How manual therapy helps.
When you think of animal rehab, what do you think of first? People most often gravitate towards the underwater treadmill or laser therapy machine. Of course these machines, or modalities, are very important in our rehab clinic. They have their place in the healing aspect of cases, either by decreasing inflammation and promoting healing rate. The treadmill can use the properties of water to simply allow a dog to move normally and regain muscle mass. Pretty incredible!
But, the most important tool we use with our patients, in my opinion, is quite simple. It is our hands.
Our hands are used in both assessment and treatment. We need to determine the tone of the muscle, the joint restrictions, and myofascial trigger points. We determine a sense of the grinding of the joints, or crepitus, and can feel the knot within the muscle that is causing pain.
Are we just massaging? Not quite.
When you first see us place our hands on your pet, you may easily mistake manual therapy for massage. Although massage is an important tool we often use in clinic and also teach owners to do at home, manual therapy is so much more.
Massage uses pressure on the skin and tissue/muscles to increase circulation, flexibility, tension release and relaxation.
Manual therapy techniques can increase the healing process and correct faults within the soft tissues and joints. Learning to do manual therapy is an advanced skill, learned after becoming a certified rehab practitioner/vet and I can attest that it takes years to develop a keen sense of touch that is needed to do a good job. I often will look away, or close my eyes to block out the visual sense in order to focus on my tactile senses. I know I may look awkward, but I swear this helps!
Manual therapy involves a hands on technique that will realign joints and correct positional faults of the tissue. We will utilize soft tissue (fascial and ligament) mobilization, muscle energy techniques, myofascial release, joint mobilizations and manipulations. Why do this all this?
Incredibly, these techniques will increase the range of motion of the joint, meaning we can improve the joints ability to flex or extend. A very important treatment especially in chronic arthritis or strain situations. In addition, by mobilizing or moving a joint is a very specific way, we can upregulate the joint fluid and circulation of the joint. Lastly, manual techniques have the added benefit of pain relief. By eliminating a trigger point, or ridding a muscle spasm, we can drastically make improvements in pain relief and healing rate.
Using manual therapy, massage or both for our patients is just one of the many tools we utilize at our clinic. Each case is individualized; some cases require the manual therapy to be the majority of treatments, while others do not require as much. Nonetheless, our hands are the most effective tool we have to help your pet, both in the assessment and treatment!