Category: Acupuncture


Essential Oils…Making Your Acupuncture Sessions More Effective

Life Change In A Bottle?

It’s not often I come across continuing education training that I am excited about.  That is until I took Aroma Acupoint Therapy (AAT) training through Snow Lotus with Tiffany Pollard.  I was excited to do the training just because it was something different.  Now afterwards, excitement doesn’t do it justice.  While the title doesn’t sound all that glamorous or even all that new, the effects I have personally experienced have been earth shaking profound.

This year has been really tough.  Stressful.  Experiencing loss.  Balancing an even busier schedule than usual and taking on more responsibilities (even if joyfully) left me worn out with no reserve.  This fall I crashed.  I was burnt out, exhausted and honestly losing focus on what was important and where I was going from here.  While I have tried to turn things around both physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically, it was happening super slow and I was losing faith.  You know that feeling when you feel that there is something better and more in store for you but you can’t see through the fog to even know what it is?  Well, that was me.  Despite all my soul searching, me who usually has her hands in 20 different projects, couldn’t even find the energy to care.  Until…

The best thing about taking training in acupuncture or body work is that you practice on each other during the training.  That means that I got AAT all weekend during the training.  And I feel great.  I feel hopeful again.  I feel like the fog is parting.  I feel renewed to tackle my day, my projects, my life.  And am I relieved.  Why?  Because I am the queen of setting goals and going after them.  I enjoy it and I thrive on being involved.

So what is Aroma Acupoint Therapy?

It is the combination of essential oils and Chinese Medicine.  Basically, it’s using essential oils on acupuncture points (instead of needles) to re-balance the body’s energy for healing.   It’s powerful stuff.  While the traditional use of essential oils definitely is used in AAT, there are also specific uses for the essential oils according to Chinese Medicine.  You use the energetic resonance from the essential oils to heal the body and you combine that with the energetic benefits of using specific acupuncture points.

So for instance if you need to move energy (qi) through an area, you use acupuncture points that move qi and you use an essential oil that is moving and relaxing.  Another example is if you want to build energy, you use acupuncture points known to tonify and nourish qi while using essential oils that are strengthening and restoring.  You get double the effects but it’s so gentle that you walk away feeling phenomenal.  Even if you have a healing crisis where you experience what I call “growth pains”, the additive nature of using both the acupuncture points and the essential oils helps you through that process quickly.  That translates into being able to let go of negative patterns that no longer serve you and move on to be the wonderful person that you are.

That’s what I experienced.  I was able to process and let go of the negativity from this year.  I was able to cultivate hope for what this next year will bring.  I had the energy again to back it up.  I was able to recognize that which was no longer serving me and let go.  Best of all, I feel clearer in what my path should be even if I don’t know all the steps right now.  That’s why I say this is so powerful.

Looking Forwards

Starting in 2017, all my treatments will include Aroma Acupoint Therapy both for humans and horses.  Just like when I started Craniosacral Therapy (CST) 10 years ago.  CST was so helpful that I had to include it in all my treatments.  I feel the same way about AAT.  So that every body can experience the power.  Of course, if you want to request AAT and no needles that’s cool too.  In fact, the essential oils with cranio-sacral therapy is very powerful.  So please don’t forget that I offer bodywork too, not just acupuncture.

I also was very impressed with the company that put on the training.  While they offered their essential oils for sale during the process, they never pushed us to buy their product.  They talked highly of other essential oil companies too.  We obviously used their samples during the training and I found them to be excellent.  Snow Lotus has organic, extremely high quality essential oils and I will be using them.  You can look them up at if you want more information.  I will also be offering them for sale if anyone is interested.  Contact me directly at (410) 440-8875

So here is to a really good smelling 2017 🙂


Suggested Reading

Aroma Acupoint Therapy


Is Your Practitioner Competitive?

I was in the barn.  Quietly working on a client’s horse.  Two women were having a conversation down the isle.  I wasn’t trying to eaves drop but I couldn’t help but over hear.  “Susan is great, she has gone to Fill In The Blank School and my horses are always better after they see her.  She’s only good for massage though.  If you need anything else, you better try Jeramiah” said the one lady.  “Oh really” said the other, “My friend told me that Jeremiah was better at massage and to see Dr. Nix for other body work”.  “She said that Susan was not very educated.”  “I heard that Kathy was great at energy work although you can’t tell what she is doing.”  So on and so forth.


First, I know that there are good and bad trainers, good and bad therapist and good and bad farriers.  While I may have an opinion about another practitioner’s work, I keep it to myself.  In reality, no one person is perfect.  You have to find what works for you.  Honestly, most people making the judgements about a particular practitioner being good or bad usually don’t even know enough to make that decision anyhow.  Some practitioners are really good and know a lot but aren’t good at expressing it.  Some practitioners don’t know as much but have a great bedside manner.  Even others are great with horses and not with people.  You get the drift?


