Equine Chiropractic or Massage First?

Many times I am asked, “If I get a massage, should I do it before or after my adjustment?”. This question and answer applies to horses just as much as it does to people, simply due to the fact that the muscles in horses play the same role as those in humans. In the information that follows, I’m going to answer the question, “Chiropractic or Massage first?” You may be surprised to learn in which order they should be performed, but there is a clear order, and that is explained below.

To setup my clients to understand what I am about to tell you, I ask them the following question: “What is the purpose of your bicep?”. Answers I receive range anywhere from, “What’s a bicep?”,to, “To bend the elbow.”, to “To help me drink my beer.”, among others. But what I am asking for is a basic answer of anatomy. The purpose of the bicep is simply to move the bone that it is attached to, called the ulna. The ulna is a long bone in your forearm. When the bicep moves the ulna, the elbow bends into what is called “flexion”. Or simply-stated, it brings your palm toward your shoulder. The idea here is to understand that muscles, and we’re referring to skeletal muscles here, (muscles that attach to two different bones) have one job, and one job only. And that is to move a bone. Muscles can do one of two things. They can either contract or relax. In a contracted state, a muscle moves the bone. In a relaxed state, the muscle does not move the bone.

So why this elementary discussion about what skeletal muscles do? Well, because if you understand what the purpose of skeletal muscle is, then it only takes a quick explanation to answer the original question. As a chiropractor, I need to feel what the muscles are doing in order to determine which segments of the spine need to be adjusted. A muscle can be A) Relaxed, B) Contracting (aka working), or C) In Spasm. As I am feeling the muscles, it is extremely important for me to be able to determine in which of these three conditions a muscle is in. It’s the only way to know if a spinal segment needs to be adjusted.

If somebody takes their horse to a massage therapist, and that massage therapist works his/her magic on the muscles and relaxes them, then I lose my roadmap. I lose the ability to know how and where to adjust.

Just feeling the bones is a losers game. The bones don’t tell the story. Bones are dummies. They only do what they are told to do by the muscles. If I don’t know what the muscles are telling them to do, then I can’t help the muscles do their job, which is to move the bone in the direction of muscle pull. If I can feel the working muscles, then I can help them do their job so that they can relax.

BUT WAIT, their is one more benefit of having your horse adjusted first! We just talked about adjusting a horse so that working muscles can relax. If you take your horse to a massage therapist after an adjustment, muscles that were working due to misaligned vertebral segments will now be relaxed. And that means the massage therapist can now spend his/her time working on muscles that actually need to be worked on due to excess lactic acid buildup or ones that are caught in spasm, rather than work on muscles that are tight because they are trying to moved a misaligned bone. The problem with getting a massage first is that, yes massage therapists can get the muscles to relax; however, muscles that were working before a massage will go right back to being tight once they recover from the massage, unless they no longer NEED to be working. And they would no longer need to be working if the bone they were trying to move was in its correct position. And that is the reason you should get your horse adjusted first! Ensure that your horse’s structure is properly aligned and it will increase the results you get from your equine massages!

I hope that you have enjoyed this post! If you have any questions about this information, or to schedule a chiropractic adjustment for your horse(s), please contact us at 251-378-1341, or email us at

Thank you for reading!

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