A sprain is an injury to a ligament whereby the ligament has been over stretched beyond its capacity and will affect a joint area. They can often happen at the same time that a bone is broken or a strain (overstretching of a muscle) has occurred. There are four degrees of a sprain:
- 1st Degree – the ligament has been stretched or there is a minor tear
- 2nd Degree – the ligament has been torn partially and is followed by swelling
- 3rd Degree – the ligament has been torn completely
- 4th Degree – the ligament has been broken and taken with it small pieces of bone
Typical signs of a sprain can be swelling, bruising, difficulty in moving the affected area and weakness in the affected limb.
A strain or pulled muscle is where the muscle is either partially torn or totally torn and is normally caused through exercise or sporting accidents.
Dependent on the severity there is likely to be swelling, bruising and discomfort. A full tear to the muscle will be extremely painful and the affected muscle will not be able to be used and there is likely to be almost complete loss of strength in the affected muscle.
To help prevent muscle strain it is important to warm up prior to any exercise either by massage or gentle warm up exercises.
Signs of a strain will be:
- Inability to walk
- Off food
- Yelping or crying from pain
When a muscle has been strained scar tissue will form and this can prevent the muscles moving correctly and preventing natural movement. Massage will help to break down the scar tissue and help to repair the damaged fibres and tendons.
Fascia is a connective tissue made up of collagen, water and elastin which spreads throughout the body and is a continuous structure existing from the top to the bottom of the body and connects each part of the body together. It covers muscles, nerves, blood vessels, organs and bones, providing support and protection within the body and also assists with movement. It holds muscles together keeping them in the correct place, separating them so that they can work independently. It also provides a lubricated surface ensuring that the muscles can move smoothly over each other. Fascia binds structures together allowing other structures to glide easily over one another and is normally very flexible. When it is constricted the tissue becomes inflamed causing tightness and pressure in the surrounding area. Scar tissue forms and the movement of the dog will be compromised. The muscle fibres will become rigid and there is likely to be multiple trigger points as the fibres stay contracted. Adhesions can form, resulting in restricted muscle movement, pain and reduced range of motion.
A dog with fascia problems may have twitching skin especially on the vertebral column and rib area. They may “kick out” with their back leg when an area is stroked or not allow you to touch a particular area of skin. They may stand with their head low and have areas of their coat which stick up where it is normally flattened.
Myofascial release uses gentle pressure on the tissues as well as applying traction techniques to release, soften and lengthen the fascia and break down scar tissue and adhesions between the skin, muscles and bones.
A trigger point is a band of hyper irritable spots where the muscle fibres become glued together, similar to us having knots in our muscles.
A trigger point when touched can cause the dog extreme pain and they may jump, show aggression and cry in pain. There is likely to be hot spots, lameness, skin twitching, “ageing overnight”, fur swirls/changes to the lay of the coat, and a general change of posture. The band of fibres within the muscle will feel thickened. A trigger point will not show up in x-rays as it is in the muscle itself, although will show as a bulge in the muscle on a MRI scan.
Massage is one of the only treatments to release trigger points, leading to improved range of movement and comfort for your dog.
Myofascial pain is directly linked to multiple Trigger Points, and restricted Fascia. Where a large area of Fascia is affected by multiple Trigger Points it is referred to as Wide Radiating Myofascial Pain which if left untreated can cause extreme discomfort and postural issues.
Scar tissue is a tough and fibrous connective tissue that is formed following a strain/pulled muscle. In order for the torn fibres to repair themselves scar tissue forms acting as a binding mechanism to help bind the torn fibres together. It will however, make the muscles less flexible as the scar tissue starts to bind. Massage helps to break down the scar tissue and realign the fibres helping the muscles to loosen and become more flexible.
If the scar tissue is left the injured muscle will become weak and tight and will be prone to additional tearing and damage in the future. The dog may overcompensate which may cause the lameness to be seen in a different area to the actual problem.
Hypertonicity is an increased tension in the muscles meaning the muscle tone is abnormally rigid and preventing normal movement (muscle fatigue).
Hypotonicity is a decreased tension in muscle tone and will inhibit proper movement due to the undeveloped muscle or too soft a muscle to support the body (poor muscle tone).
Both of these issues respond well to massage – normally within a couple of sessions.