Pain Management Without Pills By Nancy Whitlock, CVT
Does your pet have difficulty getting up from a lying position? Has he or she been diagnosed with osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease? There are great options to help your pet that don’t involve having to give another pill. Heat and cold therapy, acupuncture, underwater treadmill, physical therapy, massage therapy, essential oils, Reiki and laser therapies are just a few of the options for easing discomfort and increasing mobility.
With heat and cold therapy applying one then the other to the affected area for 20 minute periods can reduce inflammation, relieve pain and reduce stiffness. Moist heat is the best but to ensure safety, make sure it isn’t too hot or left on your pet more than 20 minutes. Monitor heat carefully on pets who cannot move away from the heat source. You can make a moist heating pad by putting white rice in a tube sock and tying it shut. An ice pack can be easily made from a bag of frozen vegetables. Place it on the affected area with a towel between the ice pack and your pet. Use heat for stiffness and aches and pains. Use cold for swelling and newer injuries. When exercising your dog, use heat to warm up muscles and joints before exercise and cold post-exercise to prevent swelling and inflammation. Heat and cold therapy is something easy you can do in your home.
Acupuncture is a terrific tool for reducing pain. Using ancient Chinese and Japanese knowledge of energy (Chi) flow within the body, tiny needles are placed painlessly in the skin to release blockages. Many double-blind placebo-controlled studies have shown the benefits of acupuncture in both humans and animals. Western medicine explains the benefit in terms of electrical impulses and release of endorphins. However you look at it, acupuncture works and is a great tool for pain management. Major hospitals have physical therapy departments.
In addition, many stand-alone rehabilitation and physical therapy practitioners have their own facilities and some even have mobile services. At many physical therapy locations there are underwater treadmills. A treadmill that is underwater will allow your pet to move in the near weightless environment of water while still using their muscles. The resistance of the water exercises the muscles while the warm water soothes the joints. In addition, rehabilitation practitioners use a variety of exercises to increase strength. Like humans, animals benefit from building muscle to support painful joints and prevent additional stress on strained tendons and ligaments.
A massage therapist can relieve pain by touching and manipulating muscles. They can use range of motion to help areas that have become atrophied from lack of use. Gentle stretching loosens tight muscles. Reiki is a gentle energy therapy where the practitioner uses gentle touch or holding their hands over the pet to adjust energy imbalances. Some Reiki practitioners are trained to provide remote Reiki, i.e. therapy while not in the presence of the animal. In our experience, Reiki provides a gentle, safe therapy that most pets deeply enjoy. It creates deep relaxation and a state of peace.
Essential Oils are concentrates of plants and flowers that provide a wide range of benefits. We use Essential Oils regularly at New England Pet Hospice & Home Care to alleviate muscle stiffness and soreness, aid in breathing, and increase relaxation. Keep in mind that for pain relief, it is critically important that you use therapeutic grade essential oils – which are not typically available in stores. Reputable companies are Young Living, Do Terra, and Rocky Mountain Oils, all of which can be purchased on-line. Most essential oils sold in stores (including Whole Foods) are aroma therapy grade which can be helpful for relaxation but are generally ineffective for pain relief.
Laser therapy is an instrument which is used like these others, to reduce pain and inflammation but can also be used to promote healing. It can be used on surgical sites to stimulate tissue repair and increase healing. It uses a beam of light at a certain frequency to penetrate the tissue, increasing blood flow and circulation. It affects the tissues on a cellular level stimulating energy production in the cells. Laser therapy can be used to help heal chronic ear infections, reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, and improve skin problems. These treatments are quick, 2 to 20 minutes, and are painless. Many pets (and humans!) enjoy the sessions which feel like and warm, gentle massage. All of these options can be used instead of pharmaceuticals or in conjunction with them to relieve your pet’s aches and pains and increase mobility.
Please contact us if you are interested in learning more.
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