The Benefits of Canine Myofunctional Therapy

Canine myofunctional therapy (canine massage) aims to improve mobility, reduce pain and maintain health, overall wellbeing and vitality for dogs. By targeting problem areas of the muscle using gentle and specific techniques, it can help to relieve tense and aching muscles, increase range of motion and provide relief to joint conditions such as elbow/hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament ruptures, luxating patella, and arthritis. Dogs who may have neurological conditions that affect their mobility such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), spinal embolisms, lumbosacral disease, coon hound paralysis and degenerative myelopathy can also benefit from myofunctional therapy. It is also an excellent form of rehabilitation post-orthopaedic surgery, helping regain mobility and restore function. 

Dogs with no musculoskeletal/neurological conditions can also benefit greatly from massage. Just like humans, over time muscles in dogs can become fatigued and sore from exercise, poor posture/conformation or environmental factors such as slipping on floors, excessive jumping and so on. While our four-legged friends can't tell us themselves, we can help ease some of that stress on their bodies through myofunctional therapy. 

For agility/sporting dogs, myofunctional therapy is an excellent way to maintain the muscles/joints and relieve any soreness. 

  • Circulation and lymphatics 

Myofunctional therapy helps to increase circulation and lymph flow. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients  that nourishes weakened muscles.  Increase in lymph flow helps to drain and clear out toxins and unwanted substances. This kicks in and speeds up the natural healing process. 

  • Nervous system 

Myofunctional therapy activates the para-symphathetic (otherwise known as 'rest and digest') part of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for helping us and our four-legged friends relax and calm down. This allows the body's receptors to respond in a positive way, disrupting negative signals that may be coming from pain, aches or discomfort due to cell hyperactivity. This helps regain 'homeostasis' (balance) in the body which is important for optimal physiological function. 

For pre-event massage, massage can work in the opposite way helping to activate the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system which helps switch on the muscle and turn on adrenaline. This is achieved through different, faster strokes and techniques. 

  • Fascial release

Fascia is a connective tissue that can be superficial (right under the skin) or deep (covering the organs). It surrounds muscles, joints, bones and organs. It works by providing support and stability to our internal structures as well as serves as a cushion for trauma. 

When injury or trauma occurs, so does inflammation and this can cause pressure onto the fascia which in turn, causes pressure onto what it surrounds. The damaged fascia forms adhesions (scar tissue), densifies and looses elasticity, resulting in tension around the body. It causes imbalances in the body such as inability to remove toxins/unwanted substances, blocks proper circulation and disrupts mechanoreceptor response. This can lead to poor biomechanics which can potentially lead to more injury if not managed. 

Myofunctional therapy works on the fascia by 'releasing' the tightness through stretching and pressure, helping soften the tissue and regain pliability. Over time, this can help adhesions break down and fully restore soft tissue mobility.