Tucker was an older border collie who presented with muscle/skin twitching mid-back, possibly due to nerve entrapment, per his veterinarian, weakness in hind legs, and a personality conflict with his “brother by another mother”, a younger border collie in the house named Player. His “mom” requested canine massage to possibly help with his discomfort.
Tucker was seen 5 times for canine massage. The first treatment, he was hesitant to get on the massage table, even though the appointment was at his home and he had known me for a few years, but eventually did get on the table and settled down. He responded well to effleurage and petrissage of his face, head, neck, forelimbs, and back. At the T10-T12 region of his back, there was significant hypertonicity in the spinalis and longissimus muscles. A highly adjustable heating pad, set for 110 degrees F, was placed on his mid-lower back for approximately 10 minutes. Initially, Tucker was wary of the heating pad but quickly “warmed up to it” (pun intended!). Frequent checks regarding the temperature of his skin beneath the heating pad were done to ensure he would not be uncomfortable. He immediately showed signs of relaxation. Effleurage, cross fiber friction, and circular friction were performed on the areas of hypertonicity, which resulted in considerable softening of the area. An instantaneous reduction in the “muscle/skin twitching” in the region was quickly appreciated. Other areas massaged were compensatory muscles of the forelimb, passive range of motion on both hind limbs, and also laying on of hands at the end of the treatment.
The second treatment, Tucker enthusiastically jumped up on the massage table and responded well to all massage techniques, which were similar to the first treatment. The muscles of his mid-back were still hypertonic but not as tender as during the first treatment. He was noticeably appreciative of having the heating pad placed on his mid-lower back again and soon fell asleep. His “mom” reported that his back wasn’t twitching as much when it was touched and he seemed more comfortable.
The third and fourth canine massage treatments were much like the second, however, his “mom” reported the twitching was now gone in his mid-back.
The fifth treatment was the most remarkable with respect to the personality conflict with his little “brother”. 3 other dogs in the household were receiving massage the same days Tucker was, and they were always separated due to the friction between them. On the fifth treatment day, Tucker and Player both jumped up on the bed next to where the massage table was set up, eager for their canine massages. Their “mom” entered the room and gasped with alarm that they were in such close proximity to each other since, traditionally, it ended in fighting. Their “mom” was asked to back out of the room and take her “energy” with her because the two dogs were fine together at that point. She left the room and I asked the two boys who wanted their massage first? Tucker enthusiastically got on the massage table and Player slept on the bed, just a few feet from Tucker, with both of them in a very relaxed state. After Tucker’s massage, I told him and Player to switch places, which they did without incident, and then Tucker slept on the bed while Player received his final massage on the table.
The take-aways from this case study were that canine massage, including cross fiber friction and circular friction, in addition to heat, softened up hypertonic muscle tissue enough that muscle/skin twitching was not observed for 2-3 months, post-massage and that massage of two dogs in the same household, with personality conflicts, may be able to not have as many conflicts when they know that the reward is canine massage therapy.