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.
Many horse owners believe that a diagnosis of “kissing spine” is career ending. It does not have to be. The condition occurs when the bony ‘spikes’ at the top of the horse’s vertebrae start to rub together, causing pain and swelling, especially when in motion. If the long back muscle is very contracted, it can pull the vertebrae together and cause pain. Kissing spine is most prevalent in dressage horses doing many collected movements, jumpers, and upper level event horses. Thoroughbreds seem to be predisposed to developing the problem.
Surgery and injections are often recommended, but I have seen horses recover with the following:
Spreading out the fibers of the tight muscles through massage is one way to allow the spine to return to a normal state. Teaching the horse how to raise his back by releasing the posterior pectoral muscle also helps. Cold laser is another way to ease pain and help relaxation. Proper saddle fitting is essential. Don’t overdo sitting trot. As in humans, it is always worth trying physical therapy solutions before surgery. Chiropractic treatment, cold laser, acupuncture, and massage have all been very effective in many cases.