The women meant well and were only trying to share their experiences.  However, I know each of these practitioners and while it is true that each has their strengths and weaknesses, they all are good.  Public perception is the key to having a good business in the horse world.  As we know, the public can be quite fickle in how they make “rational” judgement.  In fact, there are books written on how little we actually remember the facts when things happen.  Usually we remember how we felt.  Why am I saying this?  To discredit these women… no.  To make people sound like flakes…no.  Just to open our eyes that sometimes we make decisions and we just aren’t qualified to do so.


Where Am I Leading You?

There is something you don’t realize.  Each practitioner out there doing bodywork or energy work is tapping into the same universal life force (or qi) to help your horse.  Each one has their twist/name/language but that is only where it differs.  How do I know this?  Let me explain.  Let’s start with definitions.

Massage: using manual techniques to release restrictions in muscles, fascia and soft tissue.

Chiropractic: using manual techniques to re-align structures such as joints and the spinal column.

Acupuncturist: using needles to regulate the qi of the body to allow the horse to heal itself.

Craniosacral Therapist: using their hands to feel changes in the craniosacral rythym and release restrictions.

Reiki Practitioner: using their hands to channel the universal qi to facilitate healing

QiGong Therapist: another type of energy work based on chinese medicine.

And so on…

Each of these modalities uses some type of touch or hand work to interact with the energy of the horse.  It is all energy work.  I don’t believe in splitting hairs here.  You can take a practitioner from each school and ask them to evaluate your horse.  They will all find the same thing but will describe it differently based on their education.  They will all be right and they all can help.  Anyone who tells you any differently is being competitive!

I speak from experience.  I do acupuncture, acupressure, craniosacral therapy, massage and reiki.  I cannot tell you where one begins and one ends.  Once I put my hands on the horse, I use all those modalities to give me feedback about the horse and use all those modalities to facilitate the horse healing itself.  I could describe what I feel either from an acupuncturists school of thought, a CST practitioners language, a massage therapist vocabulary or a reiki practitioners consciousness.  While there are many differences in each of these modalities and each of them takes many years of learning and practice to master, they all deal with the universal life force that exists in every living animal.

So next time you try and decide what modality is best, stop trying to kid yourself.  Unless you are a master of all, you won’t really know.  Give each practitioner a chance to help your horse.  And dismiss any practitioner that tries to tell you why they are best.







TRIGGER POINTS… The One Thing Standing In Your Way to Blue Ribbons

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is a hyper-irritable spot located in a tight band of skeletal muscle.  If you’d had an active trigger point, you know how painful they can be.  They can produce pain locally and radiate out into seemingly other unrelated parts of the body.  Inactive trigger points which often cause stiffness and decreased range of motion without pain are far more common.  While trigger points can accompany many chronic musculo-skeletal disorders, they are caused by an muscle overload either by acute trauma (fall, injury etc) by sustained, prolonged activity or by repetitive micro trauma.  Nerve compression and the decreased flow of blood and oxygen further injure the muscle.  This dysfunction of the muscle then creates further complication in the tendons, ligaments and skeleton of the horse.  The persistent pain associated with trigger points results in both a decrease function in the muscles of locomotion and in the postural muscles.  This is why it’s so important to address trigger points.

Perpetuating Factors

While factors that increase the formation of trigger points are numerous and sometimes hard to detect, they are important.  Without the proper attention they can spell the difference between success and failure in treatment.

  • Mechanical stress
    1. skeletal & postural asymetry
    2. poor fitting tack compressing nerves in the paravertebral muscles
    3. rider imbalance
    4. lack of warmup
    5. overuse of muscles causing fatigue
  • Nutritional imbalances
  • Metabolic and endocine disorders
    1. Cushings Syndrome
    2. Low Thyroid
    3. Insulin Resistance
    4. Equine Metabolic Syndrome
  • Psychological Problems
    1. depression
    2. anxiety
    3. stress
  • Chronic disease and infections
    1. ulcers
    2. allergies
    3. respiratory disease
    4. liver and kidney dysfunction
    5. heart murmurs
    6. etc.

Types of Trigger Points

Central tigger points are located in the most electrically excitable area of the muscle, also called the motor point of the muscle.  These points are usually found over the body of the muscle and dysfunction causes contraction knots, nodules and taut fibers.

Attachment trigger points are located at the attachment of the muscle onto fascia, tendons or bone.  The strain on the muscle at these attachments causes swelling, tenderness and pain.

