What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is the use of physical methods in the treatment or management of disease, injury or musculo-skeletal imbalance.
Physiotherapists perform an initial assessment of their patient which involves analysing their clinical history (past and recent), performance history (where appropriate), gait analysis and palpation. Physiotherapists aren't able to diagnose conditions, but we can evaluate how our patients are moving, whether there are any asymmetries in musculature, posture or gait, and make a qualitative assessment of muscle tone and mass. Combining these bits of information enables us to build up a picture of why your pet is moving the way they are and develop a plan to improve mobility and reduce any discomfort.
The treatment tools employed by the physiotherapist fall into one of three main categories;
- Manual techniques, such as massage, passive range of motion and stretching;
- Exercise therapy, for the re-education of gait, to build muscle and mobilise joints;
- Electrotherapies, such as laser, ultrasound, H-Wave, TENS and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy.
Applications for Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy can be an important tool in the maintenance of the competition or working animal. Which one of us hasn't come home from work at some point or another and felt the need for a really good massage?! Even the slightest niggle from painful or weak tissue can set in motion a chain of events which results in postural adaptations and compensatory muscle tension and discomfort. In the longer-term, this can result in decreased mobility and even joint damage and injury. Physiotherapy therefore not only maximises comfort, performance and well-being, but also plays an important role in injury prevention. Your physiotherapist will work in conjunction with your veterinary surgeon and other paraprofessionals to provide an holistic healthcare plan for your pet.
As a treatment tool, physiotherapy can be used both for the conservative management of musculo-skeletal and neurological conditions, and as an adjunct to surgical interventions; studies in humans have demonstrated improved surgical outcomes in patients where physiotherapy is incorporated not only into the post-operative rehabilitation programme, but also in the pre-operative period, optimising the local environment for maximum healing.
Commonly treated conditions include:
- Osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease;
- Soft tissue injury such as ligament strain, tendon damage, muscle tears etc.;
- Neurological injury/disease such as disc herniation, brachial plexus trauma, nerve damage;
- Post-operative rehabilitation and recovery following orthopaedic surgery e.g. tibial tuberosity advancement (dogs), over-riding dorsal spinous processes (kissing spines) (horses);
- Preparation of the pre-operative patient for optimal surgical outcome;
- Conservative management of orthopaedic conditions e.g. hip dysplasia (dogs), kissing spines (horses), fractures;
- Compensatory gait/postural adaptations resulting in tension, discomfort and/or impaired mobility;
- Optimising mobility, comfort and performance in all animals, from the domestic pet to the elite athlete or the working animal.