Lipomas, lumps and bumps

Lipomas, lumps and bumps, from the perspective of PetMassage canine massage. This discussion is part of the preparation for the continuing ed workshop I will be facilitating, at the IAAMB/ACWT – NBCAAM Conference this September, in Seattle. In the 4-hour workshop titled, “Canine Myofascial Release: Techniques to Discover and Track Movement,” we’ll be wrist-deep in fascia; identifying, influencing, and tracking canine myofascial movements.

The conference by the way, is an educational event that you, as a practitioner, a student, or a wannabe animal bodyworker, will surely want to attend. It is less than a month away. You can still register for it.

Since the lipomas, lumps and bumps are subcutaneous manifestations within the fascia, we need to understand what we can do with these disconcerting slippery globs of gunk. After my interpretation, I’ve included a couple of articles that define lipomas in more scientific terminology. They are at the bottom of this article.


First, let’s define fascia. According to Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, Fascia is “the biological fabric that holds us together, the connective tissue network. You are about 70 trillion cells — neurons, muscle cells, epithelia — all humming in relative harmony; fascia is the 3D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and Fasciawet proteins that binds them together in their proper placement.

‘Our biomechanical regulatory system is highly complex and under-studied — though new research is filling in the gap. Understanding fascia is essential to the dance between stability and movement — crucial in high performance, central in recovery from injury and disability, and ever-present in our daily life from our embryological beginnings to the last breath we take.”

Fascia is the tissue that makes up muscles, contains the bones, contains the muscle groups , encases the joints, surrounds the individual organs and organ systems, and is the matrix within which all of the neural messages flow. For the body to function, it’s disparate elements need to communicate with each other. The feet need to know what the eyes are seeing.

Fascia is constantly communicating – connecting with – articulating with – the fascia adjacent to it, near it, in its zone, in its pattern, as a function of being part of the whole.

Fascia is both the system and the support system. It has the functions of protective support. It’s a medium for relaying neural messages. It’s a filter. It’s the physical body’s reservoir of memories, past influences, experiences, and karmic lessons.

Lumps, bumps, lipomas. When I slide my fingers through the dog’s coat and feel a lump in the tissue beneath the skin, what I am palpating is more than a densely knotted tangle of fibers. Yes, it is a tumor; and the word “tumor” can be scary. Most often though, it’s just a confined dollop of fat. From my perspective, it’s a speed bump on the dog’s quality-of-life highway.

What does the dog need for optimal health, happiness, and quality of life? He/she requires good food and water, plenty of exercise, a secure and consistent environment, play, and love. Internally, it’s good circulation, optimal distribution and filtration of fluids, so that the dog’s sparkling life-force energy can flow effectively through the body.

Wherever there are aberrations in fascia, like lumps and bumps, the blood, and lymph, and chi that moves through it, cannot easily pass. That’s a conundrum.

They have two choices: stop, or find another way around. Stopping is stagnation. It’s the antithesis of smooth sailing wellness and life. Think of stickiness, tenacity, and stuckness. Fluids flow up against a dam. They build up, causing swelling, pressure, heat and pain.

Creating another way around is called developing collateral circulation. Intuitive body wisdom creates additional alternative cardiovascular and lymphatic vessels so the parts of its body beyond the obstruction, get the nourishment and attention they require.

The myofascial release applied in canine massage is effective in bringing the dog’s body’s awareness to the obstruction, thereby harnessing its natural tendency toward homeostasis. And then, facilitating its rediscovery of optimal function. Aka, Balance.

We can palpate and document the changes in the tissues. It is obvious when we feel lipomas soften, flatten, shift, slide, and shrink. Complete dispersion often takes several sessions.

Would you like to learn how to apply positional myofascial release for your dogs? Attend the aforementioned conference or the PetMassage Foundation Level Program Workshop.

Additional information: Here are a couple of articles.


A fatty tumor (or lipoma) in dogs is one of several different types of skin tumors. It is a slow-growing collection of fat cells usually found just under the skin. Fatty tumors are different than normal fat because they form lumps rather than a flat layer under the skin.

Fatty tumors are benign, which means they are a group of cells that multiply without normal control but do not travel through the body (metastasize) or invade surrounding tissue. Even though fatty tumors are not destructive to other cells, they can cause health problems by growing so large they press on internal organs. Depending on where they develop, fatty tumors can interfere with your dog’s walking and movement. When fatty tumors interfere with movement, which is common when they grow between your dog’s front leg and body wall (in the axilla), friction can wear through the skin and infections can develop.

Key facts about fatty tumors in dogs and cats

  • A fatty tumor (lipoma) is a soft, slow-growing swelling under the skin.
  • Just because a lump in the skin is small does not mean it is innocent.

Infiltrative fatty tumors (lipomas)

Normally fatty tumors sit in a little pocket or fibrous case separated from surrounding tissues, but very rarely fatty tumors penetrate into the surrounding tissues, especially into muscle. This is an infiltrative fatty tumor. Although an infiltrative fatty tumor does not metastasize to other areas of the body, it is not as benign as a regular fatty tumor. Infiltrative fatty tumors, like regular fatty tumors, can develop in multiple locations on your pet.

Infiltrative fatty tumors usually do not feel like simple fatty tumors because they are firmer and are fixed to underlying tissues. They may also be painful because they interfere with muscle contraction. Some will cause lameness.


Infiltrative lipoma is a variant tumor that does not metastasize (spread), but which is known to infiltrate the soft tissues, notably the muscles. It is an invasive, benign tumor composed of fatty tissue, and while it is known mainly for its penetration into muscular tissue, it is also commonly found in the fasciae (the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system), tendons, nerves, blood vessels, salivary glands, lymph nodes, joint capsules, and occasionally the bones. Muscle infiltration is often so extensive that surgery cannot be performed without severe consequences.

Infiltrative lipoma occurs much less frequently than does lipoma. When it does occur, it is usually in middle-aged dogs, and it tends to affect females more so than males. Labrador retrievers are suspected to be at higher risk.


  • Large, soft tissue mass
  • Muscle swelling
  • Infiltration of pelvic, thigh, shoulder, chest, and lateral cervical musculature (side of neck)


  • Unknown

*There’s another definition of myo, that I find intriguing. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a mantra chanted in a sect of Buddhism that originated in Japan. The repeated vow, is an expression of determination to embrace and manifest our Buddha nature. It is a pledge to oneself to never yield to difficulties and to win over one’s suffering. At the same time, it is a vow to help others reveal this law in their own lives and achieve happiness.

The individual characters that make up Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo express key characteristics of this law…The Myo can be translated as mystic or wonderful, and ho means law.

Now consider “myo-fasciae” as the mystic or wonderful workings of the fascia!

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