Key trigger points is the main trigger point responsible for the activity of additional trigger points.  Clinically this becomes apparent when the release of one trigger points also causes the release of additional trigger points called satellite trigger points.   For long term affects, both the key and satellite trigger points  need to be released.

Trigger Point Treatment

There are many ways to release trigger points and different modalities of alternative medicine address them even if they don’t aknowledge them as such.  However, Janet Travell, author of the Trigger Point Manual, recognized the following successful treatments for trigger points.

  • stretching
  • warmth
  • vapocoolant spray during stretching
  • isometric contractions and voluntary contraction and relaxation of the muscle
  • percussion during stretching
  • range of motion exercises that fully lengthen and shorten every muscle treated
  • ischemic compression (best on central trigger points)
  • deep stroking massage
  • myofascial release
  • injections
  • dry needling/acupuncture


Acupuncture and Trigger Points

Research has shown acupuncture to be effective in treating muscle pain and releasing trigger points.  We also know that acupuncture speeds healing of injured tissue and brings blood and oxygen to the local area.  Interestingly, The Tri State College of Acupuncture calls the study of Acupuncture in the release of trigger points: Acupuncture Physical Medicine.  They have a great quote related to this very study.  “Acupuncture Physical Medicine or dry needle release of a trigger point is safer than trigger point hypodermic needling and far easier than manual trigger point release, yet as effective as either”.  Trigger point treatment via acupuncture combines Japanese meridian therapy techniques along with current knowledge in trigger point therapy.  While trigger points are (according to Travell) very persistent most of the medical community focuses instead on the injury to tendons, ligaments and joints.  We all know that acupuncture was meant to be preventative.  This is one area where it rings true.  Why not address the trigger points with acupuncture and body work before they impact the fascia, tendons, ligaments and skeletal system?



Why You Aren’t Getting the Performance Results You Want.

Performance Enhancement

Treatment Frequency

I’ve done this before, but wanted to try it again.  Dancer, my own horse, has been working really hard this spring.  He’s been doing great but hasn’t felt quite as good in his back as I know he can feel.  He’s NOT lame nor does he palpate to be sore.  Everything looks and feels as it should but he’s just not flowing in his trot.  In response, I begin the experiment.

Over a 3 week period Dancer got 4 acupuncture treatments.  About every 5 days.  WOW, what a difference it made.  He felt better after the first treatment but by the fourth he was really supple.  He is swinging over his back, easy to connect and easy to engage.  The best news… it’s been 10 days since the last treatment and he still feels wonderful.  I’m so amazed at how powerful this medicine is.

Prepping for Competition

How can this benefit you?  Think about your training.  Is there something your horse is struggling with?  Would it help if your horse felt better in his body?  Preparing for a big clinic, event or show?  Wouldn’t it be great to walk into that competition with your horse feeling amazing?

Changing Plans

Think on this.

Scenario #1 is the routine client.  I have many “routine” clients that get me out to work on their horse on a regular basis to ensure their horse feels it’s best.  This routine is usually about once a month.  I’m not advocating treating a horse every week for the rest of it’s life but too often I see us rely on acupuncture as a one time treatment.  I don’t think we are truly utilizing the power of this medicine.  Let’s try something different…Instead of once a month for several months, let’s try twice a week for 2 weeks every 3 months.  It ends up being the same amount of money but I think you will see better results.

Another schedule.

Scenario #2 is the client who calls me up to prepare for a big event.  What if instead of calling me out every 3-6 months for one treatment, we really make a big impact on the horse by doing 4-5 treatments right in a row.  Really give the horse the boost he needs.  Again, I think you will be extremely pleased with the result and you will be setting the horse up for success.

Listen Up

Research has proven that frequent treatment back to back is very effective even with long standing problems.  My horse just helped prove this.  As usual, when I listen to my horse I learn.  Dancer is teaching me an important lesson.  Frequent treatment is the key to success.  Let’s try it on your horse and see the great results.

Scientific Evidence Proves Acupuncture Works

Is There A Downside to Acupuncture?

Side effects of conventional medicine vs acupuncture.

Did you know that 106,000 people die every year from adverse negative side effects of prescription drug use?  Or that 12,000 year die from unnecessary surgery.  Did you know that 80,000 die every year from infections caught in the hospital?  That doesn’t include the 45,000 a year that die from hospital errors.  That means that 225,000 people a year die from iatrogenic causes (induced in a patient by a physician’s activity, manner, or therapy).  This is the 3rd leading cause of death (following heart disease and cancer).

Did you also know that serious adverse side effects from acupuncture are VERY RARE.  According to the World Health Organization only 3 deaths have occurred between 1980 – 2009 from acupuncture.  Wow, three in 29 years… only three.

