Tag Archives: fascia

Myo Means Muscle

Myofascial release: Myo is the muscle, and the fascia is the supporting tissue around the muscles. Myofascial disorders are the most common cause of pain, and yet, very few doctors or veterinarians learn about them.

Myofascial pain may develop from a muscle injury, from excessive strain on a particular muscle or muscle group, ligament or tendon. Other causes include repetitive motion, lack of activity (such as stall rest), or a direct injury to muscle fibers.

Myofascial pain is often treated with medications, injections, but massage therapy is a non-invasive, non-toxic alternative.  Therapeutic massage can loosen tight muscles and relieve cramping or spasms. There are many massage techniques used on horses, such as Swedish, Sports, Deep Tissue, Stress and Trigger Point,  all of which have benefits. In many cases, the elastic portion of the fascia is released with good short term results. Myofascial release provides long term results by  making permanent length changes to the tissue. By elongating the fascial system we can restore the efficiency within the muscles. This type of body work restores the natural abilities of coordination, strength, and power to the horse.



The Importance of Fascia

The entire human body is lined with a connective tissue called fascia. Fascia links every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as all internal organs, including the heart, lungs, brain, and spinal cord. It is what binds everything together. When the fascia loses its pliability, it becomes a source of tension and pain. By simply keeping fascia healthy and flexible, it creates a balance throughout the entire body.

Myofascial release therapy helps relieve pain, loosen tight muscles, reduce stress, improve circulation, improve joint mobility, release tight fascia, alleviate tension and much more! Every athlete, human or animal, can improve their performance by body work that keeps fascia free and supple.



Equine Massage is for Full Body Function

Equine Massage is for Full Body Function


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.



The Animal Guides Me in Their Treatment

When I work on an animal, the treatment points to the next step I should take. I may have an idea of the problems when I start, but it is essential that I watch how the animal responds. Sometimes, when muscle fibers release, others may contract. There is no such thing as a muscle in isolation from the rest of the body. My challenge is to be fluid in my thinking, to be able to turn on a dime.

Some of my favorite 4-legged clients will guide me as I work. They become active in their own treatment by leaning into my hands, telling me I am in the right spot, ignoring my hands, or telling me I am clueless!, or flinching away, which signals that that spot is painful.

Fascia gives the body its shape. Healthy fascia is elastic and allows the body to stretch and move free. An injury, the wear and tear of daily life, exercise, stress, and fatigue can all result in restrictions of the fascia. Left untreated, these restrictions build up and result in pain and loss of athletic ability. Many people are surprised to discover an increase in the ability of their equine or canine athlete after myofascial massage.


Muscular Patterns Reveal Themselves

The more chance I have to observe a horse in action, the easier it is for me to identify where the horse might have pain or constrictions. Ideally, I have the time at a show to watch the horse in the ring, but at the very least, I need to see the horse walking away from me, towards me, and walking in a circle in each direction. Seeing the horse standing will also reveal areas of myofascial tightness, postural deviations, and other asymmetries.  Once I see all that, I have to become a detective, putting together all the clues.

The majority of the time, trigger points, stress points, and other restrictions in the body manifest in patterns. For instance, a tight left shoulder might be caused by a tight right biceps femoris (muscles in the hind end). Before I ever put my hands on a horse, I often have an idea (though I also have to keep an open mind!) of what I am going to find.

It has been reported that massaging a horse before competition can result in as much as a 20% increase in the animal’s efficiency.


The Fine Art of Healing Through Touch

Since the rise of modern medicine, the art of touch and palpation have been very much overlooked in the training of health professionals in favor of other “more advanced” diagnostic tests. Palpation of the muscles, tendons, and fascia is a fine art. Touch is extremely effective in determining the extent of a clients’ pain (both animal and human) and in treating and resolving pain.

Through touch I can feel what is a normal, supple muscle and what muscle is tight and constricted. I can feel places where fascia is pulled tight and causing pain and restricted movement. My hands feel the alignment of the spine and places where the skin is cold (restricted circulation). Every horse and dog trains me to be more aware with my hands.

In Japan, the holistic art of Shiatsu (similar to Stress and Trigger Point Therapy) has been practiced for 1500 years to release pain, prevent illness, and increase energy. It is also used to heal specific diseases and treat ailing organs. After World War II General MacArthur attempted to ban holistic practices such as Acupressure and Shiatsu completely in favor of modern allopathic medicine.

