Rehabilitating Muscle

What would be the best avenue to take to prevent too much scar tissue from forming and limiting muscle use?
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Q: My horse has a severe laceration involving the biceps femoris and semitendinosis muscles (along the back of the hindquarter). He is 17 and in very good shape, training Prix St. Georges. We were able to suture the site and the incision is healing nicely. My question is on rehabilitation. What would be the best avenue to take to prevent too much scar tissue from forming and limiting the use of these muscles?

Kathy, via email

A: This is certainly an area that is important to a horse expected to perform at this level in dressage. These muscles help stabilize the actions of the hind legs and the horse’s power of propulsion. The good news is that, in general, these muscles tend to heal nicely and return to good function. Your attempt to minimize scarring within the muscles is a worthy goal.

The fact that you were able to appose the cut edges and close the wound will be an important factor in getting first-intention healing (when tissues are held together so less of a gap has to be bridged) and reducing the scar tissue formation. The next step is to initially minimize excessive stress on the damaged tissues by limiting movement for the first 12-14 days with stall rest and some short periods of controlled hand walking for mental well-being. During this time, if there is heat and swelling in the area, cold therapy in the form of ice or cold compresses and anti-inflammatory medication can be utilized. Oral supplements that facilitate muscle building and repair might be helpful and started at this time

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Written by:

Duncan Peters, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVSMR, ISELP, is the co-owner and founder of East-West Equine Sports Medicine and focuses his practice on locomotor pathology and the diagnosis, treatment, and management of sport horse health for optimum performance. A University of California, Davis, graduate, Peters has also served as as director of the Clinical Equine Sports Medicine Program and associate professor of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. An FEI veterinarian, he was member of the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games’ veterinary commission. Peters is an active horse owner and competes hunter-jumpers.

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