All Too Common Tendon Problems
Difficulties occurring due to tendon damage will unfortunately be an experience that most horse carers will encounter with their equine companions at one time or another. Tendons play a significant role in producing locomotion for the horse and are vital for the horse to continue in any athletic pursuits.
Understandably, when tendons are injured or inflamed the horse will be out of action for a period of weeks to months depending on the severity of the problem, while they are given the necessary treatment and time to heal. Sadly, a number of tendon injuries fail to recover to their original integrity and the result may lead to an unsound horse.
Factors that can lead to poor tendon stability include a lack of conditioning, poor footing such as slippery ground, deep sand or snow, and uneven surfaces, unbalanced feet, defective conformation, and the increased mechanical loading that is seen in activities such as jumping, racing, polo, and reining events, etc. A fatigued horse will also lose tendon support when the corresponding muscles become exhausted or overloaded. Beware of shoe caulks and studs that don't allow the feet to make smooth departures in lifting and advancing forward or making turns when they get stuck in heavy going.
Optimum tendon health requires good management, conditioning and training to stimulate elasticity and resist excessive strain. Homoeopathic therapy can help promote tendon strength and flexibility by addressing the whole horse's health needs at a constitutional level. Raising the complete health profile of the horse makes him less susceptible to certain troubles or weaknesses.
However, even the healthiest tendons will still sustain injuries from excessive or sudden loading, damage from direct injuries such as blows or lacerations, and inflammations that involve the tendon (tendonitis) or the tendon and its sheath (tenosynovitis). Certain wounds or injuries that produce a large degree of scar tissue may also interfere with the action of a tendon.
Homoeopathy can be of great assistance to accelerate a rapid recovery by reducing inflammation, encouraging fibrin tissue repair and realignment of a reliable collagen matrix once more, while minimising adhesions and scar tissue formation.
Any lameness, heat, sensitivity, and filling of the tendons detected should be treated with suspicion and acted on immediately. While awaiting a veterinary inspection for a diagnosis of the apparent problem you can administer homoeopathic remedies to provide instant help.
Cold water hosing or icing of the affected leg and limiting motion should be the first line of therapy. Homoeopathic remedies will help prevent further damage by assisting in controlling swelling and local haemorrhaging. A light pressure bandage may also be applied until the veterinarian arrives. Be sure not to wrap the bandage too tightly or circulation may be compromised. A useful guide is that the bandage is applied at half-stretch tension.
Once the acute inflammatory stage has subsided, other remedies will be required to continue treatment. Selection of these remedies will be according to the most current symptom picture as it changes through the various stages of convalescence. Reconditioning exercises will be of great importance during the recovery period. Please ask your veterinarian for recommendations of a program of activities suitable to encourage healing. These may include some passive motion exercises. Warm-up and cool-down methods will also be imperative.
The following remedies are but a few of the most common remedies that can help your horse and are by no means a comprehensive listing. For further considerations please consult your Materia Medica. For extra professional help you are advised to seek the services of your classical homoeopath or homoeopathic veterinarian.
Some Tendon Remedy Options:
ACONITE...handy for initial
use in sudden ailments of violent and painful nature. The horse
may exhibit fear, restlessness, tossing, flushing and/or palpitation.
Fitting for the acute inflammatory stage of a tendon condition.
If the problem has arisen after exposure to cold, dry wind, or after
shock or fear, this is a strong indication for using the remedy.
Frequently used alternated with Belladonna for flare-ups of chronic
complaints where there is anxiety, suddenness of symptoms, violence
of symptoms, fever, bounding pulse and shining eyes.
Worse - dry cold winds, or chill; exposure to extreme hot or cold surroundings; fright, shock or emotional trauma; during the night; overheated, stuffy stables; lying on painful areas
Better - fresh air; sweating
APIS MEL...a leader in oedematous swellings! Useful for the stocking up of legs that can be seen in tendon complaints. Give for musculoskeletal inflammations where there is heat and puffy swellings, especially when joint bursa is affected. The site will be hot and sensitive to touch. The horse will have little to no thirst. If treating swelling that is not hot and is cool to touch then Ledum may be a better choice.
