BodyWork can be classified as a general category of therapy in which the veterinarian physically puts her hands on the animal, working with the muscles and tissues to help relieve pain and stimulate healing. The three types of BodyWork commonly practiced at the Belle Plaine Animal Hospital include myofascial release, acupressure, and massage.
All pets’ bodies contain a substance called fascia. This continuous sheet of materials holds all the organs together from head to toe and contains the immune system. Threading through the fascia are thousands of nerves and blood vessels and flowing lymph that connect different parts of the body together.
This fascia is the material that Dr. Ricci directly manipulates in the process of myofascial release. By gently pushing and stretching the animal’s tissues, the fascia is pushed and stretched, releasing areas of collected lymph, stimulating blood flow, relaxing muscles, and soothing nerves. Myofascial release is especially useful for treating leg injuries, lameness, back and neck issues, and areas of swelling or pain.
Acupressure is a derivation of the ancient Chinese art of acupuncture. Instead of stimulating the acupuncture points with hair-thin needles, Dr. Ricci uses her fingers to apply pressure on the same point at which the needle would enter the skin in acupuncture. The acupressure points (usually located on the back and legs) can relieve pain and soreness elsewhere in the body.
The best part about acupressure is that you can do it at home! The laser can used to stimulate acupuncture points as well. Dr. Ricci loves showing pet owners how to use the best points to treat their pet’s diagnosis.
When humans are having chronic back and neck problems, massage therapy is often a go-to solution for releasing stiff, sore muscles. Now pets have that option too! Animals seem to really like massage, especially cats, which many wouldn't expect.
But massage isn’t just a relaxation tool for pets. In many cases, it can be a very necessary supplement to healing when better options in conventional medicine just aren’t available. For dogs with back problems, for example, the usual treatments of NSAIDs, prednisone, and muscle relaxants often don’t produce results. Back problems can be enigmatic and frustrating, just like in human medicine. Treating these problems with massage and myofacial release in addition to the pain medication, makes recovery much faster and the whole episode much less painful for the animal.