PART TWO: Massage

Welcome back to the next episode of this short series of Blogs on therapeutic techniques that I regularly use. Today I will be talking about massage and myofascial release.

I will often start with some gentle soft tissue massage, this helps to warm up the tissue and allow the animal to get used to my touch.

The Basics of Massage Include;

Stroking; Exactly as it says on the tin, a gentle introduction to the animal and its muscles

Effleurage; Not one I personally tend to use on the animals, as it would more often then not be against the grain of the hair growth, however it would be useful for lymphatic drainage, where there is swelling.

Kneading; I once told my husband he had a 'doughy back' for me this was a compliment - apparently he didn't take it so well! However it perfectly describes the motion of kneading. Using both hands to get further into the tissue using your sense of touch to work on areas tighter than others - just like a piece of dough.

Rolling: This technique is particularly useful around the scapula region, it involves lifting the superficial layers and rolling it between thumb and fingers

Cupping : A useful technique performed with cupped hands and 'floppy' wrists.

Hacking: One of my favourites for myself, a really nice technique for around the shoulders, and particularly good for around the gluts on horses.

Soft Tissue Massage Benefits

  • Helps to relax the muscles, often useful pre and post competition

  • Increases blood circulation and lymph flow - this can help to relive pain

  • Improves the healing time of strained ligaments and muscular tissue,

  • Reduces the inflammation of joints and heart rate,

  • Improves range of motion and joint flexibility,

  • Decreases muscle spasms.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a much slower, sustained pressure when compared to massage. It can often look as though you are not doing anything at all. However under your hands you can feel the reaction of the tissue underneath, going from firm and 'claggy' to soft and mobile.

Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue. It is made up primarily of collagen and helps to stabilise, separate, and enclose the muscles. Whilst there are 4 different types of fascia we are most interested in the superficial fascia, where we are likely to have the most effect.

Fascia could be described as having a similar feeling to cling film when palpating it and it has been recently discovered that it is highly innovated (has a high nerve supply) therefore it is often a source of pain and tightness.

Both massage and myofascial release and indeed many of the physiotherapeutic techniques described in this short series can and will have an effect on the pain cycle.

By reducing muscle guarding through massage and reduced muscle spasm and inflammation we can help to improve range of movement and therefore gait symmetry and muscular strength, improving function and overall reduced pain.

At this point you will often get lots of yawns and chewing from the horse. Often considered to be a sign of the horse releasing. Both of these techniques are very relaxing, should leave limited muscle soreness and achieve a nice relaxed state.

My next blog will cover manual therapy techniques, specifically joint mobilisations, which is where I believe physiotherapy starts to differ from massage therapy.

Thanks for reading. You can keep up to date by following my Facebook page;

https://www.facebook.com/huntshillphysio/

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