Manual therapy comprises of massage, passive range of motion, joint mobilisations and stretching.
Massage promotes blood and lymphatic flow, therefore reducing inflammation, promoting healing and reducing pain. The stimulation of mechanoreceptors bombards the neural pathways, therefore desensitising the animal to touch, increasing their pain threshold and impeding the transmission of pain. Additionally the physical motion promotes tissue elongation and optimisation of fibre organisation during repair. Massage has a greater effect after, or in combination with, heat therapy or exercise.
Massage stimulates superficial sensory receptors whereas PROM and stretching stimulate deep sensory receptors. Passive range of motion and joint mobilisation maintain joint health by increasing synovial fluid production and distribution and maintaining soft tissue elasticity in joints that are not being exercised to their full capability, either due to stiffness or pain. Joint mobilisations aim to replicate a correct gait pattern using cyclic motions. Passive range of motion and joint mobilisations are ideally performed before exercise to promote active range of motion.
Stretching is utilised for improving soft tissue mobility. Muscles respond to stretch by addition of sarcomeres to myofribrils, resulting in muscle elongation. Stretching elongates fibrotic tissue, improves tissue extensibility and consequently improves joint range of motion. Stretching must only be performed after massage or exercise, when the muscles are warm.