Core Stability for You and Your Dog
It’s essential to feel stable during PetMassage. During the massage session, you must radiate stability. When you are off-balance, or can be easily pushed off-center by dogs you cannot be modeling the stability of leadership. And that can happen during sessions when dogs paw at you, nudge you with their head, or lean into you. When you feel more secure and confident – because you are stable – so will your dog. And, it’s really all about the dog.
Centered Awareness means you are Aware of Center. You are consciously working from the center of your being. Your core.
Begin by focusing on your vertical center.
Assume the Wu chi position, standing with your legs and feet as you would to begin tai chi. Lengthen your spine. Reach downward with you’re your sacrum. Reach upward with your head. Breathe. Stretch.
Project your presence up to the stars, and down to the hot, magnetic center of the earth. That’s a very long spiritual projection!
Now for more stability, bring your center of gravity medial, toward your midline.
Focus on the medial sides of your feet and drop into them. Take a few steps with your weight over your medial arches and big toes. This is body language communication that dogs understand. Dogs recognize stability. It coincides with confidence and leadership.
Body Mind Spirit Love
Center all aspects of your being: body, mind and spirit.
Identify and move from your horizontal center: the area just below and behind the navel. It has many names, depending on your culture: Solar plexus/Hara/Third chakra/Dan tien. It’s the Core we work in Pilates and yoga.
The core is the source of your power. Not just physical power; it’s the source of your resiliency; your emotional, spiritual, residual, and stored power. It is karmic. It’s your Akashic connection.
I recognize that these are all spiritual concepts. In my world, massage works as much on the spiritual as the physical. Spirit is the substrate that holds and allows physical movement. And, spirit is PURE LOVE.
Breathe into your core. Hold it in your awareness. As you inhale, feel it expand and radiate within your body. Exhale and feel it flow out.
Working From Core
Stay aware of the power in your core while standing, reaching, moving, breathing, projecting intention. Experience the pleasure of owning the power. Experience the pleasure of sharing the love.
This is the loving support your dog needs to feel strong and stable in her uncertain world. When you work from your centered awareness – you feel everything in your hands shift, radiate, and rebalance. Your very presence is empowering and helps dogs on so many levels.
In the video I demonstrate the centering I described on myself and also on a dog. Of course, they have doggie Dan Tiens, haras, and cores, too. They just don’t have belly buttons to reference their locations.
Learn, from my perspective, that of a canine body worker, about energetic transition points, the Limbic System, and how to help dogs deal with fear, anxiety, and more. It is a fun video. I hope you enjoy it.
This is one of over 30 short videos on our YouTube channel:
I invite you to subscribe and click the “bell” icon to be notified when our new videos are published.
I welcome you – encourage you – to learn PetMassage for dogs in person. I teach workshops several times a year at the PetMassage School in Toledo, Ohio. Please visit our website. Learn how you can learn canine massage and manifest your spiritual/physical journey helping dogs with massage.
Massage Dogs that Limp
This week’s Helpful Hint is the support content for this week’s YouTube video. I invite you to watch it. The video has several examples and demonstrations while this article fleshes out more specific instruction. I hope you find value in both of them.
Limping is caused by pain. Pain is a signal. Something is wrong and needs time and space to heal. Pain is the result of inflammation in the joint. When there is a joint injury or a buildup of toxins in a muscle group, the white blood cells in the lymph congregate in that area. They fill up the joint capsule with fluid, and create swelling or edema. Putting pressure on nerves causes pain. This causes restricted movement. For, every time you move you experience pain.
When we reduce our movement we give the body the time and the space to do the healing work it needs to do. For example, if I injured my ankle I would put more weight on the opposite foot to support my weight when I walk. I compensate by transferring my weight bearing to the rest of my body to pick up the load from the part of the body that requires rest to heal itself. The area that carries the load is experiencing its own set of stress issues.
If the pain is visceral- in the organs- then the body will curl around it to protect it just like when you have a bellyache, you lean forward and grab your tummy. Here, we’re addressing the compensation in muscles as opposed to organs.
