Tag Archives: tendon

How Can My Horse (and Myself) Perform the Best?

The process of participating in sports and getting a body conditioned strains muscles and tendons even when no injury is present. The simplest way to relieve this strain is through myofascial release.

Fascia is a specialized connective tissue layer surrounding muscles, bones, and joints, and gives support and protection to the body. It consists of three layers – the superficial fascia, the deep fascia and the sub serous fascia. Fascia is one of the 3 types of dense connective tissue (the others being ligaments and tendons) and it extends without interruption from the top of the head to the tip of the toes.

The fascia, or soft connective tissue that surrounds muscles, is stretched and made supple during performance enhancing massage. The massage increases blood flow and spreads muscle fibers that have been squeezed together. Both processes can help repair micro-tears and prevent further injury.

Myofascial release can be done before exercise to release any knots so the muscles can work properly. Afterward, massage can push out some of the waste product (lactic acid), for example, to prevent common muscle soreness.

MFR PR photo

There Are So Many Uses for the Cold Laser!

Low Level Laser Therapy uses light at a wavelength that the cells of the body are receptive to. The light is absorbed and energy production is increased, speeding up the healing process,and increasing the quality of the repair.

Facial pain, trapped nerves, Achilles tendonitis, muscle fatigue, Lymphedema (also known as lymphatic obstruction, a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling), chronic low back pain, to name a few, have been treated successfully with LLLT/Cold Laser Therapy.

There have been many clinical trials proving the effectiveness of cold laser therapy. Neck pain and whiplash, normally difficult to successfully resolve due to the sensitivity of the area, has a positive outcome with LLLT, as does sciatica and pain felt under the shoulder blade. The evidence for Age Related Macular disease (AMD) and stroke is rapidly emerging, and clinical trials are planned for Parkinson`s and Alzheimer’s.

The wonderful thing about the laser is it can do no harm if used correctly. If you or your horse has pain or soreness at a horse show, ask me to use the cold laser on the painful area. At a CIC or CCI I often use the laser on all the joints of the horses’ legs before the jog and after cross country.

With Laser Therapy you can heal and relieve pain, heal muscle, tendon and ligament injuries, ease inflammation and swelling, treat wounds, and so much more!


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.



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.



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.

How Can I Help?

In sports, or daily life, a muscle can never be alone. If a tendon or muscle is injured, recovery is dependent on conditioning the entire body. Every part is only as strong as the whole. Treating a single muscle without considering the whole body is not good treatment. The job of a holistic practitioner is to reduce or end pain in the body, and create healthy balance through myofascial release, stress and trigger point therapy, and other modalities.

I recently got a call from an experienced and knowledgeable breeder. One of her beautiful 6 year old warmbloods was having total meltdowns when he landed a jump. He would shake his head, cough, pin his ears, buck, rear, just to mention a few less than stellar behaviors. He was sound and fine otherwise. The horse is lovely to look at and there are no problems with conformation or injuries.  I put a lot of thought into what he was expressing, and even made a list of all the possible muscles and pains that might be creating such dramatic reactions. Then a light bulb went off in my head! If he couldn’t breathe when landing from a jump, wouldn’t that cause such a panicked response? I even went through the motions in my own body to try and feel what he might be feeling.

I entered the stall of a stunning, beautiful, and quite sweet horse. The second I touched the left side of his head, cheek, throatlatch, etc. he mimicked many of the behaviors his owner had described. I felt extreme tightness and had to proceed with great sensitivity to begin to soften all the muscles on the left side of his head, neck, ribcage and more. Eventually he began to take deep breaths and relax. I did as much as I possibly could in one session and hoped that the next ride would be less scary, if nothing else!

I received an email about a week later saying he was a different horse. He had jumped the same jumps that had created all the trouble before and did not buck, rear, shake his head, or cough. He is so transformed that she has changed his name to reflect his true sweet nature! I live for feedback like this, not to stroke my ego (though that is nice) but because it is my mission in life to help all my 4 legged friends and clients live pain free and happy lives.

The Dangers of Soft Footing

My post of July 2 speaks of the hazards of too hard footing. On the flip side, in very soft footing the heels are prevented from performing their necessary braking action. This increases the risk of navicular bone fracture, and strains to ligaments, particularly the check ligament, deep flexor, and superficial tendon. A balanced and elastic body can withstand a lot, but it is best to avoid deep footing, especially at the faster gaits.

Voluntary Muscles of the Horse

There are three kinds of muscles in the horse: smooth muscles, which are found in organs and blood vessels, cardiac muscles in the heart, and skeletal, or voluntary muscles, of which there are about 700. These muscles attach to bone by tendons and add up to 60% of the body weight of a horse. They are the muscles responsible for movement and need to be slowly conditioned for every kind of riding.

There are tendons at each end of the muscle. The one closest to the core of the horse is called the origin tendon. This is the tendon that anchors the muscle to the least movable bone. At the other end is the tendon of insertion, which is the tendon on the most movable bone. It is usually farthest from the body

Most voluntary muscles are in sets of two and act in opposition to one another. One muscle will contract and flex, while the other straightens. When a muscle contracts, it brings the origin and insertion tendons closer together. When muscles are tight, it strains the tendons. Sports massage is one of the best ways to keep muscle fibers stretchy and free and prevent tendon injury.

What Weighs the Most on Your Horse?

Muscles which move the bones are caused skeletal muscles, and account for a whopping 45% of your horses total body weight. These muscles, also called voluntary muscles, provide protection to the skeleton, as well as causing all movement. When healthy, the skeletal muscles have a good supply of blood vessels.  Massage, exercise, and proper nutrition are all ways to keep your horse happy,healthy,and pain free by ensuring a healthy blood supply to the muscles. An unhealthy muscle may atrophy, become inflamed,or harden (ossify). This is why prevention is so important!

Tendons are dense bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone. Blood supply is less abundant in the tendon than in the belly of the muscle. Because of this, tendons are more likely to develop scar tissue when healing from an injury. A big part of my work is to make sure that tendons are free from tension.

Sports massage helps to keep muscles and tendons loose, keep circulation properly functioning, prevent stiffness, maintain flexibility, and also keep a happy attitude in your equine athlete.

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