fat, vitamins, and minerals, and has both structural and metabolic functions.
Muscle mass is determined by protein synthesis and breakdown, both of which occur simultaneously. Essentially, greater protein synthesis than breakdown results in increasing muscle mass, while increased protein breakdown compared to synthesis results in decreasing muscle mass. Factors known to affect muscle mass—either positively or negatively—include age, medications, physical activity level, nutrition, illness or disease, and hormones.
Researchers evaluating the synergistic effects of exercise and nutrition on muscle protein balance showed that providing amino acids and glucose to horses following exercise has a beneficial effect on rates of muscle protein synthesis and break down, likely resulting in a potential increase in muscle mass. Essentially, supplementing the exercising horse’s diet with both amino acids and carbohydrates has a positive effect on building muscle. Supplementing with amino acids and protein is also positive.
Supplementing with carbohydrates alone is unlikely to increase muscle mass,as is the case with exercise alone. There has been little research in horses, however, there is ample research from human athletes that can be used as a guide for what might be expected in the equine athlete.
Most of my posts have focused on stress point therapy (where the muscle attaches to the bone). Today I’d like to talk about trigger points. When the spindle-like muscle fibers that make up the belly of the muscle shorten from injury or other stresses, the oxygen supply is reduced. When oxygen is reduced, calcium rushes in, but the damaged muscle cannot pump the calcium outside the cell where it belongs. A vicious cycle is established and the muscle can’t relax. At the core of a trigger point is a lack of oxygen. Correct massage to these trigger points can provide immediate relief from the pain and tension. Combined with correct exercises and posture, further damage to the muscle is achieved and further injury avoided. Remember: stress points are responsible for movement. Trigger points provide the power. Keeping both parts of the muscle supple will maximize your horses’ athletic capability. I will repeat: Prevention is always preferable to rehabilitation!