What is Kinesiology
Kinesiology is a form of holistic therapy which studies the mechanics of body movements and aims to detect and correct imbalances or diseases in the body that may lead to stress, nutritional deficiencies, joint conditions or minor injuries.
Kinesiology is based on the ancient Chinese acupuncture theory of ‘chi energy’ and has a variety of techniques which include acupressure, lymphatic massage, hypertonic muscle release and reflex and trigger points.
Kinesiologists are now commonly adopted by sportspeople, athletes and the elderly to help support joint mobility, reduce or control pain, manage swelling or oedema and provide an ongoing technique to support their rehabilitation and recovery after exercise.
Kinesiology is now available as a treatment for horses; ideal to support sports horses who lead an active lifestyle and any horse of any age.
Kinesiology is not a treatment which replaces veterinary care and should only be carried out by fully qualified Kinesiology therapist. It represents one of the latest additions to the alternative healthcare market.
In this article we look at what Kinesiology is and how it benefits horses.
Many animals can benefit form having their overall health evaluated using Kinesiology techniques, including horses. With the emergence of kinesiology within professional and amateur sport, the same techniques used on humans are being transferred to specifically support horses - equine kinesiology.
Equine kinesiology studies the horses muscular movement and by then applying kinesiology tape to a horse this form of therapy has proven to create significant health benefits to the horse.
As equine kinesiology begins to gather popularity and more therapists adopt kinesiology treatments within their portfolio so does the reputation of the approach.
Just as with an athlete; our horses use their muscular system to propel themselves forward and support their weight. The greater the athletic ability of the horse the greater forces are subjected on their muscular system.
Kinesiology taping can now be used on horses to provide many health benefits including;
- Increase blood flow and circulation
- Reduce muscle spasms, tension or soreness
- Decrease swelling or oedema
- Support tendons, ligaments and joints
- Relieve pain
- Reduce recovery times
- Support chronic conditions
- Used as a preventative approach
Although not supported by the mainstream health industry, kinesiology is widely regarded as a holistic approach.
Although some medical professionals may not support kinesiology in horses; it is worth noting that the FEI (the international governing body of equestrian sports) have banned horses using Kinesiology tape when competing - an indication of just how effective it can be. Kinesiology treatments can be used both pre and post exercise but not in the competition arena.
As the demand for Kinesiology treatment within the equine community grows, further therapists are now looking towards Kinesiology including massage therapists, chiropractors and even vets.
Equine Kinesiology Taping
Equine kinesiology taping is a highly skilled technique that applies kinesiology tape to a horse. Using K-tape on a horse manipulates and mimics the effects of massage at the same time providing support and stability to a horse joints, tendons and muscles without restricting their range of motion.
Kinesiology taping, or k-taping, was first developed by Dr Kenzo Kase in 1973 to provide a method in relieving pain in his patients between appointments. K-tape has evolved significantly since then and has now been specifically manufactured for use on horses.
Fitting Kinesiology tape to a horse requires significant understanding of the horses anatomy and how to correctly fit kinesiology tape to a horse to support certain conditions or injuries.
Poorly fitted kinesiology tape can lead to further complications, as such the International Association of Animal Therapists (IAAT) are now adopting an accreditation process which therapists can complete before offering Kinesiology services to their client base. This accreditation program gives horse owners the confidence that a fully-qualified therapist is working on their horse.
How does Kinesiology tape for horses work?
Kinesiology tape has now been specifically developed for use on horses and ponies.
Equine kinesiology tape is created with a thickness, stretch and weight similar to superficial layer of a horses skin which allows the tape to target different receptors within the sensory system.
The adhesive used on equine k-tape has been specifically formulated to avoid preparation of the horses skin prior to use and the ability to stick to the horses hair effectively and last for up to 72 hours at a time.
Note: Using kinesiology tape developed for humans on a horse requires extensive preparation of the horses hair prior to fitting, which often requires an alcohol spray and can be time consuming. Human k-tape does not stick to horses skin very effectively and as such ‘equine developed k-tape’ is now available on the market.
K-tape for horses ‘breathes’ which allows water to evaporate and reduce heat build-up as seen with traditional bandaging. The underside of the tape has a special adhesive pattern which helps lift the skin and allow moisture to escape.
