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Heat and Massage for Horse Riders

We take a look into the benefits of massage for horse riders, used alongside heat, to target the four main areas horse riders tend to commonly suffer with Hannah Donnelly, Chartered Physiotherapist BSc (Hons).

The benefits of massage for horse riders.

Massage has been used by therapists for thousands of years. Evidence suggests it is beneficial for a variety of musculoskeletal and health conditions such as:

  • Lower back pain (Furlan, 2017).
  • Neck and shoulder pain (Kong, 2013).
  • Pain from osteoarthritis (Cortés Godoy, 2014).
  • Headaches (Happe, 2016) and much more.

The extra physical benefits of massage include:

  • Reducing excessive post-exercise muscle tone.
  • Increasing range of motion.
  • Increasing circulation and nutrition to damaged tissue.
  • Deactivating symptomatic trigger points (Brukner and Kahn, 2012).
  • There is also evidence to support the treatment of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The muscle soreness and stiffness we experience the day or two after we have exercised.

The benefits of heat for horse riders.

The theory behind heat is that by increasing the temperature of the skin and soft tissue, vasodilation occurs – this is the widening of blood vessels which leads to an increase in blood flow at a lower pressure. The metabolic rate and the tissue flexibility will also increase. Heat increases oxygen uptake and increases the rate of tissue healing. Randomised control trials have shown that heat-wrap therapy provides short-term reductions in pain and movement restriction in patients with acute lower back pain and provides significantly greater pain relief of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) than cryotherapy (Malanga, 2014). Brukner and Kahn (2012) suggest that heat is most suited for acute pain, muscle spasm, neck pain, and chronic pain and swelling. They advise against the use of heat for people with sensory changes, sensitivity to heat, circulatory problems and heat injuries such as burns.

Horse riders commonly suffer in the following areas:

Lower back

Horse riders can build up tension in their lower back through rider/horse imbalance, reduced postural control or repetitive impact, such as jumping. Along with lower back stretches, the Massage Mitt or Massage Mitt Hotspot can be used as demonstrated in the picture below. This can be done either before or after riding, to help prevent DOM’s and relive painful trigger points. A Cochrane review, published in July 2016, suggested that in short‐term follow up, (defined as immediately following treatment, and up to 6 months afterwards) massage therapy produced a moderate to large improvement in subacute (recent) and chronic (long term) low‐back pain and function.

 

Trapezius and deep neck flexors:

Horse riders commonly experience tightness in their trapezius, shoulders and deep neck flexors. A lot of tension is used in this area by holding the reins and maintaining an upright posture. A meta-analysis (a study that pools results from many smaller studies) by Kong in 2013 showed significant effects of massage therapy for neck pain and shoulder pain compared to inactive therapies. Physiotherapists commonly advise the use of heat/vibration massage in these areas to prevent muscle stiffness and for pain relief. The Massage Mitt or Massage Mitt Hotspot can be used as demonstrated in the picture below, either before or after riding, to target these areas.

 

Hip flexors:

 

Another area that horse riders often feel tightness after riding is in their hips. This is because the hips are a vital part of the posture, balance and stability whilst in the saddle. Riders experience hip pain as the hip flexors are working hard to stay evenly upon the horse and control shock absorption when riding. Riders use their seat to control the horse, therefore it is important they are able to do so pain free.  If the rider experiences hip pain, it can mean the hip flexors are compensating for the lower back or gluteal muscles. The Massage Mitt or Massage Mitt Hotspot can be used as demonstrated in the picture below, either before or after riding, to prevent tension in these muscles.

Adductors:

Massage and Heat for horse riders

An adductor muscle is responsible for drawing the limb towards the midline. Horse riders’ adductors are one of their strongest muscle groups, as they are used to control the horse from the saddle and are used for balance and postural stability. Because of this, horse riders’ adductors can become tense, over worked and sore. This is mostly apparent when we start riding again after some time off! The Massage Mitt or Massage Mitt Hotspot can be used as demonstrated in the picture below, either before or after riding, to prevent tension in these muscles.

Looking for something to help provide massage for horse riders, or massage and heat? Take a look at our Massage Mitt to provide massage. Or the Massage Mitt Hotspot to provide massage and heat.