Friday, 27 March 2015

“With a little help” - Feedback & there seems to be a pattern emerging here!

I don’t often put up individual feedback from a therapy session as usually the smiley googly pictures of the dogs that come for treatment says far more than words. But I had a lovely piece of feedback yesterday so thought, oh well, to help share the experiences of other owners and dogs who have been here I’ll put up a testimonial page on the AchyPaw site. 

I went through many of the emails and texts and messages that I had received over the years and started to put them together onto a page. As I was copying and pasting I realised a pattern seemed to be emerging. As well as “My dog says thanks for all the help Dr Les” I was getting a lot of “…and the individual handout you sent me has been very useful” type of responses too. 

I guess being in academia for 21 years and teaching health service staff how to use computers for many years before that (and this was in the days of real floppy disks when most people had never used personal computers and the nearest thing you got to an email address was something weird from Compuserve like – really memorable) (Oh…I have given my age away…whatever) have taught me the value of giving people feedback that is tailored to them. 

After a treatment session I typically supply the owner with some personalised homework. Things such as a printout with the moves that would be most beneficial for their own dog’s needs, or a picture of the areas that I found to be an issue with big fat arrows saying “Work here gently” or “Fido LOVES this bit being massaged”. Surely sharing my knowledge has to be a better plan than simply keeping it all to myself. I’m a physical therapist not a magician with secrets, so being able to explain ways to benefit their own dog to the person who looks after their dog 24/7, seemed common sense to me. 

Helping the dog AND giving tailored homework were both mentioned in the email I received yesterday that sparked off this observation of what we do. I went to visit Alisa in Crowborough last month to see her dogs. Buzz needed treatment, while Alisa wanted to learn a warm-up and cool-down specifically for her agility dog, Sassy. Alisa wrote “Aw bless you Dr Les, you are such a lovely man and it was a pleasure to meet you and I think Buzz would agree with that! He really does seem to be so much better in himself due to your Midas touch and I have used your warm up and cool down routines on all of the dogs and I found that Sassy found it quite relaxing when we were queuing for our turn at our agility show a couple of weeks ago. It was great knowing how to do it correctly, so I really did appreciate all the extra effort you put in providing me with an individual procedure print outs for each of them that I could refer to remind me. I do hope that your wonderful business continues to grow as I know how passionate you are about what you do and you deserve for things to go well for you as you have a special gift. Please do keep in touch as I love hearing all about Sam and Sarah who are such a brilliant advert for what you do. Best wishes Alisa, Buzz, Sassy and Holly. Xxxx” 


The feedback I had received had lots of “My dog says come back Dr Les”, but also many comments with “What an excellent ‘how to massage my dog myself’ booklet: so clear, explanatory, & helpful, which we shall be using daily, I’ll see how we get on and will be in touch to let you know” and “Update on my dog, just given him a lovely massage- even let me touch his toes!” and even a “Many thanks Les – he’s just been out for his afternoon walk, and I may be imagining it, but he seemed more sprightly than usual! I’ll have a go and see how we get on – he certainly enjoyed it and we’ve had a few nuzzles today, I guess asking for some more massage!” which seems to be good feedback for the treatment as well as the simple homework aftercare. 

I guess that being small enough to offer the personal touch is another reason why we like to do workshops and demonstrations which are all about helping your own dog. Most of our workshops are manageable in size so we can make sure we can get round to everyone to ensure that they are doing the moves correctly whether they are working on a tiny terrier or a massive mastiff. 

Some of the other collected feedback can be found here.  Chris said that helping the dogs AND the owners ought to be our new USP. Having just bought loads of new business cards with our latest strapline of “AchyPaw : Home to Supple Dogs”, I’ve now got to think of a new line. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of lovely smiley relaxed happy dogs we have treated over the last few years. 

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Bodhi deciding it was too much effort to move after his treatment

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Alisa and Buzz who sent me the lovely email

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Feebee receiving two pairs of hands

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Issey bringing me a flower after helping her walk properly again

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Leo was saying "I'll lie here, you take the selfie"

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Millie was lapping up therapy and sun

Canine massage from AchyPaw
The handsome Mr Obi

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Ollie may only have three legs but he is a happy boy

Canine massage from AchyPaw
Hetty receiving some Reiki therapy

Monday, 23 March 2015

Another workshop on How to Massage your own Dog @ Paws, Play & Stay

It's all in the face!
On Saturday 21st March we held our second workshop on How to Massage your own Dog @ Paws, Play & Stay in Rustington. Once again we had some lovely dogs and a very enjoyable time. 

We started with the infamous 'Muscle Game'. Despite considerable exchange of ideas, muscles were placed in very strange parts of the body. 

Skye, the Husky Malamute, came again with another of her owners, came in, saw us, and lay down as though to say "It's sleepy time again". She even helped her owner with the 'mucles game' and then gave him a a helping leg later on when he was practising the wringing techniques (see pictures). Her owner wrote to me later saying "Skye didn't move much all day! She was so totally chilled". She also wrote "I gave our other dog a massage on Friday as he has been misbehaving and barking at everyone. On Saturday we had a much better behaved dog that didn't bark at anyone! I might bring him for the follow up". 

"The muscles go here Dad"

"Oh...yes please"

Also in the group was a puppy Husky who was very excitable at the start. But once his owner performed the rhythmic horizontal and vertical wringing move, he lay flat down with the biggest grin on his face. He even gave a great stretch which allowed his owner to really work on his muscles. We always say that not all dogs like all moves, but to keep trying as suddenly you will find the one that they love. That was clearly Ziggy's favourite. 

"I'll give you my best stretch Dad"

​This time we also had a dog with a shoulder injury, a handsome Boxer. He came in to the group slightly off kilter but at the end, after 3 hours massage, he stood up perfectly in balance. Everything was in the right place. This was a great testimonial how knowing what and how to massage can really make some huge benefits in a relatively short time.
Bruno in a trance with his neck massage

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Now with added magnetism (for the time being)

When I went to give my talk to St Annes Vets in Eastbourne the other week, I was asked to explain the differences in benefits and uses between the various types of complementary therapy that they could recommend to their clients. It was physiotherapy that stumped me as it seemed they had the same aims as massage therapy. I concluded that the main difference is the tools we use. My tools are my hands and education of owners afterwards, whereas physiotherapists frequently manipulate the soft tissue with tools such as lasers, heat, ultrasound, traction, manipulation and much more. 

Last week I treated the lovely Buzz who had undergone several months of treatment from a veterinary physiotherapist. The owner confirmed that they did include massage in their treatment programme but also used tools as above. 

I love gadgets and now wanted gadgets! I wanted to be able to wave a shiny glowing thing to add to my toolkit but thought that going out and buying a laser was probably not the first choice. I’d end up burning a hole through my treatment room wall or something. 

Spookily, a day later I received an email from a canine group that referred to a Magnessage – a shiny gizmo that uses magnetic field therapy and claims to help relieve pain in humans and dogs. I have heard of some dogs that wear magnetic collars for arthritis and pain relief but had not seen this shiny gadget before. Being the scientist that I am I did some research. It didn’t all look good. 

Wikipedia says : “Magnet therapy, magnetic therapy, or magnotherapy is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine practice involving the use of static magnetic fields. Practitioners claim that subjecting certain parts of the body to magnetostatic fields produced by permanent magnets has beneficial health effects. These physical and biological claims are unproven and no effects on health or healing have been established. Although haemoglobin, the blood protein that carries oxygen, is weakly diamagnetic (when oxygenated) or paramagnetic (when deoxygenated) the magnets used in magnetic therapy are many orders of magnitude too weak to have any measurable effect on blood flow.” 

Oh dear! 

Another excellent review of the use of magnets was done by Elizabeth Palermo called “Does Magnetic Therapy Work?” ( The author says “Studies suggest that static magnetic therapy devices may not work at all beyond having a placebo effect on those who wear them.” Hmm…I’ll take the ‘may’. That article goes on to say “While this idea (increased blood flow) may sound plausible because blood contains iron and magnets attract iron, the iron in blood is bound to haemoglobin and is not ferromagnetic. If blood was ferromagnetic, you would essentially blow up when undergoing an MRI scan, in which the magnets used are thousands of times more powerful than those incorporated into magnetic bracelets and the like.” Ouch. Remind me not to go in an MRI scanner. She continues with a great analogy of “Therapeutic magnets sold to ease aches and pains have magnetic fields that are generally too weak to penetrate your skin. You can test this by observing the weak interaction between a magnetic shoe insert and a paperclip when separated by a sock. Human skin is about 3 mm deep, thicker than some socks.” 

On the plus side (I always find when doing research for any article that there are always negatives and polar opposite positives – just like a magnet!), magnetic field therapy has been in use for many years and was, apparently, popular in ancient Greece, Egypt and China where lodestones were used. It can’t all be made up, can it? 

In the manual that came with our Magnessage it says that we are surrounded by terrestrial magnetism and that every cell in the body has its own electromagnetic field that depletes daily. This is normally repair and replenished naturally but if the body is unwell or stressed, this restoration can be affected. 

They admit it is not a miracle cure but is non-invasive, drug free and painless with no side effects. 

So why not give it a go? Chris could use it for his human clients too. 

A couple of days later the shiny new piece of kit arrived. It looks rather like a sawn off light sabre from Star Wars (it looks like I drew the short straw when the weapons were handed out) and I do feel a bit like Harry Potter as I wave it around. It even has two speeds (although I am not sure yet why). 

I am a good Dad and so before I used it on the dogs, I used it on my back and then Chris wafted it over his elbow. Placebo or what, but it felt better. Chris was sure his elbow was warming up. So then to try it out on the braver of our two dogs, Sarah. 

Sarah and the magic wand
Amazingly she seemed to love it. It only takes 5 minutes a session so after her regular massage session (using my tried and trusted hand tools) I waved it around her front leg muscles and joints and she carried on snoozing. So it can’t be doing any harm. And, so far, I haven’t managed to blow up the microwave with it or reset all the batteries in the clocks in the house so I must be using it correctly. 

I now have a gadget. I now have a shiny shiny! Will it be on EBay in three months time? Who knows? But I am prepared to give it go, not as a replacement but as an addition to all the other things I have learned and use. Watch this space. If anyone has any experience of magnet field therapy, please let me know. I can add that to my findings.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Cani Sports Sussex and Canine Massage Therapy

Cani Sports includes running, racing and biking with a dog, done in a controlled way. It includes CaniCross running (typically done cross country) and Bike-Jor. 

Cani Sports Sussex, run by Gary Moxon, is based at Paws, Play & Stay Dog Hotel & Day Centre, Rustington and is involved with Sportswear, Sports instruction and Personal training. Gary manages the fitness and working dog side of Paws, Play & Stay the business, is experienced in handling and working sled dogs in harness, and teaching one to one or group running sessions for you and your canine friend. With a competitive nature he was always seeking to enjoy his time running with dogs so it became a natural progression to run with his first Siberian Husky, Tex. After a lot of research and self-taught training they competed at their first Cani Cross race in 2010. Since those early days the Moxon pack has grown and so has the family participation in Cani Sports including scooting and bikejoring. Gary competed for team GB in the 2012 CaniX European Championships placing 12th in Europe. He believes the physiological well-being of working dogs is also paramount.

In Cani Sports, the dog wears a running harness while their human runner/biker wears a belt designed for the purpose. Cani Sports Sussex recommends and supplies Non-Stop Dog Wear. It is important that the harness fits the dog in the right places as badly fitted harnesses can cause poor mobility, the dog should not be restricted in the shoulder area, neck and rib cage so that they have freedom of movement and can breathe easily and fully while running with you. An ill-fitting harness can cause injury and discomfort for your dog and can hinder their mobility. Paws Play & Stay offer a complimentary fitting to ensure the correct sizes and fitting for each individual dog. 

Just like their owners, dogs suffer from muscle pains, aches and strains but they can't easily tell us that they have a sore shoulder or that their knee is stiff. They usually don't complain and tend to adapt to move around the problem carrying on with the most important job of being your best friend and fellow athlete. It is easy to spot if your dog is lame or limping, but there are more subtle indicators of injury such as reluctance to participate in the sport/activity (but again, your best friend athlete may well run through the pain to please you), stiffness when they get up after lying down, twitching or quivering down the back when you touch or stroke them (not always in the place where you are touching). In the worst case they could appear sad or depressed. 

Additionally dogs tend to have two speeds, zero and 100. They don’t stretch before an activity or run, they don’t warm up. This means it is easy for them to pick up an injury. This is where you can help. If you do notice a change in their behaviour or the way they walk, professional canine remedial massage and myotherapy can help to ease any problems to bring noticeable and positive changes in your dog. But most important of all, is learning how to give your dog a warm-up and cool-down massage routine before and after the sport. It should only take 5 to 10 minutes to do this, but can add years on to the athletic life of your dog. 

Warming your dog up beforehand can help to warm muscles and reduce the risk of injury. If you imagine a muscle is like an elastic band, when it is cold it can easily overstretch and tear or even break. (Try putting an elastic band in the fridge for an hour and see the difference between that and a warm one!). You certainly don’t that to happen to your dog. 

Other benefits of warming-up your dog before sports include:
  • Loosens joints
  • Prepares muscle fibres
  • Allows increased stretch
  • Allows greater contraction
  • Encourages elasticity and contractibility
  • Increases circulation so increases oxygenation which means the muscles can work for longer without going into anaerobic conditions with toxic build-up 

When a human runner, whether sprinter or marathon runner, has finished their race, they rarely just stop and get into the back of a taxi (in your case – your car!). They tend to include stretching and cool down routines. In a dog, this is similar but slower than a warm-up routine. 

Benefits of a cool-down routine include : 
  • Relaxing & soothing
  • Keeps the blood circulation flowing to nourish the muscles and tissues
  • Gets rid of waste products
  • Speeds up the body’s natural healing process

Preventing any injury in the first place is clearly far better than treating afterwards. Canine massage therapy, warm-up and cool-down routines could not only help to prevent injury by finding a problem before it becomes a problem but can also enhance and extend performance.  

Contact me via the website if you are interested in learning how to perform a warm-up / cool-down massage routine or if you have any questions about the mobility of your dog.  To learn more about Cani Sports, contact Gary via the Paws, Play & Stay reception. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Having an extra pair of hands – or maybe paws

I’ve been happily busy over the past couple of weeks with lots of new dogs to meet and help plus my regulars. There has been a wide variety of issues, sizes and problems to treat. But yesterday, when I had two extremely differing dogs, I realised how, whatever the breed, size or issue, I inevitably get some extra help - from the dog itself. It is like I am getting an extra pair of hands, or paws, to help me. And it happens very quickly. It doesn’t necessarily take several sessions before the dog decides that they know better than I do. It can happen on the first occasion. 

Yesterday I went to my regular surgery at Paws, Play & Stay Dog Hotel to see, amongst others, the wee Milly and big Unni. I had seen and treated Milly once before whereas Onni was new to me. 

Little Milly
Milly has three big brothers, all gorgeous Huskies. Their owner, Gary, takes them all out on runs – not short runs, but real runs. He hosts CaniCross at the Dog Hotel. Although Milly is small, she can keep up with her bigger brothers. Because of this she has extremely well developed leg muscles. The other day, like all small dogs do, she was keeping the bigger chaps in their place and jumped a bit too far. This felt her with a slight soreness and limp in her front left leg. I was asked if I could help to ease out the tension. 

Milly giving me a helping paw
As before, the therapy session was done with Milly sitting/lying in my lap on the sofa. I remembered from the first time that she loved her neck massage so started there to get her relaxed and ready for the rest of her treatment session. But this time, she decided to lay on her tummy and stretch out her left leg – the one she was limping on – as though to say “And it also hurts here Dr Les….so I’ll give you a hand (paw)”. Who was I to ignore the advice of the dog? So, I massaged that area and around her chest muscles as requested by Milly. 

I worked on the rest of her too just in case there were areas of compensatory injury so she did eventually turn over for me. At the end of the session she chased one of her brothers who had come to watch, around the surgery without any sign of limping or discomfort. Thanks for the help Milly. 

Then it was the turn of big Onni – a 70 kg Pyrenean Mastiff. As well as being big, Onni only spoke Finnish which is not a language I have any knowledge of. Fortunately his owner translated everything for me. Onni displayed a rather raised hunch on his back towards his tail and walked rather stiffly particularly at the back end. Initial palpation of that area revealed very tight muscles, which could well be because of his size. His owner said that he had recently been pulling with his front legs when walking rather than pushing from the rear legs, which fits with this stiffness. Now how to massage a dog as big as a small pony? Certainly not by sitting them in my lap on the sofa. He was not too happy about lying on the floor (despite me giving him two massage mats to fit) so Unni started to receive his treatment standing up. 

Onni nice and straight again after his therapy
However, after about 15 minutes of warming, exploratory moves, Onni decided that he wanted to sit down backing into me. This gave me total access to his back muscles which seemed to be the cause of his mobility issues. He was helping me again – even though he didn’t understand a word I was saying. By sitting down with his back towards me, I was able to really get into those tight muscles without them being extended by him standing up as they were not supporting his weight. It didn’t take long for him to get the idea that I was there to help but that, clearly, I was not quite reaching the areas without assistance. Again, who was I ignore his advice? And by the end of the hour session he got up and walked around the surgery wiggling his bottom as though to say “Look Mum…look what I can do”. His owner sent me a message later that day saying “Thank you so much for today - when we walked home Onni had a right spring in his step and moved beautifully, can't wait for his next session, until then I will keep maintaining his muscles and working on the tight back at home”. 

It never fails to make me smile how quickly you can gain the trust of a dog and how they know to help – without being told to. Looking back through many of the pictures of the dogs I have treated over the past years, I now notice that they often have legs in the air for me, or are using parts of me as a stretching tool so they can really extend their legs – like Bodhi, the Husky, giving me his paw or even little three-legged Ollie balancing on his remaining front leg, rather than lying down which I would have thought would be more comfortable, so that we can work on his achy back.   Sometimes I even get double help such as when I was treating Buzz, the collie/lurcher.  His owner was sitting down with me and we BOTH got a stretched leg, hers was the front leg and I got a rear leg.  It was like massaging Superman in full flight with his arms stretched out.

Bodhi giving me a stretch

Ollie balancing on his one front leg so we could reach his back

And it is not just me that seems to get the “No…this bit please” treatment. Once the dogs have realised the benefits of massage therapy and their owners have been given their homework by me, their dogs start demanding bits that they want massaged. Gary was telling me that their Huskies now push their back ends into him after a run demanding that he work specifically on that bit. And even senior Hugo who had quite bad arthritis in his wrists and toes now allows his owner to perform some gentle movements on them because he knows it helps. She wrote to me…..“Update on Hugo, just given him a lovely massage- even let me touch his toes! Sleeping & snoring slightly - happy boy!”

Thanks to all the dogs that help me – I continue to learn with all your assistance.