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Animal Rehabilitation with Fascial Release

Animal Rehabilitation with Fascial Release

Some of the most recent advances in animal rehabilitation have been made in the field of fascial release. Thomas Myers is credited with mapping the fascial lines of the human body, which he documented in his book “Anatomy Trains.” In 2014 Dr. Elbrønd and Dr. Schultz made similar revolutionary discoveries in horses and dogs. Fascia has become the new frontier of anatomical research. Long overlooked, fascia is finally being recognized for its vital role in proprioception, force dispersion, and overall health of an organism.

Clara Medalen

Clara Medalen

In school we are taught anatomy in the classic way by memorizing origins and insertions of muscles. In this model tendons anchor muscles to bone in a specific location. However, tendons do not insert into bone. Rather they insert into a connective tissue apparatus with anywhere between 15% and 85% of the fibers extending past the designated insertion point (Lundquist, 2019). This connective tissue apparatus connects the entire body and provides a blueprint to understanding patterns of subluxation, tension and degeneration in the body through its interconnectedness.

The fascial lines of animals mirror those of humans with very few exceptions. The Superficial Ventral Line (SVL), Superficial Dorsal Line (SDL) and Lateral Line (LL) forms a ring that balances the dorsal, ventral and lateral portions of the quadruped. The Spiral Line (SL) and Functional Line (FL) are helical and control axial spinal rotation (Elbrønd, 2014). The only lines yet to be mapped in animals are the deep lines.

Fascial lines are part of the greater connective tissue apparatus that joins together the entire body. It is highly innervated and plays a vital role in sending information to the brain. Dispersed throughout the fascia are touch receptors. The three main types of receptors are free nerve endings, Pacini corpuscles, and Ruffini receptors (Coren, 2019).

Free nerve endings make up the largest percentage of receptors in the fascia. They outnumber the other receptors 7:1 and feed information to the Insula of the brain, resulting in pain relief. They can be activated manually or with an instrument. The stroke used is called feathering and consists of very light, fast strokes (Coren, 2019). This technique is applied away from the area of complaint so as not to heighten the brain’s awareness of the painful tissue.

Pacini corpuscles are used to upregulate the brain’s awareness of an area to improve proprioception. These receptors respond quickly to pressure changes and so the technique used is a quick, gentle, oscillating stroke. Ruffini, on the other hand, are slow-responding receptors. When activated they decrease tone by increasing parasympathetic activity. Steady, deep pressure is used to relax the area and increase glide of fascial layers over one another (Coren, 2019).

Fascial release can accomplish many different outcomes. It can decrease pain before an adjustment or increase the effectiveness of rehabilitation post adjustment. This is a safe, pain-free modality to use on pets since the purpose is to influence the nervous system. Fascia is now being understood to be the largest sensory-rich organ in the body (Coren, 2019). It plays a tremendous role in the health of an animal and increases our understanding of the brain’s role in rehab.

This article first appeared in the February 2020 issue of Lifelines, the Life West student magazine.


Lundquist D. Analysis and Treatment of Equine Fascial Lines. American Veterinary Chiropractic Association 2019 Annual Conference. 2019Nov8;:138–49.

Elbrønd V, Schultz R. Myofascial Kinetic Lines in Horses. Equine Veterinary Journal [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2020Jan20];46:40–. Available from: https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/evj.12267_121

Coren W.Improving Canine Mobility Using IASTM Techniques. American Veterinary Chiropractic Association 2019 Annual Conference. 2019Nov8;:21-27.

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