Introduction to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

We don’t hear the words “physical medicine” very often, but this is an important part of your pet’s total health and return to functionality.

Physical medicine is the branch of medicine that includes all techniques and technologies that use physical means to treat and prevent disease.  Examples include manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, mechanical devices, thermal modalities and hydrotherapy.

Physical medicine helps to prevent and relieve distress in patients with a broad variety of conditions.  The benefits of physical medicine are achieved by relieving or decreasing pain, decreasing muscle tension, decreasing scar tissue, improving circulation and respiration, improving range of motion and maintaining muscle strength.

Here at Dr. Shearer’s veterinary clinic, we recommend and include it in every treatment plan when possible.  There are veterinarians, veterinary technicians and physical therapists that specialize in animal rehabilitation – separate from traditional and alternative veterinary services. Dr. Shearer specializes in Integrative Veterinary Care, which means your pet gets her expert care and knowledge across all these disciplines.

What are the Benefits of Physical Medicine Therapies?

  • Promotes emotional well-being
  • Manages or decreases pain
  • Decreases the amount of medication needed to maintain comfort
  • Allows for faster and better recoveries from invasive interventions
  • Assists in weight management for pets that have become less active
  • Allows pet to reclaim activities of daily living
  • Carries a low risk of adverse effects
  • Prevents side effects of inactivity
  • Improves emotional quality of life for most pets.
  • Prevents weakness, muscle atrophy (loss), muscle and joint contractures and decubitus ulcers.

What Guidelines Does Dr. Shearer Follow With Physical Medicine Therapies For Your Pet?

  • The goals for your pet are discussed and defined
  • Choose the appropriate therapies based on the condition that needs to be treated
  • Start physical modalities as soon as possible after a diagnosis. A study done by Kathman in 2006 showed that physiotherapy may be the most important tool to maintain mobility and quality of life for dogs with degenerative myelopathy. Dogs receiving therapy remained ambulatory longer.
  • Become familiar with the precautions of the prescribed therapies
  • Assess your pet’s willingness to accept each specific therapy and choose therapies that are well tolerated

When Do You Use of Assistive Devices For Your Pet?

  • Utilizing assistive devices can have an enormous effect on quality of life by improving mobility and can make caring for debilitated pets less burdensome.
  • Slings/harnesses make getting up and walking easier
  • Orthotics/prosthetics support problem joints
  • Carts allow a pet to stay mobile
  • Therapy balls/physiorolls can assist in standing and exercise
  • Footwear protects the feet from injury or abrasion

Toe grips give a dog better traction on slippery floors

What Are Examples of Manual Therapy For Your Pet?

  • Massage
  • Range-of-motion
  • Stretching
  • Chiropractic**
  • Joint mobilization*
  • Acupuncture*

What Are Examples of Therapeutic Therapy For Your Pet?

*This therapy needs to be administered by Dr. Shearer or trained staff

  • Balance Training
  • Proprioceptive exercise
  • Strengthening
  • Aquatic therapy*
  • Thermal
  • Therapy laser*
  • Ultrasound*
  • Electrotherapy-TENS/NMES*
  • Extracorporeal shockwave*
  • Pulsed electromagnetic therapy*
  • Pulsed signal therapy*
  • Regenerative stem cell*
  • Regenerative platelet rich plasma*