A knowledge of skeletal structure, muscle fiber direction, and function of each muscle is essential to put healing touch into practice. Knowledge and training of the hands allows massage therapists to contribute to overall health and athletic success.

Can Myofascial Release Prevent Tendon and Ligament Injury?

Fascia wraps around every muscle, organ, bone, and nerve and connects every structure of the body from head to tail.  When fascia is damaged due to injury, inactivity, or trauma, it sets off a chain reaction that can compromise the nervous system, movement, and the flow of body fluids. Left untreated, fascia tightens like a  shrinking spider web. Frequently fascial pain will go undiagnosed since it does not show up on Xrays, MRI’s, or CT scans.

Massage therapists who work on fascia will feel for ropey or thickened bands of tissue. I recently worked on a horse who had thick bands around his throat latch that were causing breathing problems. In one session of releasing and softening the hardened tissue he stopped coughing and struggling for air and could resume his job as an eventing horse.

Tight fascia can also sometimes be seen as a ripple under the skin. When I work on a horse, I walk around them and look for places where the texture and appearance of the skin looks different.

Fascial restriction not only affects flexibility and movement, but also strength. Muscles will tire more quickly when they are restricted as they fight to overcome the power of the tight fascia. Tendon and ligament injuries will then be more likely to occur. Myofascial release can restore elasticity in the connective tissue, preventing many career ending injuries.

Tendon and ligament injuries are common in the competitive equine world. Because of the limitations that fascial restrictions place on the contractile elements of muscle, muscle strength is inhibited by approximately one third of its normal strength in the presence of fascial restrictions. So fascial restrictions not only affect flexibility, but also limit a horse’s inherent strength and stability. Muscles will fatigue more quickly because they will have to overcome the enormous tensile strength of a fascial restriction. Muscle and tendon strain is then likely to occur where there is fascial restriction. – See more at: http://holistichorse.com/equine-therapy/massage/409-myofacial-release#sthash.UXn2QpR6.dpuf


X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or EMGs
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or EMGsReleasing fascia through myofascial pressure techniques, and with the cold laser on meridian points, can immediately restore normal movement and eliminate pain.

A Soft Touch

The majority of problems I encounter are a result of tightened and shortened muscles. My mission is always to find the best way to soften contracted muscles so they can stretch back to a good position. I never do this by pulling on the muscle, but by finding the area of contraction and applying deep pressure to release the tissue of fascia and muscle. With experience I have developed a sense of where a client is being held in tension. The massage consists of me combining my observations with feedback from the client. (Remember: most of my clients don’t talk!). I have to constantly listen to the messages that horses, dogs, pigs, llamas, goats… and sometimes people send to me. No two massages are the same. It takes patience and practice to feel the subtle responses in the body, and to know when to move on to the next area.

What is the Difference Between Relaxation and Deep Tissue Massage?

Hopefully, all massage is relaxing. But deep tissue is meant to work through the layers of the body to lengthen muscle fibers and release areas that are being held tight. A relaxation massage is focused on the pleasure of the recipient. Deep tissue massage should not be painful, but there will definitely be sensations when spasms are being worked on that might not feel totally enjoyable. Hopefully, after deep tissue massage the decrease in pain and tension will bring a feeling of great relief. Posture should improve, and flexibility and movement should be freer.

Deep Tissue Massage targets the structure of the fascia and muscles, referred to as connective tissue. Of the many types of massage, deep tissue focuses on the release of muscle tension and chronic spasms or adhesions.

Deep tissue massage can also break up and eliminate scar tissue from previous injuries.

How Fascia is Released

The fascia is what gives the body shape. It is connective tissue that surrounds and supports every muscle, organ, and bone in the body. In its natural state, fascia is pliable and relaxed. However, when injured, exhausted, or stressed through poor posture, it can become tight, hard,  and distorted.

The magic I feel when releasing fascia can only compare to a child playing with clay! Fascia has a gel-like texture which has the ability to change shape and release when warmed. I recently worked on a horse that I could see had tight fascia in the haunches. The skin had a puckered look to it. I held my hand over the area and had to have patience while I waited to feel a change in temperature. When the area felt warm, I could move and spread the tight tissue. The owner was amazed to see a change in the appearance: instead of a tight, bumpy muscle, the haunches looked buttery and smooth. When we walked him forward, he had a lovely gliding feeling in his movement.

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