Horse Previews Magazine website - Posted on 04/07/2001; 2:00:00PM.

Equine Sports Massage Therapy: Part 3

Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation

by Laura Attaway, LMP, ESMTII * Horse Mountain Massage, 509-990-9608 * ljme@attworldnet.att.com

Everyone who has had a horse get hurt, raise their hand. Everyone who felt like it was taking forever for your horse to heal, raise your hand. Quite a few of you with hands in the air. Some of you with groans of frustration too. In Part 3 of this series we will look at how a regular program of massage for your horse can prevent injuries and help in the speedy rehabilitation of your horse. This is not to say that massage is magic and you can work your horse indiscriminately without worry of injury. Massage can provide a buffer and advantage to avoiding some injuries.

First, injury prevention. Hopefully you have followed this series of articles and know that massage can provide a built in flexibility to developing muscles and that it can increase flexibility. The most common injuries to the muscle is either a pull within the muscle body or a tendon pull which is an extension of the muscle body. Muscle pulls are often the result of knots within the muscle. Knots are actually stuck muscle fibers that reduce flexibility within the muscle. A muscle with one or more knots is much more likely to be the source of an injury. The manual kneading of the muscle fibers helps breakup the knots, and increase the circulation. Increased blood supply to the area can prevent future knots by providing an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen and the flushing away of toxins. Tendon pulls occur when the body of the muscle is knotted or shortened and the stresses on the tendon increase as during performance. The tendon is the least flexible part of the muscle unit. Keeping the muscle body supple with massage can help prevent that costly and time consuming in the tendon.

Secondly, injury rehabilitation. Typically when our horse is injured he/she is stalled. Limiting the horses movements is often critical in the healing process. By limiting the movement we also decrease, to a degree, the circulation of blood and adequate blood circulation is the center to the healing process. Circulation especially in the horses legs is aided by movement. `Stocking up' is a result of decreased circulation and blood and fluids building up in the legs. Massage is helpfully in many different types of injury rehabilitation's, not just muscular.

Once your horse has been stalled with a muscle or tendon injury, the waiting begins. If a muscle in your horses right rear leg is injury he/or she will compensate during movement to avoid pain. The increased compensation shows up through out the horses body but primarily in the diagonal shoulder, i.e. left shoulder. Blood is the life stream literally for the healing process. As the body works to heal the injured muscle it needs an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients and then an avenue to flush away the `debris' leftover from the injury. Massage provides the manual kneading that helps maintain an adequate blood flow.

If your horse was injured in a fence or any one of many maladies a horse can get into either in the pasture or the stall and he/she is now stitched up, massage can help with this rehabilitation also. Once the acute stage, the first 72 hours typically, has passed, gentle massage above and below the injury site once again can increase and maintain healing circulation in your stalled horse. Work done on an injured horse that is on Bute or any other pain medication isn't recommended. While massage work is typically not real deep on an injured horse, he/she needs to be able to tell something hurts and `say' so. Any massage work done on an injured horse MUST first be cleared by your Veterinarian.

Finally, when a body part hurts, we tend not to move it, not moving it decreases the pain but also decreases the blood flow and makes the area stiff. Stiffness can lead to more pain and the cycle of pain begins. This is true of our horses to a degree. Massage can step into that cycle of pain and aid in breaking it and decreasing the pain and aid in speeding the healing time. If you are faced with an injured horse, remember that Equine Sports Massage Therapy can help make your horse more comfortable and aid in the healing time.

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