Physical Therapy for Disc Disease
Physical therapy can increase the likelihood of a positive result in disc disease. It can help speed healing and return to normal mobility. We recommend you set up an appointment to develop the best physical therapy plan for your pet.
PHYSICAL THERAPY EXERCISES THAT ARE HELPFUL DURING THE FIRST 3 TO 4 WEEKS
PROM – passive range of motion exercises help maintain muscles that are not being used, so that when they eventually begin walking, the muscles will still be strong enough to support them. Here the patient lies on his or her side with the side to be exercised up. Starting with the foot, the joints are flexed and extended through their natural range of motion moving up the leg all the way to the shoulder/hip. If the exercise causes discomfort (for example, dogs with bad hips are quite painful when the rear leg is extended backward), do not continue to a painful point. Ideally 10 to 15 flex/extensions are performed on each joint and this is done two to four times daily. Here is a link to a PROM video: Passive Range of Motion exercises.
Massage the area gently to improve circulation to the area. This is done as many times a day as possible during the first 3 to 5 days and after that drop to three times daily.
Sensory input is important caudal (towards the tail) to the spinal lesion. This entails tickling and pinching the toes. A withdraw reflex should be elicited. The idea is to make the dog aware of the feet.
Traction for back pain: this can help relieve pain and muscle tension. For back pain, one person stands in front of the dog with their hands behind the shoulder to stabilize. The other person puts hands in front of the thigh and slowly pulls straight back to the count of 5, then slowly releases. The first person should be stabilizing the dog to make sure they do not move. If the dog struggles, stop traction. This should be done 3 times, twice daily.
Cervical Traction: this is done in the same manner, except that the stabilizing person stands behind the dog with hands in front of the shoulders to resist as the other person stands in front of the dog and places their hands behind the jaws and gently pulls to the count of 5.
PHYSICAL THERAPY EXERCISES THAT ARE HELPFUL AFTER THE INITIAL 3 TO 4 WEEKS CONFINEMENT PERIOD OR WITH MORE CHRONIC DISC CASES
Stand the dog up and see how long it takes before he has to sit or lie down. Do not push the dog to exhaustion. For example, if he sits after 30 seconds then the standing exercise should be 20 seconds. Assist standing as needed.
Stand the dog and gently push him to one side. Do five repetitions, three times a day. This is a balance exercise.
Have the dog sit and then stand. Do five repetitions, three times a day. This is a strengthening exercise.
While the dog is walking, follow along and gently pinch the tip of the tail. This also improves awareness of where the limbs and tail are.
Walk the dog on lumpy ground. An obstacle course can be made by putting broomsticks or a ladder on the ground, setting up a wastebasket to walk around etc. The dog should be walked through this three times daily.