With so many adverse side effects of western medicine, it’s no wonder 3.1 million Americans use acupuncture as a form of medical treatment a year.  With hardly any negative side effects associated with acupuncture and with all the evidence below supporting it’s efficacy, there is no downside to using acupuncture as an effective means of treating illness.

Is Acupuncture Effective?

In 1997, NIH reported 28 diseases that acupuncture was effective at treating.  Listed among the most common complaints treated by acupuncture were the following:

  • chronic pain
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • fibromyalgia
  • nausea
  • quit smoking
  • arthritis
  • back pain
  • neck pain
  • cancer supportive therapy (for nausea and to relieve pain)
  • infertility

Is there enough Scientific Evidence Proving Acupuncture Works?

Evidence of Acupuncture Working

In 2001, The British Acupuncture Council reported that physical symptoms were relieved 75% of the time from acupuncture and that emotional symptoms were relieved 67% of the time.  In as many as 54% of the people surveyed, they felt significant life changes after receiving acupuncture.

Many studies done on IVF found that fertility, implantation, pregnancy and the chance of a take home baby were 40-50% higher when combined with acupuncture.

The American Academy of Medical Acupuncturist posted the following quote about cancer treatment with acupuncture (in the article Acupuncture for Cancer Treatment by Eugene Mak, MD).  “Acupuncture is effective for control of pain, of local swelling post-operatively, for shortening the resolution of hematoma and tissue swelling and for minimizing use of medications and their attendant side effects. Energetic acupuncture, an approach consisting of the use of needles with electricity and moxibustion (a form of local heating with herbs imparts a sense of well being and accelerates patients’ recovery.”

Here’s what Patrick LaRiccia, MD states about acupuncture for seasonal allergies: “I find it gratifying to treat seasonal allergies with acupuncture. There is often a quick response. Often patients get some relief during the first visit while lying on the exam table with their acupuncture needles in place.”


In addition, many doctors and chiropractors are returning to study acupuncture and offer it in their clinics.  Nurse practitioners are also getting certified in ear acupuncture for detox centers.  According to CNN one-half of all medical schools now offer courses in holistic health care.

Finally, most health insurance providers are offering preventative care packages for a reduction in cost or reimbursement when using therapies such as acupuncture. (more about this in an upcoming article).  With the changes in healthcare over the next 12 months, we will see all insurance companies in Maryland cover acupuncture.  The acupuncture community is finally starting to get the respect it deserves.


For thousands of years the Chinese have practiced Acupuncture as a medicine and proved it’s efficacy.  Now, the west is also jumping on the band wagon in support.  After years of skepticism, science is proving this ancient practice has modern day practicality.

As you are thinking this all over, keep what Bruce Pomeranz PhD says about acupuncture.  “I’ve recently done a review of 85 papers assessing drugs used in conventional medicine. The side effects of drugs are horrendous. In contrast, the side effect profile for acupuncture is almost zero. If you do proper acupuncture, you can’t hurt anybody. You can’t say that about drugs. In the best of hands at Harvard and the Mayo Clinic, drugs are going to have a certain side effect profile. So as a first line of treatment, why not try the conservative, the safe acupuncture treatment?

Could your Equine Dentist be the Cause of your Horse’s Back Problems?

How equine dentistry affects performance and muscle development.

Is this why your horse lacks muscles over the back?

You may not know that although still practicing on a very limited basis, being an equine dental practitioner was my previous profession.  I had a thriving practice from 1998 until 2012 when I severely cut back on dental work to pursue other professional activities.  Over the years, I have seen a better awareness of the pros of regular dental care on horses.  However, I want to revisit the subject and how it relates to muscle development over the topline.

Years ago when I first got started, I was working with another female dentist in Virginia.  When we would arrive on the farm, we could look out in the pasture and pick out horses with hooks.  They had this quality about them.  An atrophy of the muscles in the top line, even if they were in regular work.  Despite dental problems causing weight problems and pain it also seemed to affect the carriage of their bodies.  Although there can be many reasons why a horse could have poor muscle development over their back, dental abnormalities can definitely be one of the causes.

Why?  Well, first lets describe what dental hooks are.  When the alignment of the upper arcades of teeth are rostral to the lower arcades then the first and last cheek teeth do not line up correctly.  Given that horses have a continual eruption of reserve crown over the life of their tooth, this can result in a protuberant tooth development in the areas that are not in occlusion.  Ok what does that all mean?  Basically the upper teeth are sitting forward of the lower teeth and the teeth not meeting up get too long.  At least, this is the most common presentation.