When a dog experiences joint pain they will move their weight to another part of the body. This contorts their musculature and their skeletal alignment and creates untoward kinds of pressures. There is immediate gait adjustment -limping- until the body is again comfortable with normal weight bearing.
Long term compensation
Confirmation is reshaped to support movement. Long-term, the body will assume the shape and character of their new way of holding itself.
When a dog presents with limping behavior:
First, we assess confirmation to check for shapes of muscles and developmental symmetry, skeletal alignment and balance. Is it recent or chronic?
Second, gait to observe where the dog is injured and which muscle groups are working hardest. Watch head, shoulders, hips, stifle, hocks, paws.
Third, we identify Stress Tracts: patterns of muscle behaviors from how dogs bodies compensate for pain/injuries. Stress tracts are predictable. Notice patterns, combinations of strain or restricted movement.
Stress tract patterns
The stress tracts flow through compensatory joints. Traditionally they most affect every other joint. Follow their paths to the end, zigzagging across body. Because there are an odd number of joints you’ll eventually be working the dogs entire body. A full body massage makes sure you are addressing all areas that need support because they are being stressed.
Stress tract patterns move in both directions: from the injury to the compensating joint and from the compensating joint back to the injury.
Address the injury as well. Use gentle intentional holding and pulsing. Allow your core energy to radiate positive chi into the tissues while you support them with mild compression and draw the dog’s awareness to the area. This heats the area, encourages lymphatic circulation, and supports the dogs natural healing processes.
The best way to learn what to look for, feel for, and what to do to give dogs the best quality massage is to attend a PetMassage hands-on workshop. There are still openings in the Foundation Level Programs (workshops + home study courses) which you can find out about on our website: https://petmassage.com/.
Massage Dog’s Lymphatics for Their Health and Happiness.
Our most recent YouTube video topic is: Massage Dog’s Lymphatics for Their Health and Happiness.
It is on our PetMassage Training and Research Institute YouTube channel. It is a little long, almost 10 minutes; and I think you’ll appreciate all the content that’s presented for you.
Here are the notes I made, preparing for the video shoot.
The Lymphatic System
An important part of the dog’s Autoimmune system.
What it is and why it’s important
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
Where it is and how to identify it
Lymph Nodes: There are about 600 lymph nodes in the human body. Since the anatomy and physiology of dogs is similar, we can project that dogs would have about the same number. These nodes act as filters for foreign particles and cancer cells. Lymph nodes swell in response to infection, due to a build-up of lymph fluid, bacteria, or other organisms. This is swelling, lymphedema.
Locations of major nodes: Show where located, 5 main joints, thymus gland, spleen, and anterior spine.
How to move/drain/flush/ express lymph
Lymph nodes are just under the skin in the fatty tissue near the flexor sides of joints. Nodes are expressed as internal pressure changes. To alter pressures we just need to flex and extend limbs.
Demonstrate: Swing arms, lift knees, roll shoulders, turn head, bend from waist. All express the fluids in and around muscle attachment sites.
Demonstrate how little movement is needed to express lymph.
Lymphatic drainage to clear the supraclavicular area:
1 Begin by standing.
2 Cross your arms on your chest, with your hands resting just below the collarbones.
3 Then simply lift your elbows slowly. The muscle action is as much pressure as is required to prepare the area to flush lymphatic fluid.
Identify lymph nodes on dog
Show locations of major lymph nodes (5 main joints): submandibular, prescapular, axillary, inguinal, popliteal, along spine, plus thymus gland, spleen.
Moving lymph in PetMassage:
- Manual Manipulation:
Lift a limb, turn the head, mobilize the tail.
Assisted movement. Lifting shoulders and hips mobilizes the spine.
- Rocking is an Exercise that increases respiration. As the dog rocks out of alignment, they intuitively FLEX their muscles to stabilize their position. Working their flexors, expresses lymph.
- Increased respiration: Diaphragm acts to stimulate the spleen, the organ nestled up against it. The Diaphragm is called the lymphatic pump. It affects the pressure above it (lungs) and below it (intestines). Expressing the lymph from the spleen is one of the reasons you feel so good after exercise.
