Compensation, when referred to in rehabilitative health care, is referencing the body's response to an area of the body that is suffering from some sort of discomfort. The body seeks to remove or reduce the sensation of pain in the damaged area by ceasing movement in the affected area and shifting away from that area. This means the centre of gravity changes and the balance of the body is shifted away from the painful area to healthier areas that are suffering less (or no) discomfort.
This shift occurs in the opposite direction and the opposite side in relation to the painful area. It is a counterbalancing of the structure or function of one part of the body by increasing activity or muscle development in another or other parts of the body. For example, if a dog is suffering from arthritis in her right hip, she will shift her weight forward to her front assembly (opposite direction), and most of the weight towards her left forelimb (opposite side).
Compensation protects the injured area and allows for healing, but this counterbalancing asks the body structure to perform tasks it is not originally intended to handle. Over an extended period of time, the compensating structures, while allowing healing in other areas, are themselves weakened and fatigued, leaving them susceptible to dysfunction and injury. This is why massage therapy is crucial in relieving this overused area (however temporary this overuse may be).
But in the winter, due to the possibility of inactivity (too cold for walks, or long walks, or playtime) coupled with cold temperatures potentially causing stiffness, massage becomes that much more important. To avoid injury, particularly when compensation is a factor, joints must be lubricated and muscle tension eased so that range of motion is optimal. The healthier your pet’s range of motion is, the less likely they are to be injured. So, let’s not let the cold get in the way of your pet’s wellness!
Regan is a certified Canine Massage Therapist (CCMT), has certification in First Aid and CPR for Pets, and some beginner training in Herbal Remedies and Aromatherapy for personal use.