When charting this dental hook we would say the 206 had a hook.  Each tooth is numbered according to the location in the head (arcade and # of tooth).  Usually hooks are present on the 106, 206 (rostral hooks) and 311, 411 (caudal hooks).  In performing a routine dental exam and “floating” these hooks would be filed down to be in alignment with the rest of the arcade.

So what does this do to the horses mouth and jaw?  Besides being painful, inhibiting masticating and obstructing the flow of food this problem also locks the jaw from proper movement.  The horse not only chews from side to side but also has a anterior/posterior (front to back) movement to the jaw.  When else does this jaw move anteriorly and posteriorly?  Whenever the horse lowers or raises its head.



overbiteThe inability to correctly move the jaw can be exacerbated if the horse also has an overbite and it’s incisors have become over long.

Which brings me back to muscle development.  If the horse cannot lower it’s head properly to bring the back muscles up then how can it develop top line muscle?  If the horse cannot relax the lower jaw (mandible) and let it move freely, there will be tension in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), subsequent tension in the poll and neck and, of course, tension in the topline and hindend respectively.  See why we could pick them out of the herd?

How does this relate to bodywork?  Whenever I discover pain, tension or sensitivity in the top line, mandible, TMJ or poll, it’s a reminder to me to check the horses teeth.  There could very well be a structural misaligment of the teeth that is causing the issues.  It’s one of the many things to cross off the list when trying to get to the bottom of a symptom.  Have a good, certified equine dentist check your horse at least once a year just to be sure.

Equine Acupoint Touch- for better performance & optimal health

Equine Acupoint Touch

Learn to treat your horses tension, trauma, injuries and system imbalances.

It’s all about feeling the energy and structures of the equine, fascilitating the horses release of tension, trauma, stress and energetic imbalances. Equine Acupoint Touch is a combination of acupressure, trigger point release, myofascial release and craniosacral therapy.  EAT was developed by Rebecca Douglass over the past 10 years by doing bodywork on thousands of horses.  Over the years her skills have turned into their own therapy.

Now Acupoint Therapies LLC is developing a training course to help horse owners, trainers and other practitioners learn theese valuable techinques.  Topics include:

  • Palpation Techniques and How to Feel Energy
  • Point Location and Selection
  • Channel Flow
  • Yin & Yang
  • 5 Elements
  • Qi, Blood, Essence and Body Fluids
  • Organ Function
  • Emotions
  • & Much More…

While the Veterinary Board won’t allow us to say we heal or alleviate any disease, I have seen time and time again horses perform at their best because they received Equine Acupoint Touch.  Do you want to join us?  Do you want to be part of the “beta” class for Equine Acupoint Touch?  Seminars and clinics will start in the Fall of 2013.  Contact Rebecca for more information.

Kissing Spine

Kissing Spine

Kissing Spine


It is estimated that as many as 80% of all horses have some touching of the dorsal spinous processes at some point in their life. Kissing spine, otherwise known as the Overriding of the Dorsal Spinous Processes is defined in Diagnosis and Management of the Lameness in the Horse by Mike Ross and Sue J. Dyson as “Impingements of the summits of the spinous processes causing remodeling of the dorsal aspect or an avulsion fracture reflects an insertional lesion of the supraspinous ligaments.” Pressure points between adjacent overriding spines are shown by local inflammation of the bone covering, small bone cysts, and false joint formation. Severity is graded between a 1 & 4. Grade 1 being narrowing of the interspinous space . Grade 2 is loss of interspinous space with moderate sclerosis. Grade 3 is severe sclerosis and thickening. Grade 4 being severe sclerosis of the spinous processes, osteolysis and a change in shape of the spinous processes. Lesions may not be limited just to the summits. Lesions are most commonly seen at thoracic vertebra 10 through 18 but have also been seen in lumbar vertebra 1 through 6. Ultrasound is used to view the condition of the ligament whereas x-ray and nuclear scintigraphy (bone scan) are used for viewing the bone remodeling. However, “active bone remodeling is not synonymous with pain. Increased uptake in nuclear scan does not appear to be well correlated with the severity of the clinical signs or the radiographic abnormalities” (Ross & Dyson, Lameness in the Horse). Horses with obtrusive back pain may have only mild impingement and mild uptake on the nuclear scan. Regardless of the radiographs, confirmation and bio-mechanical limitations may contribute to back stiffness. Kissing spine is also seen in horses that exhibit no back pain. Extensive evaluation of all involved structures should be performed even after kissing spine has been found. Other contributing factors and lesions will play a part in diagnosis. For instance, injuries to the supraspinous ligament are best identified with ultrasound and can cause local thickening and pain.


