Osteoarthritis can be a painful and progressive disease involving the permanent, long-term deterioration and destruction of a joints articular cartilage resulting in chronic pain, inflammation of the surrounding tissues and decreased mobility.

Frequently shortened to OA and often referred to as degenerative joint disease or DJD; it causes a weakening and subsequent deterioration of the articular cartilage of a joint. 

The principal function of articular cartilage is to provide a smooth, lubricated surface for articulation and to facilitate the low friction transmission of load during movement. Affected cartilage however becomes brittle leading to increased friction at the joint where the articular surfaces come together. In severe cases of osteoarthritis, the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the bone ends becomes so thin that the bones begin to rub against one another gradually wearing each other down.

In an attempt to fuse the affected joint, thus reducing the friction and associated pain brought about by the degenerative process, the dog’s body forms new bone at the articular margins – this coupled with the wearing down of the bones can lead to deformation.

Osteoarthritis can be caused by a number of issues; ultimately anything that causes instability within a joint which directly affects the manner in which forces are loaded or spread throughout it has the potential to cause osteoarthritis. 

Primarily however cartilage deterioration can be caused by:

  • Trauma, leading to malformation of the affected joint during the healing process.
  • Age related issues, cumulative or repetitive wear and tear on the joints.
  • Congenital or conformation abnormalities, predisposing a joint to abnormal wear.
  • Nutritional deficiencies, depriving the tissues of the building blocks for development.
  • Growth abnormalities, causing instability in the joint leading to abnormal movement
  • Infection, inflammation or disease may prevent the correct formation of cartilage matrix.

Osteoarthritis may occur as a result of another predisposing issue or condition which affects the joint, for example a luxating patella or hip dysplasia and when this happens it can be referred to as secondary joint disease.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis will vary dependant on the joints involved, the dogs age and severity of the disease; in many cases, affected dogs may have a long history of insidious lameness and may demonstrate an altered gait in an attempt to compensate for the pain of the condition, there may also be decreased activity levels in general or a reluctance to move.

Varying degrees of lameness, stiffness and joint pain that worsens with exercise can be symptomatic along with muscle atrophy in the effected limb or limbs and the vocalisation of pain when touched; presenting either aggressive or withdrawn behaviour and possibly biting or licking at the site of the pain.

The use of myotherapy to support osteoarthritis

Galen Myotherapy© treatment can help to relax muscles, ease stiffness and tension; helping to maintain the arthritic joints normal range of movement, supporting its health and mobility and reducing associated pain from secondary muscle problems.

As a result of the original trauma or ongoing compensatory issues, the muscles surrounding the affected joint may have shortened, however their role in supporting the joint has become increasingly important.

Myotherapy treatment reduces tension in these surrounding muscles, increasing circulation and enabling tissues to repair and reducing swelling.
Passive movement, within the movement range of the arthritic joint can form part of a myotherapy treatment for a dog with osteoarthritis.

Passive movement provides controlled stimulation to the nerve endings of the limb, which provide positional awareness of the joint to the dog’s brain.
Controlled and supported movement of the arthritic joint initiates the readjustment of muscle tension through the reflex centre of the central nervous system which can lead to sensory receptors within the joint being less hypersensitive and a lessening of the restriction of previous habitual movement.

Passive joint movement encourages the lubrication of the joints structures whilst the associated tendons of the joint capsule are mechanically warmed which maintains their pliability. 

Via the dog’s parasympathetic nervous system, myotherapy influences the release of endorphins which help to soothe pain from secondary muscle problems throughout the dog’s body generated by compensatory issues. A reduction in tension affecting muscles that have been protecting and supporting the joint can have a pronounced physiological and psychological effect.

To talk to me about Galen Myotherapy© and how it might help your dog, contact me here.