Typical injuries in sled dogs: Part 3

In Part 3 of our series, Typical Injuries in Sled Dogs. Geir Wiik discusses Trigger Points, their causes and their treatment. 

Text: Geir Wiik. Photo: Marte Stensland Jørgensen

Trigger Points

I think it is smart to address a condition that is also one of my hobbies. The condition is defined as an area of a muscle that has increased activity, but reduced blood flow. The muscle then develops an point with an accumulation of waste products and cramps in the muscle fibers. This is called a trigger point in my line of work. Trigger points are often the same as knots in the muscle, and a lecturer once claimed that 70% of acupuncture points are also trigger points. At my office I have two “bibles” at around 700 pages each, concerning trigger points in people, but that amount of detail would be excessive here!

The important thing to know is that these points are called trigger points because they “trigger” a reaction in a different part in the body. Active trigger points can cause symptoms which give the impression of different serious illnesses. In humans, an active trigger point can cause lameness in a foot, sciatica like pain, headaches, numbness Etc. Etc. Trigger points occur often because of overuse, and can actually become permanent without proper treatment.

Here is a scenario:

Perhaps you have a lead dog who is experiencing headaches because of a crash with a tree last year.
Usually trigger points will go away on their own with normal activity levels. Active trigger points can be treated in many ways such as, deep static pressure, acupuncture, injections of saline or local anesthesia, stretching, and massage. Another possible cause for active trigger points is a direct impact with the sled, another dog or a stump. This type of injury can be extremely painful there and then. The muscle is incapacitated for a short period by pain, and the dog can be lame in the 5th degree, meaning that the dog will not put any weight on the leg or will lay down without being able to move if the impact was against the body. This can seem very dramatic, but if there is no swelling, the dog can be back on its feet and ready to go without any treatment after only a few minutes. It sometimes helps to massage a little but over the point of impact. This has the same effect as blowing on a child’s “injured” finger or spraying a football player’s thigh with ice spray.

Trigger points are a fairly common mechanism of injury for spinal malfunctions such as we touched on in Part 1. It can therefore be smart to check the dog the following day by making sure that the dogs is moving as it should be. If the muscle is swollen than it is injured and needs rest. The same rule applies if the dog is limping.

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