Thursday, 26 April 2018

Empowering the carer.

All the dogs we work with are special in one way or another. And they’re just as special when they come back after a while. 

I met handsome senior boy Alfie last November after he’d given his Mum a scare with his rear leg wobbles and his inability to lift his rear feet. When his Mum took him to the vet originally she was told “He’s just getting old” – a statement which I’d like to ban as there always seems to be an unspoken appendix to that sentence of “So let’s just leave him as he is”. 

His Mum continued to question that ‘diagnosis’ and discovered that it is more likely he has lumbar/sacral junction neuropathy and was treated with steroids. These made an almost immediate difference to Alfie. Originally, he was on 7.5 mg a day, which was gradually reduced to 2.5 mg before being put back to 5.0 mg as his symptoms worsened again very quickly. 

Since my initial visit, his Mum has been doing all her homework with Alfie almost every day. She said "My massage skills aren’t like yours and he knows it, but he puts up with me as he knows he is going to do his stretches for treats afterwards”. Like me she has her own names for the massage moves. Myofascial release is the ‘sweater’ move as I always describe it as trying to loosen your sweater. She has also been monitoring the progress of his muscle tone using my simple chicken fillet analogy. She said “Look – he now has chicken fillets in his thighs” which indeed he did. Coming along nicely Alfie. Equally important his Mum knows that she is now doing everything that she can to help him and not just watching him “getting old” 

Alfie went to the vets a few weeks ago for a routine check up of his medications and they are now reduced back down to 2.5 mg – with no ill effects which is great news. His Mum said “I was waiting for his legs to go but they haven’t. And he is so happy. He is a Steroid Kid”. 

He’s doing all his stretching exercises very well – which is clear from how improved his back muscles are – but he didn’t like the mini obstacle course. Now that he can walk a bit further they go up the fields, there are lots and lots of tufty bits – small uneven rises and downs. When his Mum found a ball and put it in one of the small hills, she found he scampered to find the ball. In doing so he was going up and down his own real live assault course. And he loved it. This is now a game they play regularly giving Alfie the varied exercise to his legs that he needs while he thinks he is just having fun. His Mum said “I know it must be exercising his core muscles as when I go to place the ball, I can feel it working mine – double bonus. It is exercise for both of us”. 

His Mum bought a set of wheels for him when he was at his weakest but they are sitting in the corner of the room not having been needed or used. When his Mum got them out to show me, Alfie’s expression was one of “Woah Mum….we don’t need those anymore”. And let’s hope that continues. He has also been treated by Chris and started yawning and sighing almost immediately. 

He still has his little niggles, as we all do, but now Mum is alerted to the issues and straight away puts the correct plan into action – reducing the walks, turning back when Alfie has had enough plus some extra massage. 

He has clearly got the idea now of the power of physical therapy. Alfie loves it all and why not? And with an empowered Mum – can’t beat it!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Dogs shouldn't have to slip...add some carpets

Henry is a 2 and a half year old Boston Terrier who developed an occasional limp from his front legs. His Mum asked if we could come round and assess and treat.

Chris helped to ease out some of the tension in his back muscles and also worked with Henry’s tight shoulder. In the meantime, Henry had brought Chris all his toys to share and gave him kisses – which he apparently only ever does to his Mum. Ooops – happens all the time to us. 

Chris noticed the lovely wooden floor in his house. The things we do and suggest come about from our own experiences. We know hands-on therapy can help to change a dog’s life…our Sarah has proven that and is our inspiration to share that with as many other dogs as possible. Flooring is another. When we moved in to our current house the carpets were probably the original carpets to when the house was built – 1949! So we put down shiny lush bamboo. It was environmental, ethical and lovely. But our house has loads of circular routes. The dogs used the floors as racetracks. The grooves that we now have in the wood confirm that. But that meant they slipped in their enjoyment. 

We started with a few scattered mats – but they slipped too despite anti-slip tape. We went to bigger rugs. But they had areas between which were still lethal to wobbly dog legs. Last year we bit the bullet. We went to a local carpet store and bought a large offcut. Armed with our precise measurements, the store cut several bits for us which made a joining jigsaw of offcut carpets. They even bound all the edges. For less than a couple of hundred £ we had carpeted all downstairs. No more slipping from our dogs or visitors to the therapy room. 

Cartoon leg spinning might make people smile on YouTube videos (not me, by the way, they make me Grrrr). Think about how you feel when you slip on a wet floor. That suddenly becomes not funny. 

When Henry was outside on a flat surface, it was clear his back was straight. But when he was on the wooden floor you could see his back was hunched slightly. His mind was probably thinking “OK…I can usually negotiate this floor but with my funny leg it’s rather awkward now”. The simplest solution was to lay down Yoga Mat Islands for him. They’re ideal as a runway when he’s rushing about and can be taken up when he’s chilling. Hopefully, they can help speed up his healing. 

Many people who follow our suggestion find their dog quickly gets used to the idea and then they find them looking for it if it’s been forgotten to be put down. 

Offering advice and suggestions on simple, practical, cheap, yet effective household adaptations has always been part of the overall service we give during a therapy session.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Superficial Front Line & Anatomy Trains - massage in dogs

Meet Tino and his SFL. 

Tino (Valentino) is Bruce’s brother. When he was 8 he developed a hunched back with prominent spine in the mid spine area. At the time his vets suggested an MRI with a possible operation which they said might extend his life by 2 years. That was 6 years ago! He has no obvious mobility issues now and, at the time, he was treated with massage and physiotherapy. He hasn’t had any physical therapy recently, so we were asked to work with him at the same as Bruce as they are now 12. 

Luckily, we now have two members in the AchyPaw team. Bruce decided that Chris was his and I worked with Tino at the same time. 

Tino wants everyone to be happy and gets worried if they are not, or if he thinks they are not. He has his security blanket which he brings to anyone who comes to the door and then lies sucking and chewing it until he realises you are a good person. Although Tino does not really lie – he squats like a greyhound. He has very long legs and neck. His Mum describes him as Giraffe neck. 

As well as his stiff back, the way he sits means that his thighs and adductors are also a lot tighter than his brother – who lies quite happily thank you, farting away during the massage session. 

One of the things we bring with us in our canine physical therapy is skill and expertise from human massage. That morning, Chris had read a paper from the JING website entitled “Tight Jaw? Tight Hips!” which stated that many patients experience jaw pain or teeth grinding related to muscle tension in the jaw. The article suggested that just working in that area might be looking in the wrong place. The author said look at the whole body, the gait, and their hip alignment. 

They referred to work by Tom Myers, the structural integration expert (read his books if you’re interested by fascia – I love his work). He describes the Superficial Front Line in his book Anatomy Train which is one of 12 myofascial chains. The SFL starts at the top of the feet and travels up to behind the ear and jaw. 

Hmmm…..let’s try massaging Tino’s jaw and see if his tight hips relax. Oh. My. Gosh. Within minutes his whole body relaxed and his previously reactive hip and thigh muscles loosened allowing me to start working with them. 

He ended the session completely soft and pliable. And happy. And he had stopped using his security blanket. A big success. 

The JING article concludes with “…all these pieces of information can be used to… a better treatment plan” We’d add….don’t just stop with canine massage techniques and treatment plans but look at combining them with research and methods used in human massage. We’ve had so much fusion and cross-overs in the past 6 years between human and canine massage. But Tino doesn’t care – he’s just happy we’ve found, and helped, the problem. And that is #RESULT.