Symptoms include back pain, tight back, being “cold backed”, girthy or agitated when saddling, bucking, bolting, exploding when mounted, refusing to jump or do certain movements, grouchiness, unwillingness to perform, hollowing of the back, unwillingness to go forward, or not accepting the bit. Obviously, these symptoms could describe numerous lamenesses or problems and a veterinary diagnosis is needed to be sure. In order to be diagnosed, anesthetics, radiographs, ultrasound, nuclear scintigraphy and/or thermography are used.


When the musculoskeletal system becomes strained either from poor confirmation, overuse, asymmetry, trauma, posture imbalances, pathology or negative emotional states, the body responds with a long list of reactions. These reactions include increased tonicity, edema, distortions in the tissue, joint distortions, inflammation, and changes in the nerves, blood and fibers. Pain occurs and eventually changes in the widespread function of the whole body occurs (Chaitow, Modern Neuromuscular Techniques). The ligaments and muscles surrounding a joint are responsible for joint stability. Without proper function of these structures, joints may subluxate, cause damage to the capsule, cartilage, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and discs and of course to themselves. It is this pattern that we see in kissing spine. Therefore, treatment of each individual must address all of the reactions in the body. Usually a multi-discipline approach is most successful in handling the dysfunctions that contribute to developing kissing spine.


Treatment involves relieving pain, correcting the dysfunction and rehabilitating the horse to develop strong core muscles to support the horses back and allow him to hold rider weight. The following treatments have been used to address kissing spine:

NSAIDS: can help alleviate pain. Some horses respond better than others

Injections: Corticosteroids injected in the back and between the vertebra can alleviate inflammation and reduce pain. B12 can be injected into acupuncture points and be part of a Chinese medical treatment.

Shockwave: (positive pressure acoustic waves) is shown to be good for healing bone, tendon and ligament problems. Success has been documented with kissing spine patients.

Mesotherapy: pharmaceuticals are injected in the mesoderm layer of the skin to facilitate healing, reduce pain and address the surrounding muscles, nerves and ligaments.

Acupuncture: based on Chinese medicine, acupuncture relieves pain, rebalances the energetic body to speed healing in both bone and soft tissues and also works along the meridians to release the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia.

Myofascial Release & Neuromuscular techniques: a manual therapy that works on correcting fascial imbalances and snares that pull on the musculoskeletal system creating lameness and pain.

Craniosacral Therapy: energetic manual therapy that concentrates on the bones of the pelvis, sacrum, lumbar/thoracic and cervical spine and cranium (head). Obviously any imbalance here could lay the foundation for developing kissing spine and be a causative factor. This is a very gentle modality.

Chiropractic: can be helpful in prevention and treatment but make sure your practitioner is aware of your horses condition.

Infrared Therapy/ Magnetic Therapy/ Ceramic blankets and others: all work on reducing pain and inflammation.

Surgery: surgically repairs the dorsal spinous processes and eliminates the touching between the processes. Employed when response to other treatments have failed and does not address the underlying cause.

Anecdotal evidence suggests various levels of success in horses returning to full work. Some horses were retired, some could return to a lower level of work and some were able to return to full work and be top competitive horses. Age, fitness, confirmation, severity, symptoms and amount of rehabilitation all play a role in prognosis. Each case is individual. The underlying causative factors must be addressed and usually frequent therapy and treatments are needed. Time is needed to not only correct the problem but teach the horse a different way of using itself.


Horses should be kept in work even if it’s light work. Time off, stall rest etc. does not help correct the problem and may only be palliative. Core strength, muscle development over the top line, and stretching and strengthening the back are all very important factors for having success in bringing a “kissing spine” horse back to solid work. However, the rider/trainer must always remember that from day to day the horse may change how he feels, sometimes for no apparent reason. Patience is a virtue when training these horses and listening to the horse is imperative. Never should work be demanded or forced on them. Just like other rehabilitation situations, pushing for just a little more without over-facing is a very precarious balance and it is easy to cross that very fine line into over expectation.

Alterations in the training or exercise techniques may be needed. For instance, long lining, long reining and lunging can be very good for building core muscles without the horse having to carry rider weight. Keep in mind, over-flexion in the work actually allows the horse to drop his back, inverting the spine and aggravating impingement of the dorsal spinous processes.

Poor saddle fit can be a major contributor to back pain. Call in an expert to check saddle fit.


One of the best ways to build the core muscles of the equine body without the added weight of the rider is through long lining, Pessoa type systems and ground exercises. In long lining, the horse can be put through dressage exercises and encouraged to stretch the back. The Pessoa type systems are great for replacing basic lunging exercises, especially for tight back horses. Finally, core strengthening exercises on the ground can be found in “Activate Your Horse’s Core” by Narelle Stubbs and Hilary Clayton. These exercises will increase your horse’s mobility, strength and balance.