- Scratching-brushing with your fingernails, encourages the flow. Gentle redirecting movement of body water. Like swishing bath tub water.
Demo: scratching dog.
Brush up over the lymph nodes toward the heart. The joints and muscle attachment sites are stimulated and the body water flows with your hands. It’s the body’s natural intuitive chase reflex. You are on the outside, the body water is on the inside; yet it follows the movement of your hands.
I hope you found value in this information about the lymphatic system. It helps to be able to visualize how things work so we can be more intentional in our PetMassage. Use this kind of visualization in every session, I feel that my massage is more thorough and directive.
I invite you to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: PetMassage Training and Research Institute and I look forward to teaching you in person at an upcoming workshop.
Canine Massage on Table vs Floor
This week we released a new video on our YouTube channel. In it I share my views on practicing canine massage on a table compared to working on the floor. Both have their place. Whenever and however possible though, we need to maintain mindful and ergonomic body mechanics. It is essential to make sure that you always have access to full and dynamic breath. It’s for your safety, the comfort of the dog, and for you to have a long practice.
In the video I explain the importance of breathing. I demonstrate the 8-way Tai Chi breathing, breathing while twisting (moving like a potted palm), and core breathing. The core is where our physical and spiritual powers emanate from.
Everything begins with breath. If there’s ever a time where breath is compromised, the dog interprets that as there is something wrong. When would I hold my breath? I hold my breath if I’m afraid, if I’m in pain, or if I am not sure. Every time I hold my breath the dog takes that as something is amiss.
If I’m not breathing, holding my breath, restricting my oxygen intake, the dog takes on the task of going on alert. They need to know about it if there’s something wrong in the environment or with me. Their focus moves from inward, where they were processing their own internal bodywork, to outward, where their internal work is superseded in importance.
They can only relax on the table if we are comfortable and consistently breathing. My breath is the substantive part of each of my strokes and it’s a reflection of my level of presence.
I compare that to working on the floor. On the floor you can see how compromised I am. On the floor, first of all, we need to establish a defined area.
I’ve experienced dogs getting up and walking away in the middle of a session. When they chose to return I completed the session. One time during a home visit, a golden retriever I was in the middle of massaging stood up and wandered off into the kitchen. I laughed when he returned a few minutes later happily munching on some cold French fries he’d remembered were in the garbage. He backed into my hands, chewing, and I resumed joint mobilization of his hips. As the therapist, I had a difficult time being present with his ongoing massage; I was immersed in the comedy of the experience. My energy-presence was with the situation; not with the dog.
We also need to define the space to protect our body: our knees or our seat bones.
Demonstrating Massage, I point out that when I reach, my range of motion is severely limited. I am off balance. It’s not ergonomically effective. When I have to reach way over onto the poll, for example, my ribs and spine twist and my ribcage presses down into my diaphragm. So, I cannot draw a full breath.
I also show what happens when other dogs walk in and interrupt the session. This part cracks me up every time I watch it. We even took some of the outtakes and added them to the end of the video.
Of course there are times when working on the floor is the only option. If the dog is too big, too compromised, or too scared, they still need massage and they can get as much as we can provide, on the floor.
When possible , let’s direct our attention to working with dogs on a table. That’s where they can get the most of what we have to offer.
It is all about the breath. Full breath suggests safety and leadership. Partial breath – fear, pain, lack of confidence. I know which I’d prefer.
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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
Research Paper Text:
A Look at the Metacarpal Structures of a Canine, its Functions, Common Injuries, and How Massage Can Help
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.
Kainer, R. A., & McCracken, T. (2003). Dog anatomy: A coloring atlas. Jackson, WY: Teton NewMedia.
Kelly, D. (2014, October). Anatomy of the Canine Forelimb. Retrieved May, 2018, from http://www.onlineveterinaryanatomy.net/
Lowe, W., LMT. (2010, June 01). Muscle Strains. Retrieved May, 2018, from http://www.massagetoday.com/
Massage for Sprains. (2018). Retrieved May, 2018, from http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/