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Quality Care for Tendons and Ligaments

by Dr. Eleanor Kellon

Tendons and ligaments play critical roles in the musculoskeletal system. Feed them well and treat them kindly.

Tendons and ligaments are specialized forms of connective tissue. Tendons connect muscle to bone. Ligaments are anchored on bone at both ends. Both are composed of interwoven strands of type I collagen protein in a structure much like a rope. They are built to resist stretch, but both structures do stretch.

Tendons facilitate movement by pulling on bones when a muscle contracts. Stretching that occurs (e.g. when the fetlock drops during weight bearing) has an effect similar to pulling on a rubber band. When the stretch is released, the tendon snaps back to its original length, and this assists the pull of the muscle.

Ligaments are meant to restrict movement. They are able to dissipate their stress because they contain strands of elastin, a protein which can deform then resume its original shape.

Overstretching can damage any tendon or ligament. Fatigue and working in deep footing are further risk factors, as are toe grabs or overly long toes and shoes with bars or heel extensions that delay breakover. Age and PPID (Cushing's disease) also weaken these structures.

On the nutritional end, adequate protein in general is needed for connective tissue health and maintenance. The essential amino acid lysine is especially important because strengthening linkages in collagen and cross-links in elastin occur where lysine is located in their structure.

A good broad-based supplement that provides the following nutrients, many of which are commonly deficient, is an inexpensive and common-sense way to support the health of tendon and ligament tissue.

  • Vitamin C and copper are two nutrients critical to maintaining the integrity and strength of these tissues.
  • Magnesium deficiency has been found to cause a dramatic reduction in the protein content of tendons.
  • Collagen from animals with vitamin E deficiency is deficient in strengthening cross-linkages.
  • Zinc deficiency slows the rate of collagen production.

Research has discovered that nitric oxide is critical to processes that maintain the normal integrity of tendons and ligaments under and after stress. This is particularly important for athletic horses. The herb Jiaogulan is potent support for the generation of nitric oxide in pathways that help promote homeostasis and healthy tissue.

Tendons and ligaments also benefit from good old-fashioned hands on care. Exercise is normally accompanied by a degree of inflammation. This is how tissues receive the signal to strengthen their structures and antioxidant defenses. The process is temporary but sometimes causes discomfort, heat and edema.

Simply massaging the tissue or water therapy with pressure is soothing because it facilitates blood delivery to the tissues. Adding a liniment with the right ingredients can boost the benefits:

  • Aloe Vera, Chamomile, Arnica and Comfrey are proven to contribute to the homeostatic balancing of inflammatory reactions
  • Lavender essential oil gently supports circulation

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers supplements that support healthy connective tissue.

Jiaogulan supports circulation in the feet, which nourishes the tissue. Jiaogulan strongly supports activity of endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase. This enzyme resides in the lining of blood vessels. It synthesizes Nitric Oxide, a simple gas that is a potent dilating agent that promotes a healthy inflammatory response.

Vitamin C promotes the body’s innate resistance to pathogens and protects against damaging free radicals to maintain a healthy inflammatory response. Horses in need of tendon and ligament support may also benefit from Vitamin C supplementation, since it is important to the formation of collagen, the major protein in those tissues.

Cool Muscle Liniment soothes and cools muscles and supports normal, healthy blood flow, but is gentle the coat and skin. With an all-natural 100% Aloe Vera juice base and hand tinctured herbs. Lavender Essential Oil gently encourages normal blood flow, and Comfrey Leaf supports a balanced inflammatory reaction. Organic Rosemary Extract provides antioxidant action and normal muscle relaxation

Equi VM is a vitamin and trace mineral formula concentrated source of vitamins, time-released trace minerals, abundant probiotics, and digestive enzymes for horses of all life stages and activity levels.

About Dr. Kellon

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier. On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances.

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