Massage, the art of using hands to glide through muscles, tendons, and other tissues, can be helpful to diagnose or relieve pain by relaxing the tissues and allowing increased circulation to the affected areas. Massage benefits animals of all ages. For example, young dogs who play very hard, jumping in the air to catch a ball or frisbee, put extra strain on their back and lower legs. Cats that climb, chase and jump from high places, strain their head, neck, and shoulders.
Regular bodywork is helpful in preventing injuries by keeping tissue supple. If a muscle, tendon or ligament gets strained, body care usually results in quicker healing with less need for pain medication. The body care may also prevent chronic conditions such as ligament tears or arthritis from forming. For middle-aged or older dogs, who may already suffer from arthritis, inflammation or chronic illness, massage is a helpful way to treat pain and relax the body.
As a diagnostic tool, massage allows us to observe reactions, such as twitching or pulling away, while we move our hands across their body. Very often I have discovered pain or problematic areas through massage that were not evident from X-rays or other diagnostics. I use it as my primary tool before pursuing those options. And, it is important to understand compensatory pain, or the strain other parts of the body feels while taking weight off the injured areas. Very often, the compensated leg or part of the body is very painful because the good muscles have to work harder to help the injured parts of the body. Please consider this when you evaluate pain and be sure to differentiate the injured tissue from the compensated tissue.
And remember, preventative is always better than waiting until something is broken! Therefore, routine body care is good for all ages.