In this episode of “Horse Mysteries Solved”…
When massage will NOT help
Do you have your horse massaged? I’m sure he or she loves it. :)
But do you ever wonder if it is helping in the long-term? Or is massage just for short-term muscle relief?
* when massage is best used
* when it won’t help
* how YOU can tell the difference
Links mentioned in Podcast:
Renee Tucker (00:01)
Hello, my friend. This is Dr. Renee Tucker with TBT University. Today, I want to talk about when massage will not help your horse and how you can tell. Okay?
Renee Tucker (00:13)
So let me just tell you flat out, what I feel is the true story. Okay? If the muscles are the primary cause of the problem with the horse, then massage will be wonderful. Why? Because massage primarily targets muscles.
Renee Tucker (00:32)
Now, for all the massage therapists out there, I do realize that massage does do more than just muscles. I know it increases circulation, helps lymphatic flow and all that kind of stuff. But for this simple example, today we’re going to say that massage targets the muscles. Okay? Now, second thing to know, I love massage.
Renee Tucker (00:51)
I love massage. I’m just picturing having it done, and it’s wonderful. I’m sure all of you probably have had a massage done. And sometimes it’s for me, it’s too light and it’s nice. It’s nice, but it doesn’t really do much.
Renee Tucker (01:08)
And other times, a couple of times I have had way too hard, I think I didn’t know I had signed up with a deep tissue practitioner. And, oh, my gosh, that was really painful. And I am just not into that pain. I like, comfortableness, let’s face it. Okay.
Renee Tucker (01:26)
But my brother Mike loves deep tissue massage. Now, my brother Mike is a bit crazy. And by that I mean he does climbing, he does advanced mountaineering. He does ice climbing. He’s certified in advanced mountain rescue.
Renee Tucker (01:44)
I mean, crazy. Just crazy. So I’ve always referred to him to my two sons as Crazy Uncle Mikey. Okay, so now we got that story straight. Now, Crazy Uncle Mikey loves deep tissue massage.
Renee Tucker (01:59)
He’ll go and he was staying at my house one time when he went to find a deep tissue massage person. He said a two hour massage of this deep tissue pain. And I’m like, doesn’t it hurt? He’s like, yeah, it’s so crazy. Well, why would you go if it hurts?
Renee Tucker (02:17)
He says, yeah, it hurts. And yeah, you’re kind of stiff and sore for a couple of days, but then you feel great. I’m like, well, how long do you feel great? Well, for a couple of months. So it’s time to go again.
Renee Tucker (02:27)
I’m like, so you don’t mind going every couple of months for a lot of pain and a couple of days of soreness? He’s like, yeah, it’s great. Yeah, he’s crazy. So what he’s trying to fix is some chronic stiffness. He doesn’t bend over all that well used to do a lot of tennis and golf and climbing and all this stuff.
Renee Tucker (02:48)
So his shoulders are stiff and the massage really helps temporarily. So I am not down in this massage. Okay? I’m just using this as an example. So what’s happening with Crazy Uncle Mikey is that he’s done so much crazy stuff that his body has a lot of things going on and the muscles are compensating for it.
Renee Tucker (03:11)
Let’s just keep it simple. Let’s just say he’s skeletally misaligned. Let’s say what he really needs is a chiropractic skeletal alignment. But he doesn’t do that. Sometimes I think he does, but whatever.
Renee Tucker (03:24)
The point is, he let’s just say he’s misaligned and his muscles are picking up the slack for that misalignment of the skeleton. And while they’re compensating over time, a couple of things happen. When they get tired, the compensating muscles are getting overused, so they’re tired and fatigued. So the body is trying to help out. The body then will send adhesions.
Renee Tucker (03:51)
What are adhesions? Well, there are a whole bunch of different components, like fibrinogen, inflammatory products, stuff like this, and they kind of really act like a light glue, like adhesive. That’s how I remember it. There are adhesions, and they make the muscles effectively stronger by kind of sticking them together. The fibers get kind of glued or adhesive together so they’re not as tired, but they’re stuck together over time.
Renee Tucker (04:23)
When you have extra adhesions for long term. Now we’re getting into muscle knots, some muscle bands, some of those muscle ropey feeling that you can get. Those are all from long term compensating plus adhesion. Okay, so Crazy Uncle Mikey is misaligned making this simple again. And his muscles compensate and the adhesions come in.
Renee Tucker (04:51)
Those adhesions while making the muscles effectively stronger, also make him less flexible so that’s what he’s noticing is that stiffness. So then he goes and does a deep tissue massage. And the kind that he likes literally rips up those adhesions. It completely releases them. They stop sticking everything together.
