What is fascia?
Fascia is a connective tissue that is a fibrous network casing all the structures in your horse’s body in one three-dimensional web from head to tail. The fascial tissue covers nerves, muscles, bones, and organs down to the cellular level.
Fascial tissue stores water and fat. It provides a passageway for lymph fluid, blood vessels and nerves. It can act as shielding to pad and protect the horse’s body. The deep fascia is a layer of fibrous connective tissue that envelopes individual muscles as well as separating muscle groups into sections.
During the horse’s working life (especially when performing repetitive actions) or through poor posture and injury, the stress and strain on the horse’s fascial tissue becomes too much causing it to tighten and become restricted. In turn this will lead to deviations in the horse’s posture and gait, a loss of flexibility, and apply pressure to the pain sensitive structures within the horse’s body. If left untreated, these fascial restrictions will pull throughout the horse's body along this continuous three-dimensional web.
Restrictions in the fascial tissue can put a huge amount of strain (2000lbs of pressure per square inch) on the horse’s bones, tendons, ligaments, organs and muscles. These restrictions can cause constrictions and misalignments within the structures of the body causing inefficient muscle usage, a build-up of toxin and poor circulation to name but a few. These problems are then the source of many issues that impact the physical ability of the horse. These issues include; reduced collection, flexion problems, problems with balance, behavioural problems, decreased range of motion, pain within the back, sore and tense muscles, and ligament and tendon injuries.
What is myofascial release (MFR) therapy?
Myofascial restrictions cannot be picked up by machines so need a trained and ‘in tune’ therapist to be able to detect them with their hands, as well as using postural and gait analysis which will give visual hints.
Myofascial release is a gentle hands-on technique that uses gentle and sustained pressure with no movement over the horse’s hair/skin. This pressure can be held for several minutes in one specific area until the tissue ‘unwinds’ and returns to its intended state. This technique re-establishes the essential slack in the tissue and is the most effective at activating the bodies instinctive and natural healing process.
Due to the fascial tissue forming one continuous connective sheath throughout the horse’s body the effects of myofascial release therapy will be felt in areas other than the specific area being treated leading to the whole body benefiting.
There are several different myofascial release techniques, although the one thing that they all have in common is that the therapist will always be applying the sustained pressure which I mentioned earlier. The technique/hand positions will vary dependant on which part of the body is being treated.