Massage is much more than just relaxing. Massage therapy dates back thousands of years. The purpose of massage therapy is to target the bodies source of pain thus eliminating tension in the muscles allowing the horse to achieve full range of motion and improving flexibility, reducing stiffness and edema (swelling) in the muscles and joints. The continuing pull of gravity, physical injuries, post surgery, and the stress of daily activities/work can cause the body to become misaligned creating inefficiencies and imbalances that cause discomfort, pain and loss of energy. Massage aids in the removal of metabolic waste/toxins, improves circulation of blood increasing oxygen supply to all cells, stimulates lymph flow which strengthens the immune system, improves sleep, reduces stress related injuries, breaks up adhesions and scar tissue, reduces pain, reduces post workout discomfort allowing for quicker recovery, relieves musculoskeletal issues thus improving posture. The emotional value of physical touch on mood and mental health helps to alleviate stress, depression and anxiety in turn boosting energy levels.
Trigger Point & Stress Point Therapy
Different disciplines require more effort from certain muscles. When working with a performance horse, it is good to determine the activities they are required to do. When you push a horse to their limits, in which order do the muscles start to fatigue and show patterns of distress? This will give you a better picture of which muscles need more support/attention.
Trigger points develop from either stress, repetitive use or overtraining of a muscle, trauma or injury, structural imbalance, improper stretching or not stretching before exercise. During this time the muscles develop a trigger point, a type of knot in which the muscle fibers get entangled and unable to release their contracted state. This causes the muscle to have a lack of circulation, diminishing the oxygen supply to the muscle and a build up of metabolic waste, pain, spasm and dysfunction of the muscle.
Stress points form in the musculotendinous junction. When a muscle is being overworked and cannot bear the weight it is asked to carry, a specific proprioceptive nerve responsible for detecting and recording the amount of tension placed on a muscle during work is known as the Golgi Tendon Organ. It shuts down the muscle to prevent injury and hands the load to the tendon, tendons compared to muscle have less elastic fibers therefore are not as flexible and will tear easier. Because this area is of high neural input, the stress points rarely become dormant or insensitive, instead they become chronic and more painful over time if put under consistent strain and will lead to injury.
By using techniques such as Trigger Point and Stress Point therapy, it will eliminate precursors of stress related injuries.
Encourages development of stronger cardiac muscles, improves oxygen supply to the cells, decreases blood pressure, improves elimination of metabolic waste and improves delivery of hormones.
Relieves muscles of pain, spasm and aids in the removal of metabolic waste and reduces inflammation. It encourages quicker recovery between workouts by relieving the muscles of soreness, stiffness and weakness which will reduce post workout discomfort and allow for increased flexibility and for a more full range of motion. It also decreases the rate of stress related injuries and prevents chronic conditions.
Encourages the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) to settle into the parasympathetic state, aka “rest & digest” which improves digestion, relaxing the intestinal muscles thus encouraging peristalsis, also improving blood flow to the digestive tract and stimulates the functions of the kidney and liver.
Horses require muscular effort to inhale and exhale, massage improves respiration by relieving tension/tightness of the muscles that assist in the breathing process. This allows for greater expansion of the lungs & ribs for larger lung capacity in which more oxygen can get to cells. The stimulation of the ANS and the relaxing effect allows for more balanced, deeper breathing, which will also improve their quality of sleep.
Has a normalizing effect on the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and the parasympathetic (“rest & digest”) divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System. Massage is effective in pain control due to the natural release of hormones such as endorphins. It can also stimulate or relax nerves depending on that strokes applied, relieve restlessness and sleep disturbances and improves proprioception.
Aids in movement of stagnant lymph and increases circulation of lymphatic fluid which cleanses the body of metabolic waste such as harmful bacteria and toxins thereby assisting the immune system to prevent disease.
Aids in vitality, tone and elasticity of the skin, removes dead skin cells, stimulates follicular oils and sebaceous glands & increases circulation thus improving overall skin condition.
Improves skeletal balance and alignment without force therefore improving joint flexibility and increasing range of motion. There is increased blood flow to the bones which allow for healthy growth.
Regulates hormone activity via a balancing effect on the ANS, increases circulation thus improving the transportation of hormones throughout the body.