With our often medication oriented mind set it’s easy to overlook the benefits of topical therapy but this has a tremendous amount to offer, especially for joints and muscles. You don’t have to look any further than your own experience to confirm this.
Is there anyone who hasn’t had to deal with temporary, activity related discomfort in a joint or muscle from either an acute episode or flare up of a chronic problem? You probably reach for ibuprofen or some other NSAID but more often than not the result isn’t what you hoped for.
Simple touch can provide relief. The instinct to rub/massage sore areas is a good one. Just providing another sensory input to the nervous system will decrease unpleasant perceptions. When done properly, massage can also relieve tension in connective tissues and muscles, improve blood delivery. If you are unsure of the correct way to massage your horse, you can’t go wrong by taking your cues from his reaction. If the horse objects, stop doing it. If he seems to enjoy the touch, keep it up!
Adding a liniment to the mix can enhance the results. Different ingredients will have specific effects, e.g.:
- Arnica and Capsaicin: Potent relief of temporary discomfort related to overuse and activity
- Comfrey, Chamomile, Aloe: Support normal counterregulatory responses with inflammation
- Rosemary extract: Antioxidant, supports normal muscle relaxation
- Lavender essential oil: Antioxidant, gentle circulatory support.
- Peppermint oil: Circulatory support, provides pleasant and warming sensory stimulation
When applying liniments, be sure the skin and coat are dry and free of residue from prior products, shampoos or sprays. Clip the overlying hair or apply liberally enough to ensure good penetration down to skin level. A few minutes of rubbing will enhance uptake by the skin and stimulate blood flow to the area.
To avoid over-drying of the skin choose a water or witch hazel base rather than alcohol or acetone. Some liniments can be used under cotton wraps or even Neoprene sweats while others should not. If the product doesn’t specify, use caution with heavily “minty” liniments, Capsaicin and anything including counter-irritants like iron, iodine, or cedar oil. If in doubt, or you know your horse has sensitive skin, do not wrap for the first day or two you use a new product.
Invest a little time in hands-on attention to your horse’s issues. You won’t be disappointed in the results.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD