A case study utilizing myofascial release, acupressure and trigger point therapy to treat bilateral "Stringhalt" in a 12 year old Akhal-Teke horse

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2017 Jul;21(3):589-593. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2016.08.019. Epub 2016 Sep 16.


"Stringhalt" is a horse condition that causes one or both hind legs to spasm when walking, trotting or backing. The condition is thought to be related to a neurological cause from either plant toxicity or peripheral nerve injury. The prognosis is poor and the horse's performance and quality of life can be affected. Treatment has included surgically cutting the digital extensors with varied results. The objective of the study is to utilize soft tissue release via acupressure, trigger point and myofascial release to decrease symptoms of stringhalt. The case study is a 12 year old Akhal-Teke horse of excellent pedigree. In 2011, she was caught in barbed wire overnight and sustained lacerations to the bone in her hindlimbs. Shortly after the injury the horse was placed in a stall for several months and was unable to walk or run, developing stringhalt. Currently, her condition is aggravated by stress and alleviated by certain types of massage (myofascial, acupressure, and trigger point release). The incidence of stringhalt occurs every 3-5 min, with more frequent and severe symptoms on the right hindlimb. The horse is unable to run or back up. Six 1 to 1½ hour bi-weekly treatments were performed. The treatments consisted of myofascial release at the cervical, sacrum and iliums, acupressure of the bladder meridian (including c-spine, t-spine, l-spine, and hamstring), and trigger point release of the iliacus. The stringhalt symptoms were monitored for 30 min prior to each of the 6 treatment sessions. After 6 treatments, the horse was observed running and standing in a position that promotes hip extension. She has not been able to do either since the injury. The frequency and severity of the spasms have decreased to every 10-20 min. The horse's owners report that her disposition, stress and quality of life are much improved. The results suggest that myofascial release, acupressure and trigger point therapy may be utilized to provide a positive treatment outcome in the case of stringhalt. However, please note that the scope of practice varies by state and special training is needed to work with the equine population.

Keywords: Acupressure; Bodywork; Equine; Horse; Massage; Myofascial; Stringhalt; Therapy; Trigger point.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acupressure / methods*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Horses
  • Spasm / therapy*
  • Spasm / veterinary*
  • Therapy, Soft Tissue / methods*
  • Trigger Points / pathology*