Sprains and Strains
Although most of us will experience a sprain or a strain at some point in our lives, very few people know the difference between the two kinds of injuries. A strain is what’s commonly referred to as a “pulled muscle.” As its name implies, a strain occurs when a muscle is overstressed by too much weight or by overuse. The injured mus- cle ﬁbers may go into spasm, form knots, or swell up. If you have a strained muscle, you may feel a sharp pain when you try to use it, or you may experience a dull throb in the affected area. When muscles knot or spasm, the pain can be constant and severe. The worst symptoms of a strain will usually subside after a week, but they may leave behind an ache that lingers as long as a month.
Sprains, contrary to what most people believe, are not the result of muscle injury. In this case, the damage is done to a ligament, which is a band of ﬁbrous connective tissue that holds bones together at the joints. When a ligament is overstressed, it may tear or stretch out of its normal position. You may even hear a snapping or popping sound at the time of injury. Not surprisingly, sprains cause immediate, acute pain. Once the ﬁrst shock of pain passes, it is replaced by swelling and extreme soreness and sensitivity. In most cases, putting weight on the affected joint is out of the ques- tion. With proper treatment, the swelling goes away after about a week, but you may have pain for several weeks longer. The joint will usually feel stiff for months to come.
Most strains and sprains respond well to rest and home care, but you should be alert for signs that your injury needs a doctor’s attention. If the pain is unbearable and if you can’t move the joint, you may have a broken or fractured bone. Instead of going to bed, visit a doctor’s ofﬁce or the emergency room. Other red ﬂags are discolored joints or severe swelling that doesn’t go down after a few days.
Although sprains and strains are quite common, you can reduce your chances of injuring a muscle or a ligament. First, get some exercise on a regular basis. People who don’t use their muscles and bones regularly are far more prone to damaging them. Second, always warm up your muscles before engaging in an activity. Stretch gently and ease into the movement. Finally, use common sense: Don’t lift objects that are too heavy for you, and don’t participate in activities that are painful.
SYMPTOMS OF STRAINS
• Acute pain when the muscle is in use
• A dull throb at other times
• Muscle spasms or knots
SYMPTOMS OF SPRAINS
• Severe pain at time of injury, sub- siding into soreness
• Joint discoloration (indicative of a serious sprain)
• Overstressing muscles or liga- ments, usually through lifting, exercise, or by accident
• Imbalance in oppositional muscles
• Nutritional deﬁciencies, making one more susceptible to injury
Emergency Care for Sprains and Strains
When you suspect that you’ve experienced a strain or a sprain, it helps to take quick action. The following simple techniques, if used immedi- ately after the injury, will promote faster healing and can greatly reduce the amount and the dura- tion of pain.
1. If you experience severe pain, signiﬁcant swelling, discoloration at the site, or any of the following symptoms, get to a doctor as soon as possible. Be especially careful with injuries to the wrist or the ankle; these body parts are relatively delicate and vulnerable to fractures.
2. To reduce swelling and pain, apply an ice pack or a cold compress to the injured area. In a pinch, you can place some ice cubes in a plastic bag and then wrap the package up in a clean towel. You can even use a box of
frozen vegetables. Just be sure that the ice doesn’t touch your skin directly; otherwise, you’ll have a sprain or a strain and frostbite. Keep the cold pack on for twenty minutes, then take a ten-minute break before reapply- ing.
3. To the extent possible, elevate the injured area so that it’s higher than your heart. This allows blood to ﬂow away from the site and decreases swelling.
4. Continue elevation and cold applications for the next day or two, and then alternate cold and warm applications. You no longer need to apply cold as often as in the ﬁrst hour and a half after the injury; simply apply it inter- mittently as needed. If the swelling has not gone down signiﬁcantly after this time, see a doctor.
You might not think of diet as an important part of healing an injury, but good nutri-
tional choices in the weeks following a sprain or a strain can speed your recovery and reduce your pain.
You need lean protein to rebuild strong, elastic muscles and ligaments. Eat reasonable amounts of high-quality chicken, turkey, and ﬁsh, and incorporate beans into your meals.
An injury can result in the formation of free radicals, the unbalanced molecules that are thought to be responsible for many diseases. Combat free radicals with the antioxidants found in deeply colored fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C will help to reduce swelling and repair tissues. Eat citrus fruits as a light dessert.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for the slow repair of sprains/strains:
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, vitamin C, iron)—
Food to Avoid
You may be housebound and depressed following a sprain or a strain, but resist the temptation to console yourself with junk food. Fast food, processed food, fried food, and food that’s high in salt and sugar will only make inﬂammation and swelling worse.
