Thursday, 28 August 2014

Erm….what exactly is myotherapy, Dr Les?


When people see our sign or business card they tend to understand the ‘dog massage’ bit – although nearly all didn’t know such a service existed – but ‘myotherapy’ confuses them. So what is it and why do I say massage AND myotherapy?

Massage is easy to explain but the explanation I like best is ““The scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, as apart from mere rubbing” (Prosser, E.M. (1941) A manual of Massage and Movement. 2nd ed. Faber & Faber: London). The effects and benefits of massage can be mechanical, physiological and psychological varying according to the intent with which massage is given, the selection of techniques used, the condition of the client and the frequency of sessions.

Another quote that I found when I first started my path along canine therapy was “A practitioner of massage may choose to be either a technician or a therapist. A technician is competent to administer massage as a manual skill. A therapist, in addition to being competent in the manual techniques, understands human anatomy, physiology, pathology and psychosocial issues, and will apply this knowledge when practicing massage. For the therapist, massage is one tool available to choose when, following a full assessment of the client’s needs, an evaluated problem-based treatment plan is designed”. (Holey, E., Cook, E. (2011) Evidence-Based Therapeutic Massage. 3rd ed. Churchill Livingston: Elsevier). I aim to be a therapist rather than a technician. Which is where the myotherapy comes in.

Myotherapy describes muscle therapy or, as I like to explain it, the therapist exercising the muscle for the client. It is a form of manual therapy focussing on the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal pain. The term is not just a technique taught at a particular school but was originally used in the 1970’s by Bonnie Prudden to describe a specific type of trigger point therapy which she developed following earlier research and studies into pain and from myofascial trigger points.

Used today, the term myotherapy incorporates a wider range of techniques including massage, joint mobilization, therapeutic stretching, exercise, postural advice and, most important for me, education.

After I have given the dog a massage, to ensure everything is mobile and warm, I typically incorporate some myotherapy and stretching into my treatment session. Stretching serves a very important function in the proper workings of the body; hydration, circulation, oxygenation & detoxification. Passive movements – stretches undertaken by the therapist on the client - aim to improve joint function, blood flow and flexibility and maintain the existing range of movement of the muscles and joints involved rather than to push them further or stimulate nerve receptors. Active stretches are those undertaken by the client themselves and may take the form of simple and safe exercises, which is where education comes in. They shouldn’t be too hard but just enough to help the dog exercising safely. The easiest are weight-bearing exercises.

Demonstrating a few appropriate exercises to the owner that they can do with their dog to stretch and mobilise appropriate joints and muscles can then be their ‘homework’ to build on the therapy session with me and maintain the mobility until the next session. These exercises don’t have to be expensive with lots of kit. They can be simple walking, sitting or standing exercises. Our Sam loves the beach and loves digging in the sand. This is a great free exercise that is under my control. When I think he has had enough, I take the ball away. But while he is digging he is exercising his shoulders, back and rear leg muscles…..and it is free and fun.

Look at this YouTube clip – see how our Sam uses his back, shoulder, neck and thigh muscles while getting a good workout. And all I have to do is watch, video him and grin. Result!

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