This is a discussion on alternative pain control modalities and treatments.
Pain is a critical factor in deciding whether your pet has a quality of life or not. However, pain might be a difficult thing for the owners to realize. The top signs of pain include panting, reluctance to exercise, changes in behavior, hiding, crying. I want to focus on how can we control pain without any pharmacological agents? There are multiple new modalities that can be used to control both acute and chronic pain. The importance of this is that painkilling drugs act very well for acute inflammation but when it comes to chronic pain, the side effects of these drugs often times could result in organ damage. How can we then access your pet’s body pharmacy of endogenous neurochemicals involved in healing, and pain control?
The first and most common modality in veterinary medicine is Cold laser therapy. Cold Laser can have pain relieving and also enhanced healing effects. Some of those effects include painkiller, anti-inflammation, anti-swelling, improved circulation, faster wound healing, and enhanced repairing of damaged tendons and ligaments. There is mounting scientific evidence in a myriad of published studies regarding the efficacy and safety of laser therapy. It is due to that evidence that a large number of veterinarians are adding the laser to their pain treatments post surgery and after traumatic injuries.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation aka Tens units are also being used in animals. They operate on the principle of electrical stimulation of the sensory nerves. This results in pain relief and muscle strengthening.
There are small pads that are placed either above and below the injury or around the joint treated. In long-haired dogs, the spots might need to be shaved for better contact. There is ample research that proves the efficacy of TENS in humans and plenty
of evidence of its mechanism of action. Low-frequency TENS activates µ-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the brainstem, whereas high-frequency TENS activates d-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the brainstem making it a great modality for chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is a fairly new modality in the veterinary world. The invention of the
Assisi loop device and the incursion of the German-engineered PEMF device called the BEMER have brought a lot of hope to many veterinarians and pet owners alike. In our practice, we have seen the effects of the Bemer and just added the Assisi loop treatments to our tough acupuncture cases. The premise of this technology is that the electromagnetic waves stimulate microcirculation, the benefits of better blood circulations are plentiful and necessary for optimal health.
In a canine osteoarthritis study comparing a once a day PEMF treatment for 20 days to 5 mg/kg of firocoxib ( a common NSAID) once daily, both groups had significant improvement in pain and functionality during the study. The differences were observed after the treatment ended:. Clinical signs returned for the dogs in the firocoxib group shortly after the therapy ended whereas the beneficial effects of PEMF in both pain relief and functional activity capacity were sustained through the 12-month study!
In my book, Alt-Vet: the revolutionary pet care and longevity solution, I explain that there are three main scientifically proven ways that can explain the physiological effects of acupuncture. First, these acupoints have been found to be conductors of electromagnetic signals. When the acupoint is stimulated with a needle, the signals increase along the pathway and they stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) to release the flow of pain-killing endorphins and immune system cells that aid in healing. These electromagnetic signals can be measured and thus points could be found using modern devices that detect those signals.The second method of action is by activating the Opioid system which tells the brain to release chemicals that ease pain into the CNS. Third, the acupuncture stimulation directly alters the brain chemistry by releasing neurotransmitters and neurohormones that control the body’s blood pressure, blood flow, body temperature and promote sensations of wellbeing.
Acupuncture can be used in most dogs and cats with no ill effects. It can be delivered in multiple ways; needles, electric stimulation, pressure or injecting aqueous substances. The importance is to select the right acupoints that would stimulate the affected areas and send all the chemicals needed for pain control, repair and healing. There are over 20,00 published articles on acupuncture and its efficacy and the evidence continues to accumulate in veterinary medicine related cases.
Massage therapy is an accepted adjunctive treatment for post-surgical and chronic pain cases in humans. In dogs and cats, there are multiple techniques but they are all striving to bring blood supply to the affected muscles. Massage therapy is not petting, there is a therapeutic intent thus knowing pet anatomy is necessary. Pain causes the surrounding tissues and muscles to contract, this contraction, in turn, causes cramps and more pain, which becomes a repetitive cycle. So, an important part of pain control should involve manipulation of those tissues( muscles, tendons, and ligaments) surrounding the affected joints. Certified Canine Massage therapists provide care for post-surgical pain and rehab cases resulting in a faster return to function and speedy healing. Veterinarians trained in Tui Na offer deep medical massages that are similar, yet less aggressive, than veterinary “chiropractors”.
Spinal manipulation is similar to human chiropractic care, the aim is to align the skeleton and muscles in the anatomically correct position which in turn will alleviate pain. Similar to chiropractic modalities it has in common that they all reduce the vertebral subluxation complex by providing motion or force to the fixated or subluxated joint. Basically, veterinarians can palpate the spine and joints and determine if the misalignment is causing nerves to be pinched and cause pain. There are extensive training and experience needed to be an effective pet Spine manipulator and there is credentialed process and organization overseeing these specialists.
Regardless of the modality or device you choose to try for your pet, these are all effective and valid treatments that can be used to manage pain alone or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals and/or surgery.