Science & Equine

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Written by Roos van Eck
Posted in Massage therapy

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The effects of massage to hindlimb muscles on protraction

Going back 300-400 years BC, massage is one of the oldest techniques used to treat muscle problems. One of its psychological effects is the release of endorphins. Another important effect is the change it brings to the anatomical and fluid status of muscle tissue. Research has shown that massage increases the pliability, flexibility and the length of a muscle. This is why in many cases massage is performed to increase range of motion (ROM). The study discussed in this article confirms that there is an increase in ROM after massage when measuring the passive and active protraction of the hindlimb.  

Eight healthy mixed breed geldings between the age of 8 and 13 years were subjected to massage performed to the superficial gluteal, semimembranosis, semitendinosis and the biceps femoris. Divided in two groups of four, one group received a 30 minute massage to the hindlimb using different techniques like rolling and pressing with alternating force between 2.3 en 9.5kg.  The other group received a sham treatment. After a wash-out period of 7 days groups were switched.

Passive and active protraction were tested using a modified ‘sit and reach test’. Trotting stride length and speed were measured using video analysis. When receiving massage therapy, all eight horses improved significantly in passive and active protraction. They also showed an increase in trotting stride length and speed. In contradiction, all eight horses when receiving the sham treatment, no improvements were found on all parameters. So far, this study shows us the positive effects of equine massage on the hindlimb. Similar effects where found earlier in humans after hamstring massage which increased the ROM of the hip joint.


> From: Hill et al., Equine Veterinary Journal 42 (2017) 683 - 687. All rights reserved to EVJ Ltd. Click here for the online summary.

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