Worse - from heat in any form; being touched; pressure applied to injured area; late afternoon; after sleeping
Better - in the open air; uncovering; cold hosing
ARNICA...a first aid essential
for bruising, shock, accidents or trauma of any kind. It aids in
reducing blood loss, encourages reabsorption of blood from bruised
tissues, and encourages healing of wounds. Also helpful after tendon
surgery if required. If the tendon becomes overused during convalescence
give as needed. The site is very sensitive to touch with the horse
showing general stiffness and weariness. Pains and discomfort are
worse at night and for exposure to cold, damp conditions. The horse
can appear intolerant of company or being fussed over, i.e. he prefers
to be left alone.
Worse - overexposure to heat or sunlight; too much exercise; movement; damp and cold; being touched; being approached
Better - resting with the head lower than the body
BRRx (Bach's Rescue Remedy)...another
essential first aid remedy for ANY form of shock, fear or trauma
be it pre or post an event. Use immediately after an incident for
both the patient and the onlooker/carer. Give a few doses pre and
post surgical procedures, or before a horse is required to travel
when in discomfort. This is a very safe remedy that can be used
for any first aid situation!
*Note - if the patient is not conscious please DO NOT put drops or pillules in the mouth, as they could aspirate down the windpipe. Just rub or spray drops onto the skin around the face, muzzle, and forehead or behind the ears (for humans on the face, behind the ears, or on the back of the wrists). Pillules may be crushed between two spoons and the powder can then be placed behind the lip for mucous membranes to absorb.
of sudden and violent onset such as the sudden acute of a bowed
tendon, or ruptured superficial flexor tendon. Pains are throbbing
and pulsating in nature with burning and heat. The horse may be
exhibiting distress or aggressive mental symptoms from the extreme
sensitiveness to touch and pain, jarring, light and noise. This
remedy frequently accompanies Aconite.
Worse - at 3pm; on the right side of the body (i.e. near fore tendon inflammation); from light, looking at shiny objects; being around running water; after a clip or wash; noise; jarring
Better - leaning the head against something; and from a light covering
BRYONIA...for a tendon condition
that is worse for the slightest movement. Primarily used in the
acute stages of treatment for painful limbs and joints where the
horse resists any movement. The horse will appreciate support bandages
and appear better for them. Mucous membranes of the mouth and lips
can be dry and the horse may seek large, cold drinks at long intervals.
Worse - the slightest movement or motion; warmth; evenings; morning on rising; after eating
Better - rest (no movement); pressure (bandaging); lying on the painful side
CALC FLUOR...for tendon ailments
due to straining or over-stretching with general stiffness. Effective
for swellings and hard nodes in ligaments/ tendons, adhesions, periosteum
damage, and connective tissue repair. Given post surgery helps reduce
the tendency to adhesions. Occasionally, the horse may have a craving
Worse - during rest; on beginning motion; changes of weather; sprains
Better - heat, warm applications; rubbing; continued motion
CAUSTICUM...one of the main
remedies for contracted tendons. Slow, insidiously developing symptoms
following a period of stress and/or generally becoming run-down.
A general state of debility and growing exhaustion that originally
led to the horse becoming susceptible to tendon contraction will
be a good indication for this remedy. The horse has a strong desire
to rest and take it easy. Pains are characteristically raw, burning,
sore and cramping. They may occur anywhere in the body. He may become
suspicious or irritable while unwell.
Worse - after bathing; the onset of cold weather; dry, cold, east winds; cold draughts; violent or abrupt changes of temperature; at night; on waking; travelling
Better - having cold drinks; becoming warm; warm, damp weather
LEDUM...a specific for puncture
wounds of any kind. Think of this remedy for puncture injuries to
tendons or tendon sheaths from a stick or nail. Pains are characteristically
sharp and stabbing and tend to shift about, often moving in an ascending
fashion from lower parts to upper parts. Affected areas become swollen
and taut, often with fluid retention (like Apis mel, but cool to
touch). This remedy has an unusual characteristic symptom of chilly,
painful, stiff areas being soothed by cool bathing or cold compresses.