  • Sternum, wither, thoracic and lumbar lifts. (Note: Edward Robinson in Current Therapy in Equine Medicine found these exercises to be greatly helpful for kissing spine.)
  • Rounding, lateral bending and extension exercises
  • Engaging the core through weight shifts
  • Combining the above
  • Leg extensions


Start with a long, easy warmup including lots of walking. Add exercises for suppleness: shoulder in, haunches in, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, flexion and counter flexion and frequent changes of direction. All the while, encourage a loose swinging back and no tension in the top line.

Another important aspect is very correct work in short duration. It is better to do very correct training for 5-10 minutes with walk breaks in between than to haphazardly ride around for 30 minutes. For instance, ride the horse correctly over the top line for 5 minutes (while he can actually hold his body correctly), then free walk for 3 minutes and repeat. When this becomes easy, time can always be increased. The same goes for ground exercises. Duration and frequency can always be increased as the horse gains strength and flexibility. For anyone who has trained for a marathon or picked up a new sport, you understand how starting slowly and building is a key component for success. Let me also stress frequency. Rehabilitation doesn’t work if you only do it once a week. Instead, think of riding 5-6 times per week for 15 minutes with sets of quality work for 3-5 minutes. Building on this until you reach a 45 minute ride with 10 minute sets.


Not only does cross training keep the horse mentally fresh but it also encourages building of good stability muscles and general conditioning. Navigating trails, logs, jumps and hills will greatly increase your horse’s athleticism all on its own. No amount of ring work can replace this type of conditioning. Starting at the walk, as the horse gains strength, trot and canter can be introduced. Hill work even at the walk is hard work and a great conditioning exercise. Eventually trot poles, jumping and a return to regular work can be introduced as the horse builds strength.


“The direct application of human nutraceutical or herbal preparations to horses is often difficult because absorption, bioavailability, dosages, mechanism of action and side effects vary.”  (Current Therapy in Equine Medicine by Robinson) However, most side effects are seen when an herb is used for too long or in very high dosages. Using supplements and herbs to treat a horse is best when supervised by a practitioner well studied in this area.

Western Herbs

White Willow Bark: analgesic, anti-inflammatory

Devils Claw: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, great for arthritis; alternative to bute

Meadowsweet: anti-inflammatory, effective against ulceration caused by drugs, herbal aspirin

Calendula: rich in sulfur, blood cleansing, anti-inflammatory

Nettle: high in Vitamin C, tonic and blood cleanser, stimulates circulation

Comfrey: source of B12, stimulates cell production and used to heal bone, cartilage and connective tissue, improves circulation. DO NOT USE for long periods.

Hawthorn: vasodilator, improves circulation, tonic for the heart and circulatory system

Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbs are administered in formulas and the herbs act together synergistically to treat the ailment. All formulas are prescribed according to the individual’s chinese medical diagnosis and a well trained practitioner should be consulted. The following useful formulas are from “Clinical Handbook of Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine” by Beebe, Salewski, Monda and Scott.

Bone and Sinew Formula: promotes the rapid healing of bones, tendons and ligaments, improves circulation

Du Huo and Loranthus Formula: removes obstructions, supplements energy (qi)

Chase Wind, Penetrate Bone Formula: removes obstructions, reduces swelling, alleviates pain, strengthens muscles

Clematis and Stephania Formula: for stasis, unblocks and relaxes channels/meridians

Eleuthero Tablets: supplementing, strengthens ligaments, tendons and bones, invigorates blood circulation

Essential Yang Formula: warms and supplements

Corydalis Formula: moves energy (qi), removes obstructions in the channel, relieves pain, relaxes muscles, relieves spasms

Seven Treasure Formula: supplements yin and essence

Stasis-Transforming Formula: transforms stasis, disperses nodules, regulates energy (qi), clears toxins, alleviates pain


Nutritional excesses and deficiencies can play a role in developing disease and proper diet can effectively treat disease. Be careful of over supplementation and read labels! Concentrate on the basics first and only add supplementation where needed. Provide a well balanced whole food diet, free of processed foods and chemicals. Allow plenty of turnout and room to move around. Consulting a nutritionist who can taylor a diet to your individual horse’s needs is recommended.


How easily your horse progresses through rehab, the better you learn to ride, the more diligent you are in the rehabilitation schedule, the better the horse’s confirmation and the response to treatment all dictate the prognosis. I find the worst case scenario develops because the rider/trainer was inconsistent in their schedule and approach, not because the horse couldn’t succeed.


The Real Benefits of Acupuncture

What are the benefits of acupuncture for your horse?

