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Stability and Mobility: Bowed Tendon, Frozen Shoulder

Updated: Jun 25, 2022

Often an initial injury can lead to compensatory patterns that stay around long after the original problem is healed. When doing bodywork, it can sometimes be difficult to determine "which came first, the chicken or the egg," which is the root cause and which are the effects - especially if numerous "effects" have accumulated over time. The body is always working towards homeostasis and the highest functionality possible in any given moment. STABILITY and MOBILITY are two forces that need to be in balance for the body to move efficiently. Without the stability of our pelvis and hips, for example, we couldn't walk two steps without falling in a heap on the floor; but too much stability and not enough mobility, and we'd be frozen in place, unable to walk at all. When one area is "over-mobilized" (such as an overstretched tendon), other areas limit movement in order to make up for the lost stability in the limb and prevent further damage to compromised tissues. The reverse is also true: when there's an area that's over-restricted, other aspects of the limb are challenged beyond their normal range in order to compensate for that loss of mobility. Tiara, my OTTB mare, came to me as a 4 year old in mid-August 2020. She was retired from racing a year prior due to a severely torn flexor tendon in her right front limb. A year of excellent care- PRP (protein rich plasma) injections, stall rest, and carefully monitored controlled exercise healed the tendon beautifully; having seen her original ultrasounds, which showed nearly a complete tear of the tendon, my vet was amazed to find that it felt almost entirely normal and that she moved so soundly. As I observed her during our early weeks together, I noticed she tended to hyperextend the fetlock, and she had a strong pattern of positioning that limb caudally (back) while grazing; when I picked up her feet to clean them, the same pattern was emphasized in the directional pull of her muscles as she lifted and lowered the limb. Looking more deeply, I found she had an upward fixated scapula, much like "frozen shoulder" in humans. In humans, this condition often develops as a result of another injury such as a torn rotator cuff; the body "freezes" the functional muscles around the scapula in order to limit further damage and create stability, in compensation for the hyper-mobile, destabilized structures. It seemed that Tiara's body had done the same thing, freezing her scapula to create more stability in the limb, as the tendon was so compromised and the healing process so lengthy. Sometimes in bodywork, the key to correcting an issue is to look for the deeper cause and work to resolve that; at other times, the original injury is no longer a problem but has created other issues that now need to be addressed. Using Ortho-Bionomy and Craniosacral techniques, I worked with her scapula, addressed fetlock, and did some full limb releases to integrage the way all the musculature and joints were relating with one another. Within a short time, she responded beautifully, achieving better range of motion in the shoulder which was reflected in her overall movement, the position of her scapula (no longer in upward rotation), the posture she assumes while grazing (now often square or alternating which limb is in front), and the way she picks up her leg when I clean her feet (she simply picks it up in a neutral way, no more strong caudal preference). It is worthwhile to note: just like our bodies, our psyches - and likewise our horses' - need a balance of stability and mobility to function optimally. Without a sense of stability and support, we can be ungrounded, scattered, anxious, unable to focus or make decisions. When our life is in constant flux, we lack stability; we can cope with this better at some times of our lives than others, depending on how prolonged or intense the instability has been and how emotionally stressful it has felt to us. Likewise, if we have too much "stability" and not enough "mobility" (i.e. too much of the same routine and surroundings day in and day out, and not enough variety or new experiences) we can become stuck, falling into unproductive ruts, unable to see other possibilities available to us. We each need to find the best balance for ourselves, and recognize that what works for us at one time in our lives may not be what we need at other times. Get present, go within. If you're feeling ungrounded or scattered, chances are you're needing more stabilty- create some consistency and routine in your life to provide the structure you need, and you may soon feel recharged and able to be more flexible and spontaneous as a result. On the other hand, if you're feeling stuck in a rut, challenge yourself to do something different each day; even something as simple as taking a different route to work can begin to loosen things up and awaken our minds to seeing life with new eyes. Keep these same principles in mind when working with your horses- they, too, need the right balance between stability/consistency and mobility/variety to function at their best. Each individual is different, just like us, and what works best for one won't be the right balance for another, or on another day under different circumstances. Your efforts to understand and provide what your horse needs will have big payoffs: a happy, well-balanced horse makes the best partner.

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