How to treat a horse with back pain:
If your horse is very sore it is best to get professional advice and the help of a qualified equine therapist to assist your horse.
If your horse has minor muscle soreness, you can practise some gentle massage and acupressure techniques. By principle, begin very slowly and watch your horse carefully for signs of pain or annoyance. Allow your horse to guide you as you work and if your horse is not happy with what you are doing, it is probably for good reason. You may need to stop what you are doing or seek further help with your technique, or with your horse’s back.
Begin your connection with your horse by relaxing your own body with some deep breaths and making sure you are not carrying any tension into your treatment.
Before focusing your attention on your horse’s back region, open your treatment with long slow sweeping strokes down the whole of your horses body, feeling for tension, heat or cold. Repeat this process 3 times attuning yourself to your horse.
Next focus your energy on the lumbar area, from behind the saddle area to the high point of the croup (the high point of the hindquarters).
- Begin by gently palpating (feeling) for any obvious areas of tension or pain.
- Remember to remain attuned to your horse so you don’t provide any unnecessary discomfort during this assessment.
- Be aware that areas of pain or tenderness may cause your horse to react unexpectedly.
- Be sure to position yourself safely and wear adequate footwear and clothing when treating your horse.
The sore areas that you have located are known as Ashi points (pain points) and they will be important in your treatment.
When working on back pain one can consider local points (ashi points) as well as trigger points (areas that relate and affect the region of pain) and distal points (points further from the area of pain that also have a direct impact on the site of pain).
In today’s example you can use one or several of the following general acupressure points to relieve tension and pain in the lumbar area of your horse’s back. These points were discovered and researched over thousands of years of Traditional Chinese Medicine use. They can be applied easily and effectively to your horse. Begin gently and as the tension of the point eases you will be able to work progressively deeper. Go slowly and this will enable your horse to relax into the treatment. Using your thumbs or palm, begin with slow circular motions to warm up the area and disperse areas of tension. When applying steady pressure, allow your body weight to support you so you are not working from your own muscle strength. This will give you a more consistent treatment, and will prevent you from tiring throughout the process.
One or several of the following general acupressure points can be used:
Kidney 27 – Used for lumbar pain relief. Located on the chest between the sternum and the first rib.
Governing Vessel 1 – Used for spine pain (lift up the tail, and this point is found above the rectum and below where the dock joins the hindquarters).
Governing Vessel 4 – Helps with chronic lumbar pain and works to strengthen the lower back.
Bladder 29 – Used for mid-back pain relief and stiffness. Located in front of the upper end of the poverty groove on the hindquarters.
Bladder 20-29 – Any of the tender points running parallel (head to tail) located 1-2 inches down from spine. Many of these points are good pain relief points and will help with lower back pain.
Bladder 40 – This is the Master point for the lower back and for relieving lumbar pain. This point is located centrally in the crease behind the upper back leg when you pick up the hind leg.
GallBladder 30 – This point stimulates the hind legs and strengthens the tendons, helping with hindquarter muscle soreness. Found just beside the hip bone on the hindquarters.
GallBladder 34 – This point strengthens the back and joints, known for its benefit to tendons and ligaments. Located in front of and below the head of the fibula (shin bone).
Gall Bladder 44 & Bladder 67 – These are the last points on the channels and are beneficial for the lower back. Located on the lateral (outer) area of the hind leg coronet band.
Bai Hui – Used for stiffness and back pain relief. Located along the lower back as you follow the line of the spine back to where a soft dip appears, before the sacral vertebras begin.
(I would normally include hind leg stretches in a basic back treatment, but this is another whole other article in itself. Another topic for another day!)
How to tell when the treatment is complete:
Upon completion you will usually notice:
· Reduced pain and sensitivity throughout the lumbar area.
· Your horse may stretch, yawn, shake or chew.
· Your horses back muscles will be softer and less reactive.
· Your horse will be in a state of relaxation and enjoyment.
· As you draw to the end of your treatment you may notice your horse becomes restless. This can be an indication that the treatment is complete and they are now feeling eager to move around and enjoy their new found pain relief.
This treatment can be repeated every couple of days for a week or more to see lasting results.
You will find your horse will enjoy riding, saddling and grooming more and be thankful for your attention!
You may also find that your horse rushes to be near you and looks forward to being in your company more when he sees you next.
Not only will your horse feel better physically, enabling them to move with ease and grace, but their capacity to enjoy life and feel mentally and emotionally balanced (both in the paddock and whilst performing) will have increased.