A Look at the Metacarpal Structures of a Canine, its Functions, Common Injuries, and How Massage Can Help

Full Title: A Look at the Metacarpal Structures of a Canine, its Functions, Common Injuries, and How Massage Can Help

Author: Veronica McKune

Date of Publication: July 27, 2018

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Research Paper Text:

A Look at the Metacarpal Structures of a Canine, its Functions, Common Injuries, and How Massage Can Help
Veronica McKune
July 27, 2018

To understand the canine’s important and complex metacarpal functions, we must first examine and define its musculoskeletal structures. The metacarpal bones are located in the forepaws and articulate between the carpus and proximal phalanges. The metacarpal bones are numbered one through five, one being the most medial and five being the most lateral. The collateral ligaments connect the metacarpal bone to the proximal phalanx with a deep branch that attaches to the sesamoid bones. Sesamoid bones are small but important pieces in the carpal and metacarpal structure, as they protect a tendon where it moves against a joint’s surface. Tendons are thick, fibrous tissues that connect muscle to bone. The muscle groups present within the metacarpal structure include extensors, which facilitate dorsal movement within the structure, and flexors, which facilitate palmar movement. The extensor muscles are located on the forearm craniolaterally and, with a few exceptions, almost totally originate from the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and insert on one of the five metacarpals and all five phalanges. The flexor muscles are located caudally on the forearm and originate from the caudal medial epicondyle of the humerus and insert along the carpal, metacarpal, and phalanx bones. These complex muscular and skeletal systems work in unison to facilitate movement necessary to a dog’s normal function including walking, running, jumping, and of course, play!

While the metacarpal structure is integral in a dog’s normal, everyday function it is also extremely susceptible to injury. The most common of these injuries are sprains: injuries to ligaments, and strains: injuries to muscles and tendons. Sprains are generally associated with some kind of blunt force. For example, a dog landing wrong from a jump, this can cause a minor to severe sprain depending on the amount of force put on the metacarpal ligaments.  Strains are generally associated with over or improper use of muscles. For example, a quick movement in play, or exerting a lot of energy without warm up or rest can cause hyperextension or hyperflexion of the tendons and cause pain, inflammation, and sometimes even tearing of muscle fibers. Other, less common injuries within the metacarpal structure are bone fractures and ligament tears. The treatment for injuries such as these typically includes one or more of the following: rest, bracing, medication, massage, physical therapy, and, depending on the severity, surgery.

Massage is proven to aid in both the prevention and restoration of these types of injuries. Routine massage aids in the prevention of injury as it increases muscle tone and function, providing a more stable and stronger muscular environment in the aforementioned extensor and flexor groups present in the metacarpal structure, thus decreasing the chances of straining them. While massage can be used as its own treatment method, it is also useful as a complementary medicine to more invasive and rigorous treatment plans such as surgery and physical therapy. Post injury massage reduces inflammation and pain, increases blood flow to accelerate healing, and decrease presence of scar tissue. Massage, through the power of mindful touch and outside factors such as soothing music is known to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the body to rest, repair, and recover.

The metacarpal structure of the canine is a complex and integral intersection of its musculoskeletal system located at the distal portion of a dog’s forelimb. This structure and its soft tissue are highly susceptible to injury; massage is shown to aid in the prevention of injury and overall wellness, as well as accelerate the recovery process post injury.


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