How interesting: Brace yourselves for the low down on the effectiveness of Topical Applications (hot and cold) for muscle strain relief

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Exactly what is going on when you apply heating or cooling gels to your horses legs?

Horse Scout Blogger was watching the BBC’s The Truth about your Medicine cabinet last night.  Some very interesting items indeed.  However what caught my attention was the report on the use of topical muscle liniments to reduce reaction to strenuous workouts (obviously this was with humans).  Livery Yards (and competitive stables too) have tack rooms which are full of row upon row of expensive topical applications of hot and cold rubs to help muscle strain relief.  Diligently applied and expensively bought.  I am not a scientist but I am commenting “intelligently” on the scientific research carried out on the programme.

There were three groups.  For fifteen minutes Group One sat in cold (icey) water, Group Two sat in warm water and the third group rested.  In terms of recovery groups one and two felt an immediate benefit (distraction therapy it was called) group three continued to feel sore.  However, over the next three days the two water groups recovered considerably better than the resting group with only a 2-3% difference between the two water groups with the cold group thus marginally better recovered than the warm water group.

The conclusion was that using either cold or hot water treatment for 15 minutes increased recovery time.

They then went on to test both hot and cold topical embrocations from leading brands.  Whilst the subject definitely could feel the effect of the cold and the hot applications and the heat camera was definitely showing the difference in the skin temperatures, the effect had absolutely no effect on the deep tissue temperatures which both read the same and where a normal reading for resting muscles.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions with reference to the effect these topical cooling gels and heat linaments may therefore actually have on your horse.  Me? Well I always did think water was cool…..and pretty much free; especially if you can orgainise a pond or river to stand in.