Physical rehabilitation can increase the likelihood of a successful recovery after injury.1,2 Restoration and maintenance of normal movement minimize the need for compensatory movement and the potential for injury elsewhere.3 Specific exercises can be used to maintain or increase ROM and muscle strength to ensure clinically normal joint mechanics.4 For example, the rehabilitation program for a dog with an elbow joint disorder may include stair and ramp exercises to increase ROM initially, but those exercises can also be used to increase strength and challenge the balance and proprioception of the affected limb.2
The use of steps or ramps in rehabilitation programs for dogs is well documented.4–6 Ascending steps or ramps (ascending exercises) increases the ROM for the shoulder, elbow, carpal, hip, stifle, and tarsal joints and strengthens the muscles used to propel the dog forward and upward.5,7 Ascending or descending steps or ramps is commonly recommended for rehabilitation programs for human patients, but to our knowledge, the application and efficacy of descending steps or ramps (descending exercises) in rehabilitation programs for dogs have not been investigated. More evidence is required to ensure informed practice to support the effects and use of steps and ramps in veterinary rehabilitation programs.8
Understanding the biomechanical effects of descending exercises in healthy dogs is necessary to promote evidence-based practice through the establishment of baseline ROM for various joints and is vital for veterinarians and physiotherapists to ensure that the exercises prescribed as part of rehabilitation programs are accurate and facilitate patient recovery. In dogs, the kinematics of the TL have been described during ascending exercises,5 and the kinematics of the PL have been described during both ascending7 and descending6 exercises. Descending exercises increase the ROM of the limbs and challenge balance and proprioception,4,9 which makes them useful for the treatment of various conditions at various stages of rehabilitation to promote and restore clinically normal function.10 It is believed that, in dogs, the TL is mainly responsible for braking momentum on a downhill slope.5 The kinetic load increases in the TLs of horses trotting on downhill slopes, which supports the theory that the TL is responsible for braking momentum during descending excercises5,11; however, that theory has yet to be investigated in dogs. Therefore, the purpose of the study reported here was to compare the ROM of the joints of the TL of healthy dogs during descent of stairs and a ramp with those during a trot across a flat surface (control), exercises that are routinely recommended for HEPs.
This manuscript represents part of a thesis submitted by Nadia L. Kopec to Hartpury College as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master of Science degree.
No third-party funding or support was received in connection with this study or the writing or publication of the manuscript. The authors declare that there were no conflicts of interest.
Center of mass
Home exercise program
Range of movement
HX-WA3 camcorder, Panasonic, Kadoma, Osaka, Japan.
ProSuite Software 8, Dartfish, Fribourg, Switzerland.
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