Manual therapies are hands on techniques used to reduce muscle spasm, alleviate pain and improve joint mobility. Manual therapies are often used as a primary treatment, and method of continuous assessment, alongside electro therapies and exercise prescription to form a multimodal approach to healing.
Manual Therapy techniques:
Spinal joint mobilisation
Myofascial release and trigger point deactivation
Passive range of movement stretches and exercises
Massage has been long used as a therapeutic tool in humans, but the benefits are also transferable to our animals. Different massage techniques can be employed dependent on the nature of the treatment. Effleurage massage helps release muscle tension and reduce swelling and is often used in combination with other techniques. Petrissage massage has been found to increase muscle tone which can be beneficial in animals with muscle atrophy. Variations of petrissage can also be used to reduce scar tissue post trauma or surgery. Tapotement massage is used to increase blood flow in the surrounding tissue and is often used in competition animals prior to competition.
Trigger Points/Myofascial Release
Myofascial tension can often occur as a secondary problem from primary joint and connective tissue issues. Tension in the fascia can create localised points, clinically producing pain on compression. These tension points can lead to changes of gait and posture through restricted movement and pain management. Myofascial release can be achieved through specific massage techniques that deactivate the trigger points, and allow the body to relax from a state of chronic tension.
Range of Motion Stretches
Stretching has been found to improve the elasticity of structures such as tendons, ligaments and joint capsules. These tissues can contract over time due to reduced joint movement such as decreased stride length. This often leads to a shortening of muscles and other soft tissues around the affected joints. Passive range of motion stretches can encourage correct flexion and extension of the joints and surrounding tissues. Stretches are often used as a method of continuous assessment by the physiotherapist to note any change in tissue or ability of the animal at a particular stage of the treatment plan.