Vaughn Brown | March 5, 2008 | English 102 | Instructor Chao

Does Animal Massage Therapy Compliment Conventional Practices?

Massage therapy has been in use for hundreds of centuries by healers. Over time, people are discovering how massage can be applied to animals, when before it was strictly humans who received the therapy. In the 21st century, massage therapy is being used alongside conventional medical practices, in both the animal and human world. Because studies are showing the benefits of massage therapy, animal owners and professionals are seeking ways to combine this method with conventional methods. Scientific studies are showing the benefits of massage therapy, but does this mean that it can compliment conventional medical practices?

Massage therapy is defined as the “assessment of the soft tissues and joints of the body and the treatment or prevention of physical dysfunction and pain of the soft tissues and joints by manipulation to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function and or to relieve pain” (Sonya Van Veen, Massage therapy is used to relax the muscle and connective tissues, enabling the body to function properly. The musketry system is not far from that of a pulley system when compared. In order for a limb to go one direction the muscles lining the opposite side needs to relax. However if the muscles are constricted, the limb cannot move at its fullest functionality. While massage deals with the soft tissues it also deals with the other body functions. Some functions that massage therapy influences include blood circulation, respiration, digestion, and nerve stimulation. Some of the soft tissue problems or chemical imbalances cannot always be resolved using conventional methods; this is when massage therapy becomes a complimentary treatment when used in a medical setting.

Conventional practices are used to address a single issue. Medical treatment includes chemical and physical problems. When the soft tissues are being treated using conventional techniques, damages are being addressed through surgery or medicine. Some of the problems cannot be resolved using massage therapy oh though it can help; when this severity of trauma happens conventional methods are used.

Because of the studies on massage therapy, vets, farriers, groomers and other animal professionals are agreeing that massage therapy is beneficial. Because muscle constriction is painful, behaviour problems arise, endangering ones self and others. Animal trainers are finding that massage helps in reducing misbehaviour (Bluemel, Ulrike; butte and other pain-relievers work to ease the discomfort but do not address the actual problem (Bonakdar, Robert and E. Bresler, David This is a good example of using conventional methods, the pain-relievers, and massage therapy, an alternative method together when addressing discomfort. This encourages the animal professionals to better examine ways of resolving misbehaviour.

Because massage enhances blood circulation, blood cells and nutrition are carried to specific sites, providing more healing tools for a successful recovery. Anti-biotic, a conventional method is used to discourage bacteria or viruses from developing in the area. Conventional medicine also reduces further injury by keeping the soft tissue, the tendon for example from over-usage through relaxation (Bonakdar, Robert and E. Bresler, David The massage method compliments the conventional treatment by relaxing the muscle and adjacent soft tissues through pressure, which enables the vessels to expand, supplying the treated area with blood and nutrition (Hourdebaigt, Jean-Pierre 42).

According to Equissage “Massage helps by reducing inflammation and swelling in the joints, thereby alleviating pain” ( Inflammation is a result of injuries and the pressure from inflammation is what causes discomfort, which adds to the already discomfort being felt due to the actual injury. While awaiting conventional treatment, massage therapy is used to keep the animal comfortable. Because inflammation puts pressure on the skin, it becomes more irritated or sensitive. Through reduction of the swelling the animal is able to tolerate touch during the examination and breaking of the skin in a case of injection.

“Promotes healing by increasing the flow of nutrients to the muscles, and carrying away excessive fluids and toxins” is another benefit according to Equissage ( By removing toxins from the area, the medicine and body has more power to address the problem directly; the presence of unhealthy by-products may detract from the medicine’s and body’s ability to promote healing (Bonakdar, Robert and E. Bresler, David

As the blood circulates endorphins, a natural pain killer is released and helps ease discomfort from a sore area. This is important for animals as they do not understand pain but know only that they are in pain. Naturally being fearful because of the discomfort increases the difficulty to approach the animal. By promoting the endorphins as natural pain-relievers, the vet’s job is made easier as the animal will feel less fearful along with the lessening of the discomfort. Massage therapy, as it is a whole-body method, can be used during the presence of a vet. In other words the animal may need massage therapy to remain calm while the vet is applying conventional treatments, and because massage can be done on any part of the body the practitioners can work without conflicts. The vet may be on a tight schedule which means the easier the job the less time it will take; the more stressed the animal the harder it is for the vet, and the longer it takes for the examination and treatment.

Pet Massage explains that massage is used with conventional practices by relaxing the muscle to gain tone ( Massage can enhance tone in the muscles which gives the animal more strength or less muscle problems. Conventional methods use drugs and food to produce an animal with endurance. Picture the muscle as being an air bag; if there is a hard mass, which being the knotted muscle, the blood, nutrients, and conventional properties cannot fill that muscle. When the hard mass, that being the knot in the muscle, is removed blood, nutrients,, conventional properties and elasticity forms in the muscle and enables it to be exercised and strengthened. The conventional properties, that being by-products of foods or drugs for strengthening can be used to enhance their benefits.

