The wonderful world of fascia!!
Fascia is connective tissue that runs throughout the horses body. It is a sheath-like webbing that keeps all the tissues and bones supported, protected and in their ideal place. Fascia needs to be flexible and elastic for horses to move their bodies properly and so their organs can function freely without being squashed. However, due to poor posture, over work, inadequate fitness, ill fitting tack etc, plus the constant pull of gravity, fascia becomes stiff and ‘stuck’, restricting movement and causing pain, fatigue, and unsoundness.
Like bones, fascia bands are composed primarily of collagen which gives them a tough but pliable texture. The fascial system maintains a balance of tension and elasticity which allows for smooth, unrestricted movement of each muscle group while holding everything in place. If the fascia is restricted then muscle contraction is restricted.
Since there is one singular piece of this stretchy, mesh-like substance interweaving through muscles and organs from head to toe like shrink-wrap, distress in one area can affect movement and create symptoms elsewhere. And, like a glove, fascia has enough substance to hold shape, but not enough to support weight. This illustrates how movement and structure conditions, such as poor posture, affect fascia, causing pain and unstable movement.
Myofascial lines are chains of interconnected anatomical structures that functionally direct the basic motion pattern of the musculoskeletal system.
Myofascial chains are ventral from the hyoid to the hind limb, dorsal from the eye to tail, and functional from front limb to contra hind limb, explaining compensatory patterns of pain. There are also more complicated helical connections that course around the body, crossing over at the cervicothoracic and lumbosacral junctions which are involved with axial rotation of the spine.
Fascial restrictions have the capability of pulling an enormous amount of tension in one area. That is a vast amount of tension to overcome and is the cause of many problems that limit the performance of the horse, including unsoundness, proprioception problems, lack of flexibility, behavioural issues, sore muscles, back pain, and tendon and ligament injuries etc.
Myofascial Release is a comprehensive, whole body, hands-on approach that restores the necessary slack in the connective tissue web to help eliminate lameness and enhance a horse’s performance. Myofascial release uses sustained hands-on pressure into a fascial restriction for several minutes in one area. Myofascial Release treats the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms and this is what allows for the permanency of results that has been observed with Equine Myofascial Release.
What are the benefits of Myofascial Release:
- Reduction of inflammation
- Reduction of muscle and nerve pain
- Decreasing fascial tension
- Stretching and elongating tissues
- Increase of power, strength and endurance
- Increase metabolic efficiency
- Increase biomechanical efficiency
What are the components of Myofascial Release?
- Soft Tissue Mobilisation– Treats the elastic portion. Soft tissue mobilisation breaks up cross links and stretches the tissue from A to B.
- Cross Hands– In cross hands the therapist crosses their hands and skinks into the tissue. They take out the slack by moving their hands away from each other and then hold. The hands then move the tissue from point A to wherever the body wants to go.
- Compression– In compression the therapist sinks into the tissue, pushes their hands towards each other and holds. Then they move with the tissues from point A to wherever.
- Direct Pressure– In direct pressure the therapist just sinks into the tissue for 90-120 seconds and holds.
- Facilitation of Energy– With facilitation of energy the therapist holds their hands on either side of a part of the horse.
- Traction/Distraction– The therapist takes a part of the horse away from them, holds and then slowly releases back to the body. Ie. Tail pull,
- Scar Release– The therapist goes into the area, moves the fibre clockwise, and holds.
- Rebounding– The therapist uses a rocking motion to enhance fluid flow.
- Unwinding– The release of a restricted area.