In order to ensure that patients are receiving the most effective treatment, sessions will vary depending on patient needs but can include a combination of electrotherapy, massage, stretching and land based exercises.
This refers to a number of physiotherapy techniques using the hands as a tool such as massage, joint mobilisations and stretching.
The word massage is derived from the Arabic word mass meaning “to press”. A modern definition is that massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. Massage has been an integral part of human physiotherapy for many years and more recently similar principles have been applied to the treatment of animals with many dogs enjoying massage.
A range of massage techniques will be implemented by your therapist during a session e.g. effleurage, petrissage and myofassical release techniques. A basic massage routine can be taught to you to perform on your dog as part of their home treatment plan.
The benefits of massage include:
- Release of muscular tension and spasm.
- Stimulation of endorphin release resulting in pain relief.
- Increased blood flow to muscles.
- Acceleration of muscle recovery.
- Promotion of mental and physical relaxation.
- Encourages bonding between dog and owner.
In some cases massage can have an immediate effect by initially providing pain relief and reducing muscular tension. However, it generally takes a number of regular treatments to bring about significant improvements in a particular condition.
Therapeutic exercises are an essential part of a physiotherapy programme, whether the patient is recovering from surgery or has a chronic condition such as arthritis.
Therapeutic exercises can be passive or active and involve a number of different types of exercises such as stretching, weight shifting, balancing on equipment e.g. wobble cushions and negotiating obstacles to improve balance and co-ordination. These exercises are non-invasive and can be beneficial for the management of neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions.
The main aims of therapeutic exercises are to:
- Improve the flexibility of joints.
- Improve limb use and reduce lameness.
- Improve muscle mass and strength.
- Improve daily function and quality of life.
- Help prevent further injury.
- Enhance performance and endurance in athletic dogs.
An appropriate home exercise programme will often be devised by your therapist for you to complete between treatment sessions.
Electrotherapy has been a component of physiotherapy practice for many years. Modern electrotherapy practice is evidence based (supported by research) and can be effective in the treatment of many conditions when used correctly. The term ‘electrotherapy’ when used in its broadest sense encompasses a number of modalities including electrical stimulation, LLASER, ultrasound and electromagnetic therapy.
Generically, phototherapy is referred to as LASER therapy, cold LASER or Low Intensity LASER Therapy, with LASER being an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Many therapeutic machines, including those used by SG Veterinary Physiotherapy, do not use ‘true LASERS’ but instead use high intensity light emitting diodes (LED’s).
LASER covers the visible and near visible part of the light spectrum with red, blue and infrared frequencies commonly used for their therapeutic benefits. These frequencies of light are absorbed by cells in the body. The energy provided can then be utilised by the cells to stimulate tissue repair mechanisms and accelerate the healing process. Other benefits of phototherapy include increasing blood flow and stimulating endorphin release, hormones that cause a pain relief effect.
Phototherapy has a wide application in the treatment of many conditions including:
- Acute injuries/trauma: muscle and tendon tears, ligament strains, subluxations and various sporting soft tissue injuries.
- Inflammatory conditions: tendonitis, bursitis and myostitis.
- Arthritis and related conditions: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and bone spurs.
- Wounds: open wounds, lick granulomas, ulcers etc. Blue light is antibacterial and red light can accelerate wound healing.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMFT) is a form of magnetic therapy. In a similar way to LASER and ultrasound, the magnetic field delivers a form of energy to tissues. This energy causes a physiological change within the cells that has a therapeutic benefit.
Different types of energy are better absorbed by different tissues within the body. One of the strongest evidenced clinical applications of PEMFT is related to bone healing. PEMFT can be effective in the treatment of ununited fractures i.e.a fracture that has failed to heal within the normal period required for repair.
Other clinical applications of PEMFT include:
- Assisting facture repair
- Pain relief for degenerative conditions e.g. arthritis
- Resolution of oedema (a build up of fluid in tissue)
- Management of post operative pain
This is different to diagnostic ultrasound used by medical and veterinary professionals to generate an image e.g. for pregnancy scanning.
Therapeutic ultrasound is based on the application of sound waves to the body and uses specific shortwave frequencies (typically 1 – 3MHz) to cause therapeutic effects. These effects can be categorised as thermal and non-thermal effects depending on the settings used.
The thermal effect of ultrasound is beneficial because increasing the temperature of the tissue to 40-450C leads to hyperaemia (increase blood flow). Heating fibrous tissue e.g. tendon and ligaments leads to temporary increase in extensibility and decrease in joint stiffness. Mild heating also reduces pain and muscle spasm, in much the same way as applying a heat pack. However, ultrasound has the advantage that the heat will penetrate deeper..
Non-thermal effects include acoustic streaming, micromassage and stable cavitation. These effects are more complex but have been shown to have a direct effect upon cells to stimulate healing.
The main applications of ultrasound are:
- Stimulation of soft tissue healing e.g. muscle tears, ligament strains.
- Reduction of scar tissue and adhesions.
- Reduction of inflammation.
- Increase in tissue pliability before performing joint mobilisations to increase range of movement.