Equine K-tape is elasticated and stretched as it is fitted to the horse. The tapes’ elastic qualities help tissue stretching creating either a massage or lifting effect on the sub dermal and fascial layers of the body. The creates increased space between the muscle and dermal layers creating a reduction in inflammation and any associated pain in the treated area, aiding blood flow and lymphatic drainage. The space created by the k-tape helps take pressure off swollen or injured muscles or ligaments, reduces pain and helps reduce recovery and rehabilitation time.
When should equine kinesiology tape be used and when should it be avoided?
Kinesiology can be used at any point in the healing process or as part of a preventative measure.
Many owners are now adopting equine kinesiology to support their horse ongoing mobility and movement, to help improve their lymphatic flow and circulation, reduce pain levels, inflammation and muscle tension.
In the UK horses commonly have less space to roam with smaller paddocks and many months of the year where they are stabled due to the weather. Because of this lymphatic drainage is important to help prevent filled-legs and conditions such as windgalls.
Kinesiology can be used alongside other treatments and therapies - including hydrotherapy, chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, equine massage and so on.
Kinesiology tape should be avoided on any open wounds or areas with known tumours.
What are the main applications of kinesiology for your horse?
- Skin: lifting effect with creation of space between layers of the skin
- Fascia: unwinding effect, redirection of movement
- Muscle: optimisation of the muscles overall function
- Lymphatic: decongestion of the lymphatic system providing fluid redirection
Joint: realignment effect through direct proprioceptive action on ligaments or indirect
through muscle control.
Lymphatic Correction with K-tape
Using k-tape to target lymphatic correction is done by carefully using k-tape to enhance fluid and blood flow between the tissue layers which in turn reduces temperature in the inflamed tissue and results in a reduction in pain levels. Tape is applied to swollen areas which targets a decrease in pressure.
A new addition to the equine kinesiology market is lymphatic kinesiology tape. This tape contains small holes which are developed to support the lymphatic system and prevents the need to use complicated patterns and shapes to help provide the draining effect. It stretches a lot ore than standard tape too.
Mechanical and Fascia Correction with K-tape
This application of kinesiology tape provides a functional support to a horses muscles, fascial tissue and joints without preventing an active range of motion or reducing circulation.
To fully understand the effects of fascial correction you must first fully understand the horses anatomy and how their fascial tissue system works.
This application will assist or restrict motion within a horses joint or a joint capsule and correct the overall function of the joint.
Kinesiology tape is carefully placed under tension targeting the joint and creating space over the relevant muscle, tendon or joint.
The use of kinesiology tape to support functional correction is a complicated skill. Applied correctly though, the functional capacity of the horses joint can be stabilised resulting in reduced recovery and rehabilitation times and a more flexible and mobile joint.
Ligament or tendon correction
Using a bigger stretch than with other applications, k-tape is used to support the injured structure of the muscle or ligament and can be used alongside poultices, sweats and medicated wraps without inhibiting their effects.
Adopting equine kinesiology alongside magnetic therapy
A disadvantage in applying kinesiology taping to a horse is the limited time in which the tape lasts; with most equine tapes lasting for a maximum of 72 hours.
Applying kinesiology tape correctly to a horse is a highly-skilled form of treatment which requires extensive training. Many Kinesiology therapists now recommend the use of advanced magnetic bands alongside their treatments to work in conjunction with each other.
Advanced magnetic therapy, such as EQU StreamZ horse bands, can be used long term, 24x7, including turnout. Kinesiologists will apply their treatment and advanced magnetism will support the horse in-between treatments.
We have all seen K-taping on professional athletes; now Kinesiology taping is gathering momentum within the equine industry.
Kinesiology, although not supported by mainstream medical authorities, is an ever growing treatment being provided within the equestrian community.
Many equine therapists are now researching Kinesiology with a view to understanding its position within the holistic healthcare market and the benefits it can bring to each and every horse.
Relatively low cost and suitable to be used alongside advanced magnetic therapy products, Kinesiology on horses is an aspect of equine healthcare which is set to increase rapidly over the coming years.
Why not have a look for any kinesiologists local to you and learn for yourself what impact a session could have on your horse.
Other articles of interest:
TOP 10 BENEFITS OF EQUINE MASSAGE THERAPY
An article which looks at equine massage therapy.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES BEING USED IN THE EQUINE COMMUNITY
An article which investigates new forms of treatment now commonly used within the equine community.