It causes pain, stiffness and reduced mobility but can also mimic the symptoms of other diseases such as Arthritis. It is known to hold patterns of emotional memory; for instance in the case of a dog a traumatic experience such as a bereavement, a rehome, or an attack can all produce myofascial issues that you as an owner will often see as nerves and anxiety alongside more common issues such as pain and restricted movement. Fascia helps to support, protect and separate tissues of the body like bone and muscle and immediately is able to affect every cell in the body.
Myofascial Pain in dogs can happen anywhere in the body although one of the most common areas is the Thorax, and it requires direct bodywork to help relieve it or resolve it. Painkillers and traditional NSAIDS often don’t improve dogs with myofascial pain. Massage that encompasses myofascial release however can produce significant and profound changes in your dog
Dogs with Myofascial Pain will show one or more of the following symptoms:
- Skin twitching or flinching
- Yelping when touched in an area
- Sore back legs
- Tight skin
- They may grimace or have ‘tickly’ spot around the middle of the back (its not a tickly spot at all but more about that later)
- Restricted Range Of Motion
- Reluctant to petted/groomed
- Excessively rolling on their back
- Hair flicking up where it hasn’t before
- Exaggerated Panniculus Reflex
- A nervous or anxious character
- A dog that is reluctant to be handled
Why does this happen?
Fascia influences EVERYTHING in the body. It wraps every organ, muscle and bone and when it becomes restricted it becomes dysfunctional.
We’re going to use the analogy of an Orange to help you understand this substance which is everywhere in yours and your dogs body. Think of Fascia like an Orange. The outside skin of the orange is the like the dogs skin, however the dogs skin should slide nicely with the superficial layer of fascia. Think of the superficial fascia like the thicker pith of the orange.
When Myofascial restrictions and pain are present this ‘slide and glide’ action is either reduced or inhibited. The fascia becomes tightened to the skin, increasing nerve and pain sensitivity (hence the twitching of the skin)and clasps down over the muscle inhibiting its natural movement, it can also cause nerve dysfunction, oedema and patterns of pain referral.
But it doesn’t stop there, each segment of the orange is also wrapped in its own sac. So basically a muscle has its own sac made out of fascia. This is called Endomysium. Individual muscles are wrapped and divided by intermuscular fascial septum. These should also slide and glide.
Now, look even further and you will see that within each segment of orange are thousands of individual little segments that hold the juice. This can be likened to a a muscle which is wrapped in fascia (this types is called Endomysium) and then every individual fibre inside it is wrapped again! Its pretty amazing stuff.
It quite literally is the 3D network of your body Whats more if you could extrapolate fascia from the body you would be left with a perfect 3D model of you as it holds contours, features and posture too. When it becomes impeded you will see one of more of the previously listed symptoms.
Why does Fascia in a dog become Dysfunctional?
Reasons for Myofascial Pain in dogs include:
- Secondary to Osteoarthritis
- As a result of a Strain (tear to a muscle)
- Activities of Daily Living eg: Jumping on/off furniture
- Anything repetitive eg: high energy ball chasing
- ‘Body Slamming’ by other dogs
- Dehydration or dogs that don’t drink much water
- Trigger Points cause Myofascial Pain
- Agility Dogs
- Natural conformation eg: Hound types are very prone to myofascial issues as are Belgian Shepherd, English Pointers
- Old Age
Fascia has been overlooked for a very long time and although it is more common to hear it discussed in the human bodywork world, the canine world has been a little slow to catch on. Of course at the Canine Massage Therapy Centre we’ve been teaching our students 2 styles of Myofascial Release since the launch of our Practitioner Programme in 2011 so you could say we are innovators in the field of Canine Bodywork. Find your local practitioner here www.k9-massageguild.co.uk
What else does it do?
- Piezo electric qualities
- Its a Proprioceptive system
- It transfers nerve impulses (and its been theorised that fascia is the reason that single cell organisms can look for food and escape prey ( Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Charles Scott Sherrington (1857-1952) from 1952’s Man on His Nature.)
- It is a non Newtonian fluid that can change properties ie: a therapist is able to change it to a gel rather than a cotton like substance with MFR)
- It allows muscles to glide against each other rather than become stuck and restricted
- It keeps, or should keep, everything in the body lubricated
- Restrictions in fascia can have knock on effects in other distant parts of the body eg: hip pain will cause shoulder pain as the fascial net comes under more tension
- It is the largest sensory neuron rich organ in the body
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