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Trigger Points - Muscular Injuries Series Part 3

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Trigger Points. They are just knots in muscle right?


Trigger points are very complex. They can cause debilitating pain and can affect your dog’s quality of life.

What is a trigger Point? How are they caused?

A trigger point is a hyperirritable band of focal point tension whereby the fibres in the skeletal muscle have stayed in a contracted, adhered state. The following are the most common reasons why trigger points form.

· Repetitive activity/movement

· Overuse

· Injury/ accident - trauma

· Primary orthopedic issue resulting in protective muscle splinting

· Prolonged cage rest

· Age

· Postural changes

· Over-compensation

· Persistent body slamming/shoulder barging

What are the four different types of trigger points?

Latent - (inactive) trigger points do not cause spontaneous pain instead your dog’s movement may be restricted due to the muscle being tight and weak. Your dog will only feel pain when direct pressure is applied, causing a twitch response in the skin. These type of trigger points can remain undetected until a traumatic event turns them into an active trigger point.

Active - trigger points cause pain when your dog is at rest. It is tender to touch and referred pain will be present (seemingly unrelated pain found in a different location of the body) This is because fascia is interconnected throughout the whole body.

Secondary - trigger points develop due to the disruption caused by active trigger points. However if active trigger points are treated they can be turn into latent trigger points preventing secondary trigger points from occurring.

Satellite - trigger points are secondary trigger points that develop within the referral pain zone of an active trigger point. Satellite trigger points will often remain active until the primary trigger point has been treated.

What do trigger points cause?

Healthy muscle tissue is pliable, flexible, elastic and perceptive to touch. When a trigger point is present within the fibrous bands of the skeletal muscle, the bands bind together becoming compressed and contracted. This leads to,

· Ischemia – restricted blood flow to the muscle causing oxygen and nutrient depravation

· Chronic pain

· Patterns of referred pain – Your dog will nibble/lick a certain area where no skin or joint condition exists

· Hyperalgesia – an abnormally heightened sensitivity to pain

· Nerve irritation

· Tenderness

· Swelling – blood flow becomes restricted and collects in the area

· Early onset muscular fatigue

· Muscle weakness

· Loss of co-ordination – performance issues

· Reduced range of motion

· Worsening of orthopaedic/mobility issues

What are the common symptoms of trigger points?

· Twitching/ flinching of the skin

· Yelping in response to being handled or touched

· Unwillingness to be handled or groomed

· Coat changes - raised hairs, thickening in certain areas i.e behind the shoulders

· Unwillingness to exercise

· Fatigue

· Weight gain – due to not being able to exercise

· Muscle stiffness – i.e. when rising

· Muscle weakness – i.e. hindlimbs

· Lack of co-ordination

· Reduced performance

Trigger points can mimic the symptoms of many other conditions such as arthritis. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, veterinary advice should always be sorted to rule out any other injuries, health issues or conditions.

How can I reduce the likelihood of my dog developing trigger points?

There are many things you can do as an owner to reduce the likelihood of your dog developing trigger points that become debilitating and painful. This includes ensuring that you warm up/cool down your dog before and after exercise, placing runners and mats on slippery flooring so that your dog can navigate around your home freely and safely, reducing the amount of chase games your dog plays and rough play with other dogs.

When training your dog in a sport consider the length of time and the number of repetitions spent on practicing a skill, height of jumps, level of difficulty, your dog’s level of fitness and rest and recovery time aloud between each training session.

What are the benefits of canine massage?

Therapists of the Canine massage Guild have been taught the art of palpation (seeing with their fingers) and are able to detect and locate the exact location of your dog’s trigger points. In 1-3 sessions canine massage therapy will be able to reduce or completely resolve symptoms linked to trigger points.

It is important to bear in mind that the quicker trigger points are found and treated the higher the likelihood of them being resolved. This is because trigger points that have been stored in the muscle tissue for a longer period will cause permanent tissue change. So even though issues maybe reduced after a session, ongoing maintenance massages will be required.

When your dog’s trigger points are released, their pain will be reduced/ resolved. As a result, your dog will be happier and more comfortable.

Your dog’s

· demeanor will improve – they will be more willing to be touch, groomed, petted and examined

· energy levels will increase – they will become more active and sociable and enjoy exercise/play as they no longer need to guard/protect areas of pain

· range of motion will increase which will improve their sporting performance and decrease recovery time.

· mood and behaviour will also improve and they will find it easier to settle and sleep.

Give canine massage a try! 3 sessions over 3 weeks. You will be amazed at what it could do for your dog.

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