Human and equine manual lymphatic drainage

Equine MLD

While the human lymphatic system responds well to MLD, horses tend to respond better due to their having a much thinner subcutaneous layer. As a result, the deep lymphatic collectors can be more easily activated. In horses, the lymphatic vessels have less smooth muscle fibre than in humans, but they have a significantly higher amount of elastic fibres. This is believed to be necessary because horses have no muscles below the knee or hock to assist them in moving the lymph. They rely heavily upon elastic fibres being able to move freely and are assisted by a “pump” mechanism from the hoof and fetlock joint.

The interior of equine lymphatic vessels also contain myofibroblast “pacemaker” cells which have been shown recently to assist a horse’s lymphatic fluid move whilst at rest and can be likened to the peristaltic action within the intestines. Horses have the highest number of lymph nodes of any known animal (approximately 8,000). As lymphatic fluid slows down as it enters a node, there are a greater number of potential bottlenecks which can reduce the rate of lymph flow.

Horses that are stabled for long periods of time or confined to box rest suffer from a significant decrease in the capacity to transport lymph effectively around the body. Recent research at The University of Hannover has shown that there are large numbers of lymph vessels situated within the actual tendons of horses and that MLD treatment after tendon injury is extremely effective in aiding recovery times.

Equine MLD is effective in:

  • Faster recovery and reduction of pain and swelling (oedema) in tendon injuries
  • Promoting healing of bruising and haematomas
  • Reduction in oedema from post operative causes (castration, colic operations, etc)
  • Increasing healing rates of ulcers, proud skin, wounds, burns and encourages the breakdown of scar tissue
  • Reduction in recovery times after strenuous exertion, leading to less pain and stiffness
  • Reducing formation of fibrosis after bouts of cellulitis
  • Assisting in easing the discomfort of arthritis
  • Treatment of swollen legs, lymphoedema and elephantiasis