Providing an essential communication network, the nervous system receives sensory input from various receptors throughout the body, integrates it through the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain) and then responds accordingly through the motor division. These responses come from either the somatic division which is voluntary and involves skeletal muscles or, from the autonomic division which is involuntary and involves (for example) smooth muscle, glands, cardiac muscle and organs. Some responses by skeletal muscle come directly from the spinal cord and these are involuntary with no input from the brain. These responses are known as reflexes and are a protective mechanism against potential damage or threats.
Homeostasis of the autonomic division is achieved through a careful balance of the parasympathetic (rest and digest) and sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous systems which both oppose and complement each other. Massage can influence both systems, depending on how techniques are used. Interestingly, massage can also interrupt pain signals, essentially closing a 'gate' via the activation of an inhibitory interneuron. The nervous system is incredibly complex and it is vulnerable to injury and disease. In many cases there is no cure, however, Clinical Canine Massage can dramatically improve quality of life by addressing areas of overcompensation, improving circulation & lymphatic drainage, releasing endorphins, stimulating peripheral nerves and improving range of motion. Examples of conditions which may be supported by Clinical Canine Massage following diagnosis and obtaining consent from a veterinarian include:
CAUDA EQUINA SYNDROME / LUMBOSACRAL DISEASE
This is a degenerative condition involving the lumbosacral joint and the subsequent impingement or compression of the associated nerves. It has various causes including arthritis of the joint, degeneration of the lumbar intervertebral disc, tumours, infections, injuries and congenital bone deformity. Less severe cases can often be managed by various therapies (including massage) whereas more severe ones are likely to require surgery and further rehabilitation with Clinical Canine Massage often indicated as part of this. Thankfully, progression of this disease can be stopped.
CHRONIC DEGENERATIVE RADICULO MYELOPATHY (CDRM)
CDRM is a progressive and degenerative disease of the spinal cord which generally isn't painful. It is usually caused by a gene mutation and results in weakness of the hindlimbs, eventually leading to paralysis. Affected dogs may become incontinent and it can progress along the spinal cord to affect the front limbs. There is sadly no cure or treatment for this condition, however, Clinical Canine Massage can help to support the dog and improve quality of life.
DYSFUNCTIONAL FASCIA AND PROPRIOCEPTION
One of the key functions of the nervous system is giving the dog the ability to sense where each body part is in relation to the space surrounding it. Known as proprioception, it is of particular importance to consider that the largest concentration of sensory receptors required for this (mechanoreceptors and proprioceptors) are found in fascia. Fascia can become dysfunctional for many reasons and it should be noted that one of them is the use of wobble cushions/balance balls. The required sustained isometric contraction leads to mechanical overloading and subsequent stress is placed on fascia. Dysfunctional fascia leads to a dysfunction in proprioception and can also lead to myofascial pain. I am trained in both direct and indirect myofascial release as well as the Lenton Method ® which specifically addresses dysfunctional fascia.
INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DISEASE (IVDD)
The most common disease affecting the spine, IVDD is degeneration of the intervertebral discs. Their ability to allow movement, provide support and absorb shock is diminished and the disc can herniate or rupture. Caused by 'dehydration' of the disc genetic factors increase the risk. The 2 most common types are Hansen type I which is more common in smaller (frequently chondrodystrophic) breeds and Hansen type II which is more common in medium and large breeds. The rarer Hansen type III is caused by trauma and can affect any breed. Conservative management can be effective but many cases require surgery. Unfortunately, if paralysis has occurred, it cannot always be reversed.
A malfunction of the vestibular system involving the inner ear which provides information about balance, posture and spatial orientation to the brain. There are 2 types with the most common being peripheral vestibular disease which involves the inner ear and the nerve. There are numerous causes of vestibular disease but it can also be idiopathic. The condition usually resolves itself with time but the symptoms can be very distressing with disorientation, an obvious head tilt, loss of balance and rapid eye movements being common. The less common central vestibular disease affects the brain itself, typically requires intervention and is much more serious.
A NOTE ABOUT DOG BEDS
Curved plastic beds do not allow dogs to stretch out. Instead, their spine & muscles are kept in the same position for long periods of time which can contribute to muscular issues. Their neck can also be injured if they hang their head over the side. With neurological conditions, the correct bed is even more important. A nice, big, padded bed is ideal and you can even get ones with lumbar support to help keep your dog supported and comfortable.