The hoof or paw needs to be very well cared for. It is common for an animal to have feet problems that needs treatment. Putting shoes on or trimming the hoof wall or claw is used widely as conventional treatments. According to Sonya Van Veen, compensation occurs over a period of time, meaning that the soft tissues will work harder if the feet are not balanced correctly ( While correct shooing and trimming help balance the foot, it does not address the soft tissue. Massage assists in loosening pendants, ligaments, and muscles in the leg.

The hoof needs to be broad enough to support the horse’s weight. If a hoof is shod too tightly or if the hoof is trimmed incorrectly the horse has to work harder at keeping his balance. This means more stress on the pendants (which connects the muscles to the bone), ligaments (which connects the bones and organs), joints (which move to enable mobility), and muscles (which acts as pullers to move parts of the body that articulate). Massage can help loosen up the pendants, ligament, joints, and muscles. Correct shooing or trimming will help restore health to the foot. There are times when the tendon is too severely damaged to benefit from massage therapy treatments alone; when the damage is that severe surgery is practiced to “cut” the tendon. In this case massage can be used to address the general health by keeping the leg relaxed during the healing stage.

Because the muscles are what move the joint, tight muscles will create a stiff joint. In older animals, this is painful due to worn down cartilages, loose muscles will allow the joint head to separate from the socket walls (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 27). Joint supplements help produce fluids to cushion the joint. Supplements are also used as pain-relievers or muscle-relaxants. Massage therapy around the joint helps release endorphins, the body’s pain-reliever in that area (Hourdebaigt, Jean-Pierre 59). Jean-Pierre also points out that because massage stretches and loosens the muscles and pendants, it also acts as an alternative muscle-relaxant.

It is a good practice to start treating the joints at an early age (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 27) so as it has a longer, healthier lifespan. Animals that are working or competing use their body more, which requires the joints to function correctly. Introducing supplements and massage therapy early can ensure a healthy joint that articulates comfortably.

As Equissage puts it: massage is muscle therapy meant to address muscle issues from “overused, overstretched, overloaded or” being “struck”; this is common and, according to Equissage these injuries can cause “tissue lesions which in turn can cause pain and restrict motion” ( These sorts of injuries can occur for many reasons including being struck by an object, running into an obstacle, and poorly fitted equipment. Conventional methods, including resting the animal for a period of time. While the animal is recovering and receiving conventional care, massage therapy compliments by keeping the animal relaxed, quiet, and comfortable. According to Jean-Pierre “stimulation of the nerves sends relaxing impulses to the brain” (Pg. 60); this means that massage can keep the animal calm during the examination, treatment, and recovery. Being injured or handled by a vet can be stressful. Soothing the animal can help the animal better deal with “shock and pain” (Hourdebaigt, Jean-Pierre Pg. 60).

Massage therapy can compliment conventional practices when dealing with the immune system, digestive, reproductive and other organs. Conventional practices are used to keep the animal healthy. The Chinese believe that “one goes to the doctor to stay well, not to get well”; in other words massage therapy can help the conventional medicines by helping the body maintain a healthy system.

Vaccines are used to strengthen the immune system against viruses. It does this by introducing a virus into the body (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 129). According to Jean-Pierre, massage therapy helps the immune system by “applying pressure on the body driving fluids” in a certain direction (59). By doing this toxins are being pushed through the system to be removed by the body, usually through urine (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 137).

It has become common knowledge that stress can reduce the strength of the immune system. Conventional methods such as anti-anxiety medicine are used to reduce the animal’s stress. Pure nervous reflex massage or soothing massage can also help reduce stress in an animal (Hourdebaigt, Jean-Pierre Pg. 60).

Some trainers use massage to restore trust in an animal who is dealing with negative emotions associated with bad handling by humans (Do Animals have Feelings Massage, as it is positive touch, is used to help the animal become more confident. Some of the conventional methods used to help handle emotional problems are medicines and sedation drugs. Combining these methods can help keep an animal calm while being handled. Animals that tend to be anxious benefit from the conventional method, massage therapy can help put an animal to sleep (Hitchen, Lisa A shy animal can be turned around through positive touching according to Pet Massage (

In this manner “emotional” healing is applied. As the body relaxes the animal feels a sense of calm (Hitchen, Lisa According to Lisa, stress is held in the muscles through tension, and by releasing the tension a chemical balance occurs ( However massage therapy may not be enough for the animal and conventional medical chemicals are required to help correct this problem (Hitchen, Lisa