With acupuncture becoming widely accepted and veterinarians literally seeing the benefits, no wonder acupuncture has spread to the four legged community.  It’s not uncommon to see veterinarians and acupuncturists working in vet offices and clinics supplying a much needed medicine to cats, dogs, horses etc.  The vet community even has an organizing body (IVAS) to certify veterinary acupuncturists.  States such as Maryland are also certifying licensed acupuncturists to work on animals.

In addition, the FEI has ruled that acupuncture can be used on competition horses without breaking FEI rules.  Studies have shown an reduction in anesthesia needed by 31% when acupuncture was used during animal surgery.  Effectiveness has been studied and documented in clinical trials.

So what does this all mean to you and your horse?  Well, we already know that acupuncture used often and that it’s effective now lets look at some real down to earth examples of how you can experience the benefits of acupuncture.

  1. Dollar savings.  how much does it cost to have hocks injected?  $500-$1000.  Many horses can forgo hock injections (and other invasive treatments) and be treated with acupuncture instead.  Not only does it reduce pain but also treats the underlying cause of why the horses hocks are getting sore in the first place.
  2. Less anti-inflammatories.  This goes along with #1 in saving money too.  Acupuncture is so effective at treating pain, anti-inflammatories are not needed.  This is even better news considering the link between NSAIDS and ulcers and Corticosteroids and their many side effects.
  3. Increases performance.  This could be just from allowing the horse to be more comfortable when performing.  Think of the consequences of making a race horse more comfortable during running.  Just shaving a second off their race time can make the difference between 1st or last.
  4. Less down time.  Acupuncture is effective in quickening healing time in muscles, fascia and bone.  I have seen it first hand with suspensory injuries with ultrasounds to validate.
  5. Happiness.  Acupuncture treats both physical and emotional symptoms.  But lets be realistic, if your horse feels better he will act better.  Chronic pain wreaks havoc.  Ask anyone.

So here’s a short list of scientifically proven diseases that acupuncture has helped.

  • colic
  • skin conditions
  • conjunctivitis
  • sinusitis
  • back pain
  • neck pain
  • behavioral problems


How Often Should You Get Acupuncture Treatments?

Acupuncture treatments

Acupuncture Needle Insertion

The question I am asked most often is how frequently should one receive acupuncture treatments. In the US, the common recommendation is one treatment a week for 8 weeks but it really depends on how acute or chronic the condition is. This schedule may be OK if the person is supplementing their treatment with Chinese Herbal medicine. However, I believe the above schedule is more based on economics and the current health insurances recommendations. Therefore it is seriously erroneous.

Based on a review of Chinese literature, treatments should be much more frequent to guarantee success. For instance, Wang Le Ting (a Chinese master in the 20th century) treated serious conditions daily for varying lengths of time. The following examples will explain:

  1. Patient #1 complained of dizziness, heart palpations, headache, poor sleep, poor appetite, loose stools, and painful joints. Treatments consisted of acupuncture every other day for 12 treatments. Afterwards the patient was fine and had no recurrence.
  2. Patients #2 complained of depression, anxiety, chest oppression, abdominal distention, fatigue, lack of strength and constipation. This patient was needled several times a week for 1.5 months until all symptoms were eliminated.
  3. Patient #3 had symptoms of insomnia, frustration, anger, outbreaks of crying, spasms in the limbs and worry. Acupuncture treatments were administered every other day for 8 treatments plus an herbal formula for 10 days.
  4. Patient #4 was diagnosed with acute prostatitis with burning hesitant urination, high blood pressure. He was treated every day for 5 days.
  5. Patients #5 complained of symptoms of dysmennorhea including abdominal pain, bloating before menses and delayed menstruation that was profuse, dark in color and contained clots. She also had low blood pressure, profuse dreams, loose stools and decreased strength. Treatment was administered very day for 5 days before menses for 6 months.
  6. Patient #6 had problems with infertility but western medicine could not find a reason. She sought out acupuncture with complaints of irregular menstruation, depression, worry and a cold feeling in the abdomen. Acupuncture treatments were three times a week for 40 treatments. On the 5th month the patient became pregnant and went on to have many healthy children.

With an acute condition, I would prefer to see my patients two to three times per week.  On more chronic issues once a week for 8-12 weeks is more realistic.

In the US, we want results instantaneous and often we prematurely judge acupuncture and other alternative modalities. Instead I encourage you to give alternative therapies a fair chance to show their effectiveness. Become aware of the subtle changes in your body that define health and make the necessary life changes that allow the body to heal itself. Look at is this way…


One acupuncture treatment $60-90

Two acupuncture treatments $120-180

Better health, holistically with no side effects PRICELESS!


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