Category Archives: Canine

Benefits of Myofascial Manipulation

Fascia is still a medical mystery. In October, 2007, more than 100 scientists from around the world convened in Boston, Massachusetts to discuss the latest research on fascia: an enigmatic, gauze-like matrix of connective tissue that envelopes the muscles, surrounds the nerves and swathes the organs in a body-wide-web of fibrous collagen. But the researchers had some unlikely company. Also in attendance, and outnumbering researchers 5:1, was a group of alternative-medicine practitioners with a mutual interest in fascia. United by their fascination with this medically neglected tissue, the two camps comprised the attendees of the first-ever International Fascia Research Congress.

Ida Rolf , the founder of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, described her work on organizing the body as this:  Rolfing works on the web-like network of connective tissues, called fascia, to release, realign, and balance the whole body, potentially resolving discomfort, reducing compensations and alleviating pain.”

For decades, anatomical dissections and representations have presented the body as stripped of its fascial tissues, and the majority of physiology textbooks make little mention of it. “Most scientists,” says Wallace Sampson, alternative medicine skeptic and professor emeritus at Stanford University, “even those wary of alternative therapies, admit that the field of fascia research is a field of neglect, and remains sorely under-investigated.”

The basic concepts of myofascial release are these:

1. The body functions as a total biologic unit

2. The body possesses self-healing and self-regulatory mechanisms

3. Structure and function are interrelated, and

4. Abnormal pressure in one part of the body produces abnormal pressures and strains upon other parts of the body.

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Cold Laser Works for Skin Conditions

Cold laser, or Low Level Laser Therapy, is an excellent option for treating dermatologic conditions. The most common diseases that benefit from the use of the therapeutic laser are lick granulomas in dogs , burns, ear infections and inflammation (otitis), “hot spots, anal gland rupture (cat and dog)  and ulcers.

Cold lasers are used for pain management and to hasten the healing of wounds.  The laser stimulates an increase in various cellular activities that promote a decrease in inflammation and also stimulate receptors that release pain-relieving substances

There are no known side effects with low level lasers.  The short treatment times (often less than 15 minutes) are well tolerated by pets.  Some conditions require only 1-2 sessions, whereas chronic conditions can benefit from weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly therapy.

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Releasing Trigger Points

Trigger points are tight spots within the muscle (not at the ends or attachments as in stress points) that cause pain, sensitivity, tingling, burning, or weakness.  Trigger point therapy causes the muscle to have a twitch response, which resets and relaxes the muscle. This can be uncomfortable for a moment, but the results are worth it. Reduction or elimination of pain and improved range of motion can be seen and felt immediately.

Another way to release trigger points is through myofascial release. Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Fascia has multiple functions. It holds some structures together, providing stability.  It allows others to glide and move freely.

Trigger points can be caused by scar tissue, strain from repetitive movement, bad posture, poor nutrition, or injury. The most effective way to remove trigger points is through manual pressure. When the trigger point is released, the fascia will once again move smoothly over the muscle, pain will be reduced or eliminated, and range of motion will be increased.

Cold laser therapy can also relieve muscle pain caused by trigger points, and improve circulation.

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Is All Pain Bad?

Pain is a valuable and natural tool that notifies us when there is a condition that needs tending to.  Immediately taking or administering (in the case of our animals) painkilling medicine without first reflecting on what message the pain is sending is not useful. The medication will temporarily treat the pain, with side effects, but whatever caused the pain is most likely still there. I prefer a cure to treatment!

Pain is not a disease. Pain is a symptom.

Muscles have two major functions: they contract to create motion, and relax to return to its full length and allow another muscle to pull in the opposite direction.  No other tissue in the body does this.  Muscles move bones that are attached by tendons. To move bones back to their starting points, the muscle that made the movement has to relax so the opposite muscle in the pair to bring the bones back to resting position.

What happens if this dance doesn’t run smoothly? If the first muscle doesn’t fully relax, the bones cannot return to their restful, or healthy postural position. Alignment and balance are then adversely affected. Stiffness and immobility (lameness) gain control of the body, robbing it of strength, stamina, and graceful movement. When the body is balanced (the massage work I do is called body balancing) it is in a state of health.  When postural balance is restored, pain symptoms disappear.

I recently worked on a mare that looked to be in pain in her front end. One leg was twisted so that her hoof pointed in. Her walk looked painful as well. I found an area of very tight muscles in one shoulder (I have no idea how they got like that. This was my first meeting with her.) It did not take long for her whole posture to change. Her leg starting to turn until it was fairly straight. At the end of her bodywork session I asked to see her walk, and she just strutted out of the barn. We were all smiles, and once again I was elated to see an animal relieved of pain just by re-balancing some tight muscles.  A week later I heard from the owner that the mare is moving well.

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An Important Supplement: Astragalus

This is an edited excerpt from a book I’ve been reading called The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic Plants, by Guido Mase.

“The science behind Astragalus is remarkable. Modern research is validating the uses detailed for this plant. Studies link it to improved immunity and reduced anemia when it comes to chronic infection, cancer, kidney disease, and more. It is a tonic that builds our resistance to all manner of ills, including  pathogens. Recovery from protracted illness or long term stress is another of its strengths. I have found this plant to be useful support for those undergoing difficult courses of chemotherapy.