The cardiovascular system is important for the animal’s health. Animals that experience heart or blood problems can benefit from both conventional and massage methods. Certain conventional medication controls the rate of the heart muscle by relaxing it, expands the vessel and arteries to encourage blood flow, and regulate sugar in the blood. According to Sonya Van Veen, massage can help improve the oxygenation and blood pressure through light tissue massage ( The messages the sensory nerves receive influences if the parasympathetic or sympathetic system (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 161, and Noonan, Tim By using massage therapy to either excite or calm an animal (Hourbedaigt, Jean-Pierre Pg. 60) can compliment any conventional practices to do likewise. For competition animals being energized is important. Conventional practices include increasing food amounts, sugar amounts, or medicine to inhibit adrenalin. Massage therapy, using a variety of rhythms (Hourdebaigt, Jean-Pierre Pg. 60) can help perk up an animal (Sonya Van Veen,

Animals that experience stomach problems are treated conventionally. Some of these problems may include acid imbalance, cramps, and allergies. Though massage does not “correct” these problems it helps by stimulation of certain nerves and muscles (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 103). There are 2 intestines; the small intestine and the large intestine (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 103). The first is the small intestine. By stimulating the small intestine, a protein called “pepsin” and “hydrochloric” acid which assist in the digesting process (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 103). When an animal has urinary problems conventional medicines help in promoting these acids to work. The urine is what carries toxins out of the body; this in itself maintains health. Massage, through light contact can also stimulate the nerves and muscles.

Equissage suggests using massage as a means of handling stomach issues when dealing with solid waste ( According to Robert and Thomas, food passes through the small intestine into the large intestine (105). If the animal is experiencing a stomach problem, normally food is stuck in one of the intestines or a bad reaction, such as allergies, but can be used to move trapped fluids in a case of swelling. Massage does not deal with allergies but relaxing of the abdominal muscles and increase of digestion acids and proteins (105) can help ease the discomfort (Equissage, until the particle passes through or until conventional techniques are applied. Medical treatments are used to reverse bad reactions, or surgery used to remove the obstruction from the digestive track (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 105).

The respiratory system, according to Robert and Thomas, consists of many components (131-135). As Robert and Thomas describes it, Air is passed through tube-like passages into the lungs (131) and if these tubes are constricted in any manner, air flow is interrupted. Fluids circulate through the nostrils through incisive ducts (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 131), which at times may need stimulation to be balanced. According to Jean-Pierre, facial massage can help the fluids circulate (Pg. 60). Conventional medicine is used to help horses with breathing problems. Medicine is used to prevent inflammation, fluid build-ups, and relax the throat to allow for air flow. Animals that have fluid build-ups in the lungs benefit from massage to break the build-up (Hitchen, Lisa Combining both conventional and massage practices will help improve or control the health problems more efficiently.

Massage therapy helps loosen up muscles in the neck. The larynx is an important part to the respiratory system. It prevents “foreign” material from entering the larynx and controls the amount of air entering the trachea (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 133). Nerves and muscles is what controls and stimulates the larynx as a unit. Stimulation of nerves keeps them from degenerating (Hourdebaigt, Jean-Pierre Pg 74) and by using massage these nerves are stimulated while the muscles are relaxing. Conventional practices, such as punching holes into the trachea to compromise air flow can also help (Kainer, Robert A. and O. McCracken, Thomas 135).

Keeping in mind how massage can strengthen the immune system and nutrition supply it is possible for pregnant animals to receive the benefits of massage. The foetus or foetuses depending on the species being discussed can benefit from the mother’s relaxation. Blood carries the nutrients and with a smoothly flowing blood circulation the foetus receives a healthy supply. The mother can benefit from massage to help keep her joints free of stress and muscle tension. Conventional medicine, including supplements and virus protection also keeps the foetus and the mother healthy. Massage can also help with the breeding stage, as with conventional medicine. The breeding partners will be more incline to mate. Stress from being in a strange environment or faced with a strange partner can disturb the breeding process. Sedation and hormonal drugs are injected into the animal, ensuring the success of the mating. Massage and conventional practices can also help increase the hormones required for breeding. The healthier the animal, the more balanced his/her body, the higher success of producing a healthy offspring. Conventional medicine is used as insurance for these animals thus massage compliments it.

These are some of the ways massage therapy compliment conventional medical methods. Massage therapy and conventional practices can not only help with injuries or health problems but can also be used to prevent injuries and illnesses (Natural Animal Health Some of these prevention techniques include stretching before and after exercise, healthy feed, vascanation, health maintenance massage, supplements, and feet care.

Stretching the muscles, tendons, and ligaments before and after exercising can help prevent injuries. Stretching the animal’s limbs before exercising will increase blood circulation, improve the nutrition supply, and increase the oxygen supply to the muscles (Sonya Van Veen Muscles and connective tissues that are stretched out before work will enable the animal to reach out more when moving. As the soft tissues are relaxed from stretching it will have more endurance and elasticity than if they were not stretched out or warmed up (Bluemel, Ulrike Stretching the legs after the work will keep the tissues relaxed and loose, which enables continual blood circulation (Bluemel, Ulrike Both massage therapy and conventional practices use stretching as a preventative to injuries. Massage therapy and conventional practices can work harmoniously to maintain an animal’s health.


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