No Time to Horse Around: The Link Between Riding and Chronic Pain

There is a definite trend in my office worth noting!

girl with horseThe number of horseback riders coming in for treatment is on the rise!  And it’s no wonder!  One of these horse enthusiasts explained that you aren’t considered a horse person til you’ve been thrown 3 times.  Ouch.  I often joke that I should set up shop outside the horse shows.  This client thought it would be a really great idea, all laughing aside.  Apparently, many horse enthusiasts have elected to resign themselves to pain.  It’s time to change that belief and start caring for yourself as well as you care for that horse!

HORSEBACK RIDING AND PAIN: WHAT’S THE CONNECTION?

Certainly riding a horse can come with a few hard knocks.  It’s unpredictable at times.  There are falls, near falls, rapid starts, rapid stops, kicks, shoves, and the occasional stepped on toe.  The human body has to absorb all this shock, quickly try to recruit the appropriate musculature to offer stability, and maintain balance.  Even if you never get tossed to the ground, you’re taking on a lot of stress just staying atop your horse!

PROBLEMS IN THE PELVIS

A great majority of horseback riders tend to have unbalanced pelvic bones.  It’s easy to envision how this could happen.  If you’re sitting on your horse and he takes off quickly, you get a nice jolt to your pelvis.  The bones of the pelvic ring are meant to rotate, but often times because of an asymmetrical force, one side of the pelvis can get stuck and lose this mobility.  Initially there may be no pain, but over time, this asymmetry in the pelvis starts to affect the spine, the hips,  the muscles of the legs, and the balance of the cranium as well.  Everything stacks on top of the pelvis.  When it isn’t level, the body has to busily try to compensate.  It’s these compensatory strategies that start to break down over time.  And before you know it, the whack to the pelvis that didn’t grab your attention initially is now the cause of your chronic leg cramps and headaches.

CHRONIC TIGHTNESS IN THE BACK

The core musculature of the body is designed to hold you upright in the saddle.  When the pelvis and spine are nicely aligned, these muscles are able to easily do their job.  The problem is, of course, that often your pelvis and spine are not well aligned.  So now these muscles take on the job of not supporting the trunk, but actually have to pull like guy wires to get you to an upright position.  Functionally, they weren’t designed for this.  Over time, they become fatigued. The burning, aching pain begins.  The low back musculature fatigues and relies more heavily on the soft tissue of the mid spine.  Now, you have chronic pain in the shoulder blade and up the neck.   The next thing you know, the achiness in your back has spread to affect the entire spine.

THE CRANIAL CONNECTION

Of course the problem doesn’t stop there.  The excess tension in the neck and shoulders extends up to affect the position and tension of the bones of the cranium.  Tightness in the cranium can offset the position of the cranial bones and/ or their ability to gently pulsate to allow proper flow of the cerebrospinal fluid.    What happens next can present as a host of problems ranging from difficulty relaxing/sleeping,  difficulty concentrating, headaches, tinnitus, and ear pain to name a few.  More importantly, with the disruption in flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, the body’s ability to regulate the central nervous system and facilitate healing itself is impaired. (For more about the craniosacral system see blog post)

THE GOOD NEWS

You don’t need to sell your horse.  You don’t need to resign yourself to pain.  You just need to take the time to help your body heal itself.  The bumps and bruises received in normal riding are tightening up the soft tissue system.   Releasing the tightness in the fascial system, balancing the pelvis and spine, and alleviating any abnormal tension in the cranium will help your body to naturally become realigned and more relaxed.  Soon, you are no longer caught up in this compensatory maze that has made you hurt from head to foot.  As the body is allowed to rid itself of unnecessary tensions, more healing can take place.  A balanced body doesn’t work as hard to be upright and  it can respond and adapt better to the way your horse moves.  The body just feels lighter and more efficient.

And I guarantee your horse will know the difference!

Free up that fascia and ride on!

 

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