Tag Archives: pain

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.

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Rapid Return to Full Motion

After a body undergoes surgery, there is scar tissue, which can limit movement and cause pain. Scar tissue can also form after trauma or repetitive stress.

Normal tissue is served by the body’s blood supply, preventing it from becoming brittle and callous. Scar tissue, however, forms as a temporary tissue base to promote healing. Eventually, the scar tissue will lose its vascularization (blood supply). This is what causes problems in the body as it forms adhesions to other tissues and structures, and often leads to chronic pain or hard-to-treat issues that hurt quality of life.

Myofascial release is a non-invasive way to remove scar tissue without negatively affecting healthy tissue. Myofascial release can address issues related to range of motion,shoulder, ankle, and knee pain; adhesions; back and neck pain; tendonitis; muscle spasms; trapped nerves; adhesions; headaches; Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and more.

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Relieving Pain and Restoring Range of Motion

Most bodies start off life using all muscles in a correct and efficient way. As injuries and overuse pile up, the body compensates by using less appropriate muscles. Eventually, compensations become patterns. The body may try several compensations before it runs out of options. At that point pain and weakness develop.

Pain is a poor guide for proper muscle use. Pain will lead the body down the wrong path! Correct body work, such as Trigger Point and Stress Point therapy, can lead the body towards health, and away from pain.

The results and benefits of trigger point massage are releasing constricted areas in the muscles thus alleviating pain. The body, whether human or animal,  can experience a significant decrease in pain after just one treatment.

I highly recommend that horses are put on a regular schedule of massage treatments in order to help prevent injuries and keep muscles soft and supple.

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Does Your Horse Show Signs of Muscle Fatigue?

No matter how fit your horse is, when he is at rest the muscles should not feel hard. Hard, dense muscles indicate pain and trigger points. Healthy muscles have an elastic feel when palpated.

Trigger points can cause weakness and lack of coordination, so often, riders will push to strengthen those areas. Know that you can’t strengthen muscles that are in spasm. The muscle fibers are contracted. What will happen is that the muscles surrounding the affected muscles will take up the slack, further weakening the muscles with trigger and stress points.

Muscles with trigger points fatigue more quickly than healthy muscles. And the muscles surrounding muscles with trigger points also become fatigued as they tighten and work too hard.

One of the signs that you can look for to identify spasms before you mount is twitching and trembling. Be on the lookout while you are grooming your horse.

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Myofascial Pain Syndrome

In my studies and practice, I have come across many horses (and people) that live in pain and lameness because a diagnosis is never reached. This pain, or myofascial pain syndrome, is caused by trigger points that refer pain to other areas.

It is important to treat trigger points as soon as possible so that the syndrome doesn’t turn into chronic pain. The longer pain is present, the more muscles become involved in a chain reaction of dysfunction. One muscle might hurt and tighten and form trigger points, then those trigger points refer new pain somewhere else, and so on and so on…

How many horses do you know who have become pasture ornaments or brood mares because their mysterious lameness kept returning? The sooner trigger points are released, the simpler recovery will be. Muscles with trigger point pain can be returned to normal and healthy function. Eventually atrophied muscles can be strengthened and range of motion restored.

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The Cold, or Soft, Laser

Many types of injuries, as well as chronic conditions, can be effectively treated with the cold laser.

Low Level Laser Therapy  is the use of therapeutic (or cold) laser light to provide relief from pain, eliminate inflammation or swelling, or to repair damaged tissues. The cold, or soft laser,  is entirely noninvasive and has a wide range of applications, from neural muscular-skeletal conditions to wound healing to acupuncture treatments. Rather than destroying tissue, as with surgical (or hot) lasers, LLLT uses low intensity laser light energy to stimulate cells through a number of known cellular pathways in order to encourage tissue healing.

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Pain Relief Without Drugs

The cold laser I use is different from the lasers used to perform surgery. The lower frequency of light of the therapeutic laser used at horse shows by me and other practitioners does not cut or cauterize tissue.

You might want to try the soothing effects of the laser on your own aches and pains, so you know what your horse, dog, or cat is experiencing. Laser light takes the soreness out of painful tissue and enhances the delivery of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the injury site. This increase in circulation allows the tissues to expel lactic acids or other metabolic wastes along with inflammatory substances that contribute to local pain and swelling.

You can experience natural pain relief without the risks associated with pain medications. Most studies conclude that much faster healing takes place from injury when cold laser therapy is included in the recovery treatment.

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The Joy of Laser

Many of you have heard of Laser surgery where light is used to cut tissue. Laser technology has progressed from the extreme application of burning and cutting to the approach I can now use with my equipment.

Simply stated, laser light can be used to energize living cells. Using correct protocols for individual conditions, cold laser therapy can produce dramatic changes to tissue.

Laser irradiation has an anti-inflammatory effect on tissue. Blood vessels dilate, which increases circulation. Pain receptor activity is suppressed; endorphin release is increased, and the metabolism within each cell is increased.

Cold laser therapy (also called soft laser) activates the production of immune cells. New capillaries are formed, which is essential for quick wound healing. At the same time, the fibrous tissue of scar tissue is reduced. Nerve cells are repaired, minimizing or eliminating the numbness of a major injury or wound.

And all these benefits are achieved without side effects. No drugs. No over the counter medicines. Lasers are safe and work quickly.

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Back Pain in Riders

Low back pain is probably the most common complaint in the United States. Studies suggest that 4 out of 5 people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Riding, with the frequency of falls, the position, the jarring motion, only hikes up that statistic.

Many people with back pain have been told it is due to a slipped, or herniated disk. Surprisingly however, most back pain is caused by weak muscles, asymmetry, poor posture, and being overweight. Stress and tension can also contribute to back pain.

Rolfing, also known as myofascial release, can change posture and eliminate pain.

In Chinese medicine back pain is believed to be caused by a block in the bladder meridian. Acupressure, reflexology, shiatsu,and acupuncture can be very effective for curing pain. Yoga has many postures (like side plank) that can strengthen postural muscles. Swimming is good exercise, as it supports body weight while strengthening important core muscles.

Cold laser can reduce or eliminate pain, improve circulation, and reduce inflammation.

You Cannot Condition a Muscle in Spasm

There are hundreds of muscles in a body (whether horse, human, or dog, etc) and any of them can develop trigger points, or contracted bands of muscle fibers. When muscles are contracted in this way, they are not available for use due to pain, restricted motion, and distorted posture. While the degree of pain the body is in can vary greatly, most trigger points will be tender and painful when pressed.

A healthy muscle is free. It does not have knots or tight bands of muscle fibers. It is not tender when pressed. A healthy muscle feels soft (but not mushy) and elastic.

Trigger points can cause a loss of coordination and balance, since the affected muscles are not free to use. As we all know, lack of use causes weakness and atrophy. If the trigger points are not released, any attempt to strengthen the muscle will cause the surrounding muscles to pick up the slack, further weakening the muscle with the trigger point. It is a vicious cycle.

Trigger point therapy is a wonderful and quick treatment option if done in time. If a trigger point is left untreated for too, long muscle fibers can become damaged in a way that can not be repaired.

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