Protective Muscle Splinting is a term used to describe one of the most common chronic muscular disorders that accompanies muscular injury, trigger points , can worsen signs of Arthritis and will unnecessarily and significantly elevate the dogs pain levels.
The muscles which cross the affected joint come under stress as they begin to attempt to take the strain of the affected joint or area of muscular issue. They are essentially working harder to try and protect the joint from further injury. However, because the pressure builds up over often short periods of time the muscles now instead of proving a flexible surround for the joints begin instead to stiffen up, shorten, tighten , cause pain and then actually lead to the contribution of further wear and tear on the joints. These patterns of habitual tension are held over time, altering the function of the muscle and inhibiting normal muscular and somatosensory activity.
Essentially the fascia begins to thicken and become less flexible, like cling film wrapped too tightly over a joint of meant , preventing the muscle fibres from contracting and lengthening efficiently. The muscle and its associated fascial network of fibres will shorten like a net being pulled tight, and accrue trigger points.
When protective muscle splinting along with its associated trigger points and myofascial pain it can be very difficult to relieve the dog from the pain cycle they are in. Massage is a therapy which directly address these areas by releasing restrictive fascia and releasing pain referring trigger points.
Things you can do at home to reduce stress on your dogs muscles and fascia which can lead to protective muscle splinting include:
- Warm up before exercise, gently trotting on the lead before free running
- Reduce or stop jumping in and out of the car
- Reduce impact games such as tuggy or ball throwing
Others areas of overcompensation are also common such as stiffness and myofascial pain in the assymetrical leg
Due to this the body gets into a Pain Cycle where more muscles are recruited to overcompensate further leading to musclular dysfunction, pain, spasm, the circulatory retention of metabolites, trigger points and further pain. The good news is massage can help to break that Pain Cycle with many remarkable results due to the release of the Protective Muscle Splinting. Trigger Points can be resolved or relieved, areas of myofascial restrictions can be gently stretched. Fascia is made up of a dense 3D network of collagen fibres along with elastin and ground substance; an amorphous gelatinous substance which fills the cellular matrix between muscles, bone and organs and nerves and cells. Fascia can become affected due to:
- Over loading of the muscle
- Trauma; physical or emotional
- Muscular Injury eg: the Strain or tear to a muscle
- Overcompensating for primary areas of orthopaedic concern
- Activities of daily living
- Home living environment eg: up and down stairs all the time
- Sport eg: Agility, Working Trials, Flybally, Obedience
If correct massage therapy, mainly myofascial release, is applied to the body the fascia always responds incredibly well to targeted real massage to help reduce pain and improve mobility in your dog.
This is achieved through:
The use of the Therapists knowledge on the muscular system including Origins, Insertions and Actions of Muscles
The appropriate use of a suitable massage modality to be able to correctly address the soft tissue imbalance eg: Sports Massage for injury rehabilitation, Myofascial Release for Protective Muscle Splinting and Trigger Point Release
It can help to relax Hypertonic Musculature, these are muscles which seem to bulge even when the dog is relaxing , the dog may feel quite tight or may show signs of discomfort when being petted or groomed in an area.
Using appropriate non invasive techniques massage may help to address muscles that have become fixed into a habitual pattern which is in turn causing pain and inhibiting movement. A skilled Canine Massage Therapist can directly loosen and lengthen muscles that have been held into a fixed position over time to give the muscle back its ability to relax and contract efficiently. The benefit? A more active, looser, freer and mobile dog. They are usually happier for it to. .
The therapist should be able to identify patterns of overcompensation and pain referral at secondary sites too which can happen all over the body. Eg: In the human a common complaint with lower back sufferers is they also get muscular neck pain. This would also be true in the case of the dog. Therefore a through massage should always address the dogs whole body.