The horse can be withdrawn, cross and irritable.
Worse - at night; warmth, being well-wrapped, heat of stable bedding; walking
Better - cool bathing, compresses, or ice applied to the region; contact with cool air; resting
RHUS TOX...for discomfort or
pain when sore and stiff at the beginning of motion but improves
with continued motion i.e. looser once warmed up. Useful for all
manners of tendon complaints, especially tendonitis, at a later
stage than the acuteness of a Bryonia stage where the horse is most
resistant to move about. The horse is restless and wants to change
position all the time. Though better for constant motion he soon
tires and must rest again which in turn becomes restlessness. The
mental state of the horse is worse in the stable and better outdoors
in the field.
Worse - cold damp weather, after rain, exposure to wet; getting chilled or being hot and sweaty; at night; beginning of motion; before a storm
Better - continued motion; heat, hot bathing; stretching limbs; walking
RUTA GRAV...for any damage to
tendons, ligaments, muscles, periosteum of bone, cartilage, and
connective tissue. Quite specific to lameness after sprains, especially
of the lower limb, and for damaged tendon sheaths. There is pain
on bending the joints, perhaps with cracking in the joints. Most
favourable for injuries from overuse. Think of this remedy for contracted
hamstrings (also Causticum). Pains as if bruised, sore, and aching
with restlessness. The horse is easily tired from physical exertion.
He may be suspicious or fretful and / or have an increased thirst
for cold water that he drinks much and often.
Worse - from movement of any kind; climbing up or down hills; cold, wet weather or dampness
Better - warmth; rubbing or scratching the area
SYMPHYTUM...is a principal remedy
for bone injuries. However, it is also very useful for blunt trauma
injuries to tendons, anything pertaining to the periosteum, cartilage
damage, phantom limb pain, torn ligaments or tendons. The patient
is better for warmth and rest with gentle motion. Symphytum is complementary
to Ruta grav and may be used in alternation with it. Arnica is most
suited to soft tissue injury and Symphytum to hard tissue injury.
Worse - after the injury; blows from blunt instruments; being touched; motion, walking; pressure
Better - warmth; rest; gentle motion
Homoeopathic remedies are most effective when the symptoms and the remedy picture are closely matched. While the above remedies are indicated for tendon problems, they are not limited to these problems, nor are the problems limited to these remedies. Considering the type of condition and the nature of the horse as a whole, a professional homoeopath can give the best guidance on which remedy most accurately fits the patient for the most promising results.
This article is for educational purposes and in no way replaces veterinary advice or treatment. Always call your veterinarian when serious events arise. If you desire to follow a holistic path then I would recommend that you obtain approval from your veterinarian to seek the professional services of a qualified classical homeopath or other certified holistic health practitioner.
About the author:
Tanya Nolte lives in NSW, Australia where she keeps a number of horses and also an interesting array of other furry animal companions. Tan is a veterinary nurse of 8 years and a classical homoeopath of 7 conducting consultations at the veterinary clinic, a human clinic, and privately. Along with acquiring her Diploma in Homoeopathy she also successfully completed 2 years in the Medical Sciences of Anatomy and Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathophysiology, Symptomatology and Differential Diagnoses. She is a professional member of the Australian Homoeopathic Association, the official Australian Registrar of Homoeopaths, and the Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia for which she is also a committee member. Although specialising in equine health, Tan also works with all our other animal companions. Tan is available for distance consultations via phone, regular mail or email.
For more information, and to find a homoeopath near you:
Tanya Nolte, Classical EquiHomoeopath.
Whispering Horse Therapies
PO Box 170, Nimbin
NSW 2480, Australia
Phone 02 66897296
Australian Homoeopathic Association
PO Box 396 Drummoyne
NSW 1470, Australia
Phone 02 97192763
Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia
PO Box 202, Ormond, Melbourne
Vic 3204, Australia
Phone 03 59688100
The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
751 N.E. 168th Street
North Miami Beach, FL 33162-2427
National Center for Homeopathy
801 North Fairfax St., Suite 306
Alexandria, VA 22314
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
2214 Old Emmorton Road
Bel Air, MD 21015