Double-blind trials have shown that prote- olytic enzymes, such as bromelain, papain, and trypsin/chy- motrypsin, speed the recovery of
Super Seven Prescriptions—Sprains/Strains
Super Prescription #1 Bromelain
Take 500 mg three times daily between meals. Look for products standardized to
2,000 M.C.U. (milk-clotting units) per 1,000 mg or 1,200 G.D.U. (gelatin-dissolv- ing units) per 1,000 mg. Bromelain has a natural anti-inﬂammatory effect. Protease enzyme products also have this beneﬁt (chymotrypsin, trypsin, fungal-derived protease).
Super Prescription #2 Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
Take 1,000 mg three to four times daily. This supplement has potent anti-inﬂam- matory effects and is a natural source of the mineral sulfur, which promotes liga- ment and tendon health. athletic injuries.
Super Prescription #3 Vitamin C
Take 1,000 mg two to three times daily. Vitamin C is required for the formation of connective tissue and has anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts.
Super Prescription #4 DMSO
Consult with a doctor to use this pain-relieving substance topically for pain relief.
Super Prescription #5 Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)
Take 1,200 to 1,500 mg of standardized extract containing 60 to 65 percent boswellic acids two to three times daily. This herb has a strong anti-inﬂammatory effect.
Super Prescription #6 Arnica (Arnica montana) oil
Apply to the injured site twice daily. This herbal oil reduces pain, bruising, and swelling. Do not use on broken skin.
Super Prescription #7 Essential fatty acids
Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of ﬂaxseed oil or 5 grams of ﬁsh oil daily, or take a for- mulation that contains a mixture of omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids reduce inﬂammation and promote tissue healing.
A high-potency multivitamin supplies a host of vitamins and minerals required for ligament and tendon healing. Take as directed on the container.
A cool compress made with comfrey will ease pain and swelling.
White willow bark (Salix alba) is a natural pain reliever that doesn’t have the side effects of aspirin and other over-the-counter drugs. Find an extract standardized for salicin content, and take 30 to 60 mg twice a day. If you prefer to use a tincture, take
1 to 2 cc three times daily.
Silica (Silicea) extract is important for connective tissue healing. Take 500 mg three times daily.
Glucosamine sulfate provides the raw materials known as glycosaminoglycans that are required by the body to manufacture ligaments and tendons. Take 1,500 mg daily.
Hyaluronic acid supplies substances that are required for ligament and tendon heal- ing. Take 150 mg daily or as directed on the container.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. For acute sprain/strains, take a 30C potency four times daily. For chronic sprains/strains that have not healed, take a 6x, 12x, 6C, 12C, or 30C twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Arnica (Arnica montana) is helpful at the beginning of an injury, when there is bruising and swelling.
Bryonia Alba should be used when there is pain from any movement. The person feels irritable from the pain.
Calcarea Fluorica is indicated for chronic sprains and strains that do not heal, or for people who are susceptible to getting these types of injuries due to weak ligaments or tendons.
Ledum Palustre is for sprained ankles or knees that are swollen and that feel bet- ter with ice applications.
Rhus Toxicodendron should be used for injuries that cause stiffness, especially dur- ing the ﬁrst movement, but that loosen up later in the day. The injury feels better from warm applications.
Ruta (Ruta graveolens) is for overused ligaments and sprains that result in swelling and a lame feeling in the joint.
• To relieve pain and relax your muscles, use Gallbladder 20.
• Kidney 3 will reduce pain in either ankle.
• If you’ve strained your lower back, use Bladder 60.
Work the area that corresponds to the injured body part. Obviously, you should not practice reﬂexology on a hand or a foot that has been injured.
Once the swelling has gone down, you can soak the injured part in warm water to relieve pain.
Other Bodywork Recommendations
Avoid putting weight on an injured joint or muscle, but do keep mobile. After the swelling is down and any acute pain has passed, try to work the body part through its range of motion. You’ll help prevent stiffness.
After the swelling has subsided, try a combination of eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender to stimulate a nourishing ﬂow of blood to the area and reduce pain. You can use these oils in a warm bath or a compress.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
If you’re usually an active person, it can be terribly frustrating to spend days or even weeks laid up with an injury. Keep your stress levels down by meditating on a regu- lar basis.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy, and place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
When you’re confronted with a physical crisis like a sprain or strain, take Rescue
Remedy. It’s calming to the body and the mind and allows healing to begin.
If an injury has left you feeling irritable and impatient with other people, take
Gentian will help if you are easily depressed when faced with a setback.