Firstly, when we refer to soft tissue we are referring to tendons, ligaments, fascia, cartilage and joint tissue etc.
In a basic sense, tendons connect muscle to bone and their main role is to support and stabilise joints, absorb shock along with flexion and extension of joints.
Ligaments connect bone to bone and unlike tendons, they do not assist in joint movement but stabilise joints.
Fascia is fibrous connective tissue and can be found throughout the body. Fascia envelops muscle tissue, organs, bones and other soft tissue giving stability and protection. If fascia becomes stressed then it can tighten muscle tissue.
If you have ever experienced soft tissue injury such as bursitis, tendinitis or any kind of joint sprain then you would understand that this type of injury can take 3-6 months or more to heal. Sometimes longer than a fracture. This is also the case for our companion animals.
With many of the companion animals that I treat, soft tissue injury is something that I come across more frequently than not. Often anti inflammatory medications have been prescribed and pain or lameness still persists. Other times there has been an indication of lameness for weeks or even months or years on and off especially with the occurance of extra work load/physical stress. In other cases, areas of compensation within the body have become so overloaded that noticeable bio mechanical changes occur and physical discomfort then becomes obvious. This is the case where soft tissue injury has gone undetected or has not been appropriately treated.
Changes in behaviour can also be an indicator of soft tissue injury due to inflexibility or pain. Such changes in behaviour can be increased reactivity or anxiety or refusing to offer certain behaviours such as a sit or a drop.
What interests me in working with animals is that plans of prevention of injury throughout one’s life is often not considered. Such as prevention of or minimising equipment stress on the body, adequate warm up and stretching exercises, periodisation of exercise and not overdoing plyometric activities such as repetitive ball chasing (adrenaline) activities, appropriate exercise activity for each individual and age phase, along with decreasing stress responses or on lead reactivity where there is more potential for damage caused by lunging and equipment stress on the body.
Another aspect is focusing on preserving joint health and stability throughout one’s life and especially for those diagnosed with conditions such as patella subluxation or elbow/hip displaysia.
The most important part of my work, apart from treating the soft tissue injury is to educate people on suitable management practices and future prevention of injury.
Management programs are designed around appropriate exercise requirements including rehab exercises, specific stretching and strengthening exercises along with general management such as cold/heat therapy and behaviour/enrichment management.
Understanding and patience are very much needed in supporting the recovery process for soft tissue injury for our companion animals along with ourselves.
I hope that this information has been helpful.