In the winter newsletter I presented the history of the Wilson Meagher Method™ with an emphasis on how and why it began. This spring newsletter defines simple muscle tightness and its causes.
WHAT IS MUSCLE TIGHTNESS?
All muscles pull. That’s all they do in terms of movement. Sixty percent of the horse’s body is made up of muscle. Muscles move bones. They appear in pairs of opposites. When one muscle of the pair shortens (contracts), the other muscle lengthens (releases). They must work in perfect synchrony, as a well tuned calibrated machine. It is the perfect timing of shortening and lengthening, contracting and releasing, that provides full synchronization of movement and mechanical efficiency. If a muscle is tight, it interrupts and compromises the synchronization of movement resulting in diminished range of motion and diminished performance.
A muscle is made up of hundreds of tiny fibers that lie parallel to one another, like the fibers in a good cotton shirt. The fibers have a minute amount of space between each other to allow for blood to flow between them. When the fibers are appropriately spaced, they provide a soft and pliable muscle able to shorten and lengthen properly, resulting in the free and easy motion necessary to complete a task.
When the tiny muscle fibers lie too close together, and are spaced too close to each other, and/or sometimes stuck to one another, muscle tightness is created. Blood supply to the muscle is diminished, and the ability of the muscle pairs to shorten and lengthen is limited. The muscle is less pliable. It feels more dense due to the fibers lying closer together than they should be. Synchronization of motion is thrown off and the perfect calibrated machine does not run smoothly. Range of motion is decreased and performance is compromised.
CAUSES OF MUSCLE TIGHTNESS
Simple muscle tightness may be caused by repetitive motion. Doing the same motion over and over. Repetitive motion makes the fibers lie closer together within the muscle. Once the fibers lie too close together, and the space between them is diminished, less blood is able to flow between the smaller spaces between the fibers. Blood carries oxygen. If there is diminished blood supply, there will be diminished oxygen. Therefore diminished oxygen, also called oxygen debt occurs. Oxygen debt creates muscle tightness. Think of a race horse after he runs a race. He usually is huffing and puffing after the race. This is nature’s way of replenishing oxygen to fuel the body systems. One of the systems is the muscular system. Less oxygen means less muscle pliability, which is characteristic of a tight muscle.
Another obvious cause for muscle tightness is injury. Whether it be a direct blow to the tissue, or the tissue naturally tightens to protect an injured area of the body. ( To learn more about eliminating tightness check out my DVD: A Course in Equine Sportsmassage.)