Dr. Michael Petty, DVM, is the author of Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs: The Complete Medical and Integrative Guide to Treating Pain (Countryman Press, February 2016). He is a veterinarian and certified veterinary pain management expert and acupuncturist. As the owner of the Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital and the Animal Pain Center in Canton, Michigan, he has devoted his professional life to the care and well-being of animals. The Animal Pain Center which is a referral facility treating acute, chronic, and post-surgical pain and conditions with the use of acupuncture, rehabilitation, myofascial trigger point therapy along with more traditional pharmaceutical interventions.
Dr. Petty is the past president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and the co-author of the AAHA/AAFP 2015 Pain Guidelines. A frequent speaker and consultant, he has published articles in veterinary journals and serves in an advisory capacity to several pharmaceutical companies on topics of pain management. He has lectured both nationally and internationally on pain management topics.
Within this sphere of care, he has expanded his knowledge to encompass the most up-to-date and compassionate treatments available. These special skills consist of certification in pain management from several esteemed organizations, including: Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner, Certified Medical Veterinary Acupuncture, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist, and Diplomate, American Academy of Pain Management.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a common yet poorly understood problem that is a secondary source of pain most commonly in animals with chronic pain conditions such as osteoarthritis, but they also occur secondary to acute injuries; whether by accident or intention as in the case of surgery. Understanding and treating myofascial pain often makes the difference between success and failure in these conditions.
When an area of the body is painful, it is second nature to assume unnatural positions in order to take the pressure off of that area. For example, if a dog has hip dysplasia and the accompanying arthritic changes, there is a tendency to weight shift toward the front legs and to favor as much as possible one or both hind legs. The low level muscle contractions necessary to affect this weight shift are always carried out by the same muscle fibers within the muscles doing the action.
This is a phenomenon we have all experienced when trying to screw a light bulb into a socket above our heads…the strength required to do so is minimal, so only a few muscle fibers are recruited to do the job, and if we have trouble threading the bulb into the socket our arm quickly becomes painful and tired. Imagine having a painful leg and always using a few muscle fibers to protect that leg. The cramping and painful feeling your pet experiences can become permanent. This is then called Myofascial Pain Syndrome.
Luckily, there is a solution. When these muscle fibers be come permanently contracted, producing pain and muscle dysfunction, the trained practitioner can palpate and treat them. This usually involves something called dry needling: an acupuncture needle is placed within these muscle fibers in an area called the trigger point. The trigger point is so named because when it is needled, it causes a reflex reaction and a visible twitch occurs as the muscle fibers relax. This brings immediate relief to the patient. Myofascial Pain Syndrome should be considered in any animal who is not responding, at least as expected, to other pain therapies.