The second type of muscle atrophy is known as “neurogenic atrophy” and is the more
severe type. It occurs when there is an injury to, or disease of, a nerve that connects to the muscle. This type of muscle atrophy tends to occur more suddenly than disuse atrophy. Signs become noticeable in as few as seven days. Reversing this type of atrophy requires addressing the nervous system.
Horses can adapt to muscle atrophy, but even minor muscle atrophy usually causes some loss of movement or strength. According to an article by Dr. Roger Sperry, Nobel Laureate, better than 90 percent of the energy output of the brain is used in relating the physical body to its gravitational field. The more mechanically distorted a horse is the less energy available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.
Proprioception is the term used to describe the ability to sense the position, location, orientation, and movement of the body and its parts, all of which are important for movement and brain function. Spinal proprioception plays a critical role in modulating protective muscular reflexes that prevent injury or facilitate healing.
Sensation is the fundamental ingredient that mediates the proprioceptive mechanism. The joints of the body act as sensory organs, which relay proprioceptive information between specific neural pathways and the central nervous system (CNS). These neural pathways also transport the necessary sensory motor information, which modulates muscle function.
Without movement your horse could not sustain life: blood cells require movement of muscle to transport oxygen; lungs require movement of muscle to be able to inhale air and exhale carbon dioxide; and the spine requires movement of muscle to stimulate the motion required for proper joint nutrition, the activities of daily living, and for the stimulation of pathways required for proper brain and body function. Spinal movement stimulates brain function in the same way that a windmill generates electricity for a power plant.
Half of all the nerve impulses sent between the brain and body in your horse’s spinal cord are for the delivery of movement stimulation to the brain. This enables the brain to coordinate activities such as concentration, learning, emotions, motor control, and organ function. Movement charges your horse’s brain's battery and allows it to think better, feel better, and function better.
Horses are designed by nature to graze all day to maintain optimal flexion in the joints of the spine. Lack of this specific exercise and the inability to get down and roll around when they wish, leads to tension in some of these joints. This leads to imbalanced nerve flow to and from the brain. Chiropractic care and acupuncture offer two modalities of support to bring the horse back to balance.
Chiropractic care works well for musculoskeletal problems because if helps restore nerve flow to the target organ. When an area of the spine is not moving, it accumulates inflammation (fluid that can’t move out of the area). It has been proven that the weight of a feather on a nerve will decrease the rate at which impulses travel along that nerve by 50 percent. A decrease in communication between the brain and muscles results in improper function and weakening of the muscle. Jason Edwards, MD, says, “The quality of healing is directly proportional to the functional capability of the central nervous system to send and receive messages.” Chiropractic care is aimed at restoring the ability of the Central Nervous System to communicate with the organs and extremities of the body. Restoring the communication will allow the body to begin to utilize the muscle correctly.
In order to avoid the threat of muscle atrophy and imbalance in your horses, aligning their spines is the first line of defense. The muscle training can only be done once the signal from the brain is turned on. Think of it like reading a book in a dark room. It can be done but with difficulty. Once you turn on the light it can be done more easily and accurately.
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Horse being acupunctured on hind end
Acupuncture therapy is known to be an efficient means of dealing with several conditions. It started off as an ancient Chinese tradition used by medical practitioners for severe pain, better circulation of the blood plus psychological issues such as anxiety, and depression. Continued research and the recent rate of success shows that the therapy is actually highly effective in treating muscle atrophy. One study looked at how muscle mass and structure are determined by the balance between protein degradation and synthesis controlled by genetic material of the cell. The results showed that decreases in muscle mass in mice and in the mRNA expression level of the E3 ubiquitin ligase atrogin-1 can be significantly reversed by acupuncture.
Acupuncture stimulates the muscle cell via stimulation of the nerve pathways to the muscle. The duration of this stimulation may be increased by using aquapuncture (injecting water) or pneumo acupuncture (injecting air) instead into the points identified by the trained equine acupuncturist.
These two modes of treatment for atrophied muscle work well in combination. They restore nervous sensation to the muscle, which in turn helps it to grow stronger and return to normal function. Different from Western medicine, these two modes of treatment allow the horse’s body to return to function through the chain of activities that were normal in the first place. For an equine animal chiropractor visit www.AVCAdoctors.com. For an acupuncturist visit www.tcvm.com or www.ivas.org.