Renee Tucker (05:12)
And so he feels so much freer and looser and flexible. He feels good. Granted, after a couple of days of soreness, and it’s not that that’s bad, but what one needs to notice is that it has to be redone for him to have the same result. So what is that saying? That the body wants those adhesion to be there.
Renee Tucker (05:35)
So the reason the body wants them to be there is because there’s a primary problem the body’s trying to deal with by putting in adhesions. And so then when Mikey gets those taken out every couple of months, the body puts them back and he takes them out every couple of months. He feels pretty good overall until suddenly something else might overtax those fatigue muscles and they might tear. That’s just a theory. And I haven’t mentioned that to him because he’s Crazy Uncle Mikey.
Renee Tucker (06:09)
Okay, hopefully you’re getting the idea that when you have sore muscles, massage is great. But if the muscles are sore for a different reason, it would be better to address that primary reason. For example, let’s say you go to a three day event and it’s something that you do just once in a while. So you’re not really used to this level of exercise. Your horse isn’t either.
Renee Tucker (06:37)
Right? Okay, so you haul 3 hours to the event, you do competition for three days of course, your 1st, 2nd or third in every class and then you got to haul back home for another few hours. Now you’re tired, you’re muscle sore, your horse and muscle sore. This is the perfect time for massage. You’ll love it.
Renee Tucker (06:59)
It will be great. It will help those muscles just feel wonderful and heal them up faster from their sporadic overuse. Okay. But if you go to a three day event and you haul 3 hours and you’re in a class and let’s just say your horse trips and falls and does a somersault and then your weekend is over and you go back home, would a massage help the sore muscles from a somersault? Probably.
Renee Tucker (07:30)
But any horse that’s somersaults is now going to have skeletal misalignments. So it’s going to be way better to deal with a skeletal misalignment first so that there’s no muscular compensation for those misalignments. So in that case, you might want to have a chiropractor or a TBT practitioner to come out and look at your horse. Okay.
Renee Tucker (07:59)
Really hoping that I made it sort of clear. So massage is wonderful when the muscles are the primary cause of the problem. Massage is just not going to help, at least not long term if the muscles are compensating for something else. Okay. So hopefully you’re getting that.
Renee Tucker (08:20)
If not, please email me. Then what do you do? How do you know? Well, there’s a few things you can do so you can figure out between whether or not the muscles are just a compensation or they’re the problem. Okay.
Renee Tucker (08:32)
Number one. Well, you can try massage. Great, Renee, that’s geniuses. Okay. But really you can try a massage, make sure the horse likes it and not trying to bite the person.
Renee Tucker (08:44)
That’s always a bad sign. If you try them with a massage and the horse feels better for a week and then tightens right up again and does grouchy again, that’s probably not going to be the answer. Now, again, I love massage. I love massage therapist. But as they’re taught in massage school, the more the merrier.
Renee Tucker (09:04)
That’s what I was taught in chiropractic school and I went to chiropractic school. So if it doesn’t work, there’s a thing called muscle memory. And so you just have to chiropractic more often. So the same thing happens in massage school. They just say, well, there’s a lot of muscle memory and there’s a lot of stuff to go through in layers and so you just have to do it more often.
Renee Tucker (09:25)
Well, you can try that if you want to. My thought if the massage works, but then it goes back to how it was. That’s a sign. There’s probably something compensating. The other thing just to mention along with that is if massage used to work for your horse, and by work, I mean your horse felt wonderful for a month.
Renee Tucker (09:45)
But no, you know, you do the massage, it’s the same person and it doesn’t really help. That much, maybe for a couple of days or a week. That’s a sign there’s an underlying compensation. Okay. Second way you can tell is just feel the muscles yourself.
Renee Tucker (10:01)
I know it sounds weird, okay. But muscles on a horse should feel smushy. That’s right. They should feel soft, supple, Massageable. I like to put that all into smushy.
Renee Tucker (10:14)
So a lot of times people think my horse’s muscles are so solid, they’re strong, they’re hard, stick with that. But it’s beautiful and firm. But actually, horses are not built like us. They are built where when they’re standing still, only the tricep muscle is activated. So therefore, all the other muscles should be relaxed and smushy.
Renee Tucker (10:42)
So even your Olympic body builder, who has the amazing muscle mass, when they relax the muscle, it’s still smushy and Massageable. So if your horse, when you feel the muscles are tight, just everywhere, like you can’t even indent the neck at all or the butt, it’s just solid. Okay. Most of the time, in my experience, that’s low selenium. And we talked about that a bit on the last episode.
Renee Tucker (11:13)
There is also a selenium page on my website, which is wheredoesmyhorsehurt.com/selenium put the link in the description? So you want to check and make sure your selenium levels are good. You can have a massage person every day, but if your selenium is too low, they’re not getting anywhere. Selenium allows the muscle cells to stretch and be flexible. No selenium, no stretchiness, no smooshiness.
Renee Tucker (11:40)
I’ve had people really comment on the difference that selenium makes some people in a few days, usually it’s two to three weeks while the selenium loads up, and then your horse can be soft and smooshy and Massageable. Okay. So for how to tell the difference between muscles being the primary problem or muscles being a compensation? One, try the massage, see how it works, see how long it works. Two, feel the muscles yourself.
Renee Tucker (12:09)
See if they’re smushy, I. E. Massageable. And number three is the checkups the TBT body checkups for horses, which are in my book, Where Does my Horse Hurt? And what those do is check alignments.
Renee Tucker (12:26)
What we’re really doing is checking joints. But what is a joint? It’s two bones, two bones make a joint connection. So, for example, let’s say you have a tight shoulder on your horse or your shoulder, but I don’t have checkups for people. Okay.
Renee Tucker (12:41)
So your horse’s shoulder is really tight and the muscles are tight. You’re getting a massage. You’re wondering seems to help. And not long. I don’t know.
Renee Tucker (12:50)
What do I do? Okay, there’s a shoulder checkup in the book that shows you exactly how the horse’s normal range of motion should move. So all you got to do is learn that and you learn what normal is. Okay. And then if that checkup shows you that the range of motion is not right at all, that tells you the bones are probably misaligned.
Renee Tucker (13:18)
Instead of the muscles being a primary problem in that case. So would massage hurt? No. Is massage going to fix that misalignment? Most likely not.
Renee Tucker (13:30)
Why do I say most likely? Because just in case, if the muscles of the shoulder are the primary problem for the misalignment, Then the massage would fix the misalignment. Now, I may have heard your heads right there, But I do have heard some of my massage therapist friends. They’re really good. They can feel when the muscles aren’t letting go and they can feel where it’s tracking to.
Renee Tucker (13:59)
And a lot of them refer to me and they say, hey, listen, I think he’s out in the neck on C two and C three also over here in the lumbar Because I can’t get those muscles to let go and they’re good. They’re right on. It’s wonderful. This is great. You guys are really feeling that and you’re feeling where the cause is coming from.
Renee Tucker (14:16)
That’s awesome. Now if you have a massage like that, Stick with that person. They’re good. I don’t think that’s taught in massage school Because it kind of borderline is not their ballywick, if you will, let me know if that’s wrong, but I don’t think so. I think people just pick that up because they’re geniuses.
Renee Tucker (14:35)
Okay, moving on. But you too can be a genius Because you pick up the book Where’s my horse hurt? And see the check up for the shoulder and this example and learn that checkup. Now, if that shoulder checkup is beautiful and it’s moving all over the place but your muscles are tight around the shoulder, that’s when you call the massage person. But if the checkup shows you the range of motion is stuck, not moving or only moves in one direction.
Renee Tucker (15:04)
The shoulder supposed to go back and forth, but if it only goes forward and not back, you got troubles. But everything is fixable, so don’t worry about that, okay? I hope this wasn’t too confusing. Sorry about that. I’m still practicing.
Renee Tucker (15:19)
Okay, the key takeaway here is I’d like people to get the idea that massage, which targets muscles, is super helpful and perfect when the muscles are the primary problem. If the muscles are not the primary problem but are rather compensating for something else, Then doing massage might help a little bit, but it’s not going to perfectly fix things like crazy uncle Mikey and you have to do deep tissue massage every two months. So don’t be crazy, okay? Try the massage if it works, great. If not, there’s always another answer.
Renee Tucker (16:02)
So just keep looking and hang in there and talk to you guys later. Bye.
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Hi Dr. Tucker. Thank you for sharing so much important information. I have a few questions and comments on your massage podcast. Does chiropractic adjustment treat the adhesions that have formed? If not, it seems that the solution might be a “both/and” rather than an “either/or”. Chiropractic for realignment, massage therapy to address the adhesions and the muscle tension that may pull things back out of alignment. The two approaches, in my experience, work very well together. Also, the need for regular therapeutic massage doesn’t necessarily mean the massage isn’t working; rather that it’s a valuable maintenance tool. I need to mow the grass on a regular basis, and it’s helpful to get to it before it’s completely out of control rather than waiting until there’s a problem. However, if there’s a particular persistent trouble spot, then treating it from different angles is probably necessary, and may include chiropractic, acupuncture, posture education and adjustment, strength training, etc. I was taught in massage school not to sell more and more massages, but to have a list of professionals for referring clients when massage is not enough. Yes, there are plenty of conditions that will not benefit from massage therapy, but rarely (in the case of physical pain) does it not help at all. It can be one piece among many toward optimal quality of motion. I’m grateful to have chiropractors referring clients to me on a regular basis, and I to them, because we see the value in the combined approach.