Those who take plants like Echinacea in the fall should switch to Astragalus instead. It’s a much more appropriate immune tonic and much more effective at keeping illness at bay. While its life-giving power is legendary in conditions of extreme depletion, such as cancer, compromised immunity, or recovery from prolonged infection, everyone would do well to take some Astragalus root every day. For those who get frequent colds, or whose respiratory tracts seem to be congested and weak all winter, this herb is just the ticket. Astragalus will improve overall immunity.

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What Happens During a Cold Laser Treatment?

Here is what you need to know: You cannot be burned by a low level laser. The treatment is painless.  You may feel some warmth which is the damaged tissue responding to the light. Light produces energy just the way photosynthesis does in plants.

Since the 1960’s, physicians have used laser therapy to repair damaged tissue and destroy unwanted cells. Lasers can be tuned to different wavelengths to remove plaque from coronary arteries, to seal off leaky blood vessels in the eyes of people with diabetes to preserve sight, and to reattach retinas, the light sensing structure in the back of the eye.

Doctors have used low-level light therapy to activate a number of biological processes, including hair growth and skin repair, without knowing how it worked. In an article in Science Translational Medicine, the Harvard researchers identify transforming growth factor beta-1 as the regenerative protein.

All I can tell you is that whenever I have an injury, pain, soreness, I use the laser and it works!

 

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Using the Cold Laser to Prevent Injuries

Alberto Salazar is a running coach to Olympic medalists and many other successful runners. Observers have noted that Salazar’s athletes are not only fast, they seem to avoid the injuries that plague others in the sport. An article in the Portland Business Journal reveals the latest Salazar method: the use of laser therapy to prevent injuries, or speed healing.

“We use the lasers at the first sign of injury to limit an exaggerated inflammatory response that can delay healing and help the athlete return to training more quickly,” Salazar says in a short interview.

Proponents believe that laser treatments can reduce pain, and speed healing of all body tissues–muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone. Some studies have found it superior to ultrasound.

Before tendons become inflamed and swollen causing pain to the patient (whether two or four legged) and causing a  loss in strength and motion, low level laser, or cold laser, can be a very effective therapy.

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Improve Range of Motion and Reduce Pain

No body has to live in pain from injury, arthritis, back pain, sciatica. That sounds like a radical statement but there are many therapies to address chronic pain.  Myofascial Release is a soft tissue therapy designed to change and improve the health of the fascia. Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support and protection for most structures within the body.

Fascia literally holds us together.  When we encounter fascial and muscle dysfunction, the result is usually pain and discomfort, loss of range of motion in our bodies ,and a subsequent loss of well-being and quality of life.

When the fascia gets bunched, similar to plastic Saran wrap for example, it can bind down on nerves, blood vessels and organs and thus cause restriction and pain.

Because the fascia cannot be detected on X-ray, CT ,or MRI ,scans it is often the reason for unidentified discomfort.

Myofascial Release breaks down scar tissue, relaxes muscles, and restores good posture. It is used with great success to target chronic pain, sometimes in only a few sessions. I have been working on many horses lately that have been recovering from injuries. In just a few sessions, we are seeing  better joint flexibility and range of motion. Instead of an angular, disjointed profile, the body has a harmonious, flowing appearance.

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Why Trigger Points Are Trouble!

Sore muscles usually feel better after a day or two of rest. But if you or your horse has persistent muscle pain — particularly in the neck, shoulders, hamstrings or back — and you literally can put your finger on the spot where it originates, you may be dealing with a trigger point. Trigger points exist in tight bands of muscle or tendon tissue and will twitch when pressed. Trigger points are something traditional doctors ignore, but they should not be overlooked as a source of pain, discomfort, or restricted movement.

Trigger points are tight knots of muscle fiber that can’t relax. Muscle often feels denser and tighter at a trigger point — more rope-like. When you push on it, pain spreads throughout the muscle area. Good posture and body mechanics can help prevent trigger points from forming, but every body will experience them at some point.

Myofascial Trigger Point therapy is a safe, effective ,and drug-free way for massage therapists to help animals or humans suffering from pain and limited range of motion.

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Acupuncture for Animals

A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture can be traced back more than 5,000 years. Acupuncture aims to treat a range of conditions by targeting specific points in the body. It does so through the application of heat, pressure, or laser, with the most widely recognized method being penetration of the skin by thin needles.

Traditional Eastern and contemporary Western medicines differ on their theories of why acupuncture works. Eastern thought holds that stimulating these acupoints corrects the imbalances of qi, or circulating life force, through channels known as meridians. Western physicians largely dismiss such concepts,  but they do believe that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, and can effectively treat musculoskeletal pain, postoperative pain, and nausea.

In veterinary history, acupuncture charts for horses date around 136 AD. Today, the science has been accepted for more than 30 years as a viable treatment for animals of many different species and sizes. It is even covered by some pet insurance companies in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Most animals actually enjoy acupuncture or cold laser treatment.  When older patients are suffering from arthritis, cold laser or acupuncture can be the best choice, since medications are often not tolerated well. In that case, acupuncture is a perfect fit to help manage their chronic pain. I use cold laser, or low level light therapy, in much the same way that acupuncture is used. The advantage is that there is no need to penetrate the skin with the needle.

www.reuters.com

 

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