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MUSCLE IMBALANCE IN THE HORSE

The ancient philosophy of Chinese medicine states that health comes from being in balance and harmony with all things, balance being a perfect state in which no aspect is either deficient or in excess. This belief is central to most natural alternative medicine such as chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy.

With simple massage skill, during a session you can easily detect if your horse musculature is balance or not. When checking the various muscle groups, we are interested in their tonicity, meaning the quality of tone and flexibility response, not their just their strength.

The muscles of the body hold the spine and limbs together in the right position. The combination of weak and over-tight muscles causes deviation in posture and in the skeletal system, leading to sub-luxation of the skeletal joints. As long as this muscle imbalance is not corrected, these sub-luxation problems will recur time and time again even after manipulation by a veterinarian chiropractor.

For a long time, the belief was that the tight muscle, or spasm, came first and caused the weakness on the opposite side muscle. We know from human sport medicine research that it seems that on the contrary, the muscle weakness often appears first, leading to the tightening of the muscle on the opposite side. Therefore we know that when the weak muscle is strengthened, the tightness is relieved.

The weakness in muscles can come from several origins:

  • From lack of exercises
  • From faulty nutrition
  • From poor circulation (lack of oxygen and nutrients)
  • From a sluggish lymphatic system resulting in toxin build-up within the muscle fibers.
  • From tension exerted by the fascia system

This where massage makes a big difference by increasing the fluid circulation in the muscles, leading to a better oxygenation, nutrition within the muscle fibers as well as a better removal of toxins.

Muscle imbalance and /or soreness do not arrive suddenly, though it may seem to do so. It is usually the result of a build-up of stress, physical or emotional, leading to imbalances in the body / mind which ultimately lead to physical systems. A regular maintenance program with massage therapy and stretching exercises can prevent this build-up from occurring. It is not an over-statement to say that any body, at any age and of any condition can benefit from massage therapy and stretches.

Whatever the symptoms, massage therapy assists the body in regaining its balance towards optimum health. Massage with its soft and caring approach assist the interrelationship of the different bodily systems. Regular massages remove negative stresses, be they physical, chemical or emotional.

A lot of general unwellness and fatigue that are so prevalent today and have no obvious medical cause can be helped with massage therapy. There are several massage techniques good to identify the exact locations of the various tissue tightness, including the primary source and the secondary compensatory factors. More often than not, the massage palpations can reveal the causes of problems, helping to pinpoint the source of discomfort. The same massage techniques will release the muscle and fascia tension at the source, securing a lasting benefit.

Keep in mind that, although the massage procedures for each session are similar, no two massages are the same. As you relieve some muscular tension, both primary and secondary, during a massage, in the next few days more tension will appear until all the muscular imbalances have been corrected and the animal’s musculoskeletal system is finally in balance.

We know from human experience that most patient find massage therapy very relaxing, feeling pleasantly « lighter » afterwards. Most horses react in the same way. However, occasionally due to the amount of muscle tension, residual toxins and nervous stress, the massage can trigger a major healing reaction in the recipient, causing temporary feelings of tiredness or sleepiness. This is a good sign, an indication that the body is going through a healing process and should not cause you any concern. This healing might take a few hours or a couple of days depending on the overall state of health of your animal. Several massage sessions in the course of a few days will assist the horse’s innate ability to heal itself.

Massage also play an important role in preventive health care, and in its lay version, massage can be used by anyone for this purpose. Regular massage helps to keep the harmonious relationship between the various musculoskeletal systems of the body. The techniques used in massage are simple and gentle, providing a great caring sensation to the recipient. This feeling of care assists in the emotional release and its healing. This combination of benefits helps the animal to achieve and maintain optimum health.

Another advantage of regular massage is to detect early signs of muscle imbalance before they develop into physical symptoms such as trigger points, stress points, myofascial restrictions, possibly sub-luxations and other musculoskeletal issues much sooner than by sight alone.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful.  My goal is help you provide quality home care for the benefit of your animal.

Please visit our FREE library. Our many articles address important aspects of animal wellness and fitness. Take the time to scroll through our free library to find out how you can actively contribute to your horse’s wellness.

Animal Awareness also offers a large video library with over a 100 mini-videos that will show you how to easily perform the various massage and stretching techniques talked about in this article, and more. These videos offer you the correct start and visual guidance. With this knowledge, you will be able to develop a good home care program for the benefit of your animal friend.  He will love you for it.

Enjoy your new Awareness!

Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT

The “Full Body Massage” (EV006), the “Stretching Exercises” (EV007), the "Trigger Point Massage technique” (E010), the “Stress Point Massage Technique" (EV011), the “Origin-Insertion Massage Technique” (EV012), the “Stress Point Locator” (EV013), The “Kinesiology of the Horse” (EV020) DVDs are very helpful in the evaluation of the muscle imbalance problems seen in both athletic and sedentary horses.

If you are just starting with your home care program, consider our “Introduction to Animal Massage” package,a 20% discount value on the first 7 DVDs, to secure a sound foundation in your animal massage skills. Then take advantage of our other packages to increase your knowledge of home-care protocols for the benefit of your horse(s).