The connective tissue includes tendons and ligaments. Tendons attach skeletal muscles to bone; their basic function is to transmit the muscle’s force to the bone to produce movement. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect two bones or areas of cartilage, or hold a joint together.
Tendons are comprised of collagen. Tenocytes are specialized tendon cells responsible for synthesizing elastin and proteoglycans. The collagen fibers in tendons make the tendons extremely strong, but not as elastic as ligaments, which contain fewer collagen fibers.
Both tendons and ligaments have little in the way of blood supply, so they tend to lack the resources of oxygen and nutrients that speed healing in other parts of the body.
According to Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the ideal approach to musculoskeletal wellness includes different gaits and speeds performed on a variety of surfaces and terrains to provide limbs with a diverse loading pattern. When exercising horses, Clayton recommends that we “avoid doing the same type of exercise in the same arena day after day because this type of repetitive training may lead to an overuse injury, such as a bowed tendon or pulled suspensory.”
Foods that support connective tissue
Chia seeds are high in the amino acid proline, which is the major constituent of collagen. Chia also is a good food source of lysine essential for the production of hydroxylysine, another key component of collagen.
Oranges supply vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which are essential in the synthesis of collagen.
Bovine colostrum provides over 70 different growth factors for cellular support and repair.
Smectite and bentonite clays provide silica, an important cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and elastin fibers.
Kale provides sulfur, another important co-factor for the synthesis of collagen and elastin fibers.
Lentils provide the amino acid methionine, essential for nucleic acid and collagen production.
Treatments for improving circulation
Circulation is a critical component to healing. Because the blood supply available to tendons and ligaments is limited, increasing circulation is a highly valuable therapy for musculoskeletal health, including connective tissue.
One of the most widely used modalities for increasing circulation is extracorporeal shock wave treatment (ESWT), which uses an acoustic pressure wave that can penetrate tissue. Research has shown the efficacy of ESWT therapy for connective tissue injuries by increasing circulation and stimulating fibroblasts, the cells necessary in repairing tendons and ligaments.
Cold laser therapy is another modality that can increase circulation, using either cold-wave lasers or cold-pulse lasers. Cold-wave lasers emit a single uninterrupted light beam. This laser is sometimes referred to as an acupuncture laser and is often used in place of needles. Cold-pulse lasers are for deeper tissue penetration. This type of therapy involves the laser emitting red and infrared light at high-energy output levels for short bursts of time. Cold-pulse lasers improve micro- circulation and, due to the improved blood flow that results, more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the tissues.
Electromagnetic therapy is a modality that combines the flow of electrical current with magnets or a coil of wire. This is not the same as static magnet fields (what we commonly find in blankets and wraps with magnets in them). Electromagnetic therapy has a stronger magnetic field that may be able to penetrate deeper into soft tissue and bone. Static magnet fields also increase circulation, but over longer periods of time.
Ceramic fabric therapy is another form of circulation support, using material that can reflect body heat as an infrared wave, maintaining blood circulation.
Vibration therapy is growing in popularity. Vibration therapy refers to the use of vibration plates. This therapy improves circulation and increases oxygen uptake. It also helps maintain bone density. Theraplate, Vitafloor and Equivibe are the most prominent names in vibration therapy.
Foods for circulation
Combining healing modalities with specific foods can accelerate healing of connective tissue, and reduce layup time.
Nitric oxide is the master circulatory molecule—the Big Kahuna of circulation—and the amino acid arginine is a substrate for nitric oxide production. Foods high in arginine include pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, oranges, brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast, and amla (also known as Indian Gooseberry). By stimulating nitric oxide production, the body can deliver more nutrients and oxygen to tissues.
Ginger is a food that is a vasodilator, increasing the flow of blood to tissues that need it the most. The combination of ginger extract and foods high in arginine is the formula for BioStar’s Furnace EQ. Furnace was the first formula I developed to help my horse Lionheart recover from inflammation of the bursa. It is the formula that was the wake-up call to me that food works. It is the formula that started BioStar.
Supportive foods, passive circulation support with materials such as magnets and ceramic fibers, and exercising the horse on different surfaces are all important factors in maintaining healthy connective tissues. For convenience, BioStar provides the supportive foods part of the equation in one formula: Ligatend EQ.
If your horse does injure a tendon or ligament, different modalities like sound waves, lasers, electromagnetic fields and vibration are important to the healing process, as are the specific foods that support repair and increase circulation: BioStar’s Ligatend and BioStar’s Furnace.