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Sprains/strains

General characteristics

General characteristics

A sprain is an injury to the supporting tissues such as ligaments, tendons or muscles that surround a joint. A sprain/strain is usually caused by twisting or wrenching of a joint and is accompanied by pain and tenderness, swelling/inflammation, redness, bruising, heat and inability to put weight on the joint or to move it properly. Severity of the symptoms depend on the severity of the injury. Sprains are graded according to the amount of damage to tissues, grade one represents a mild stretching of the tissues (with little swelling and mild pain but almost complete use of the joint is possible), grade two is when the structures are partially torn or damaged (with swelling, pain) and grade three shows complete rupture or break in the tissues and represents the most serious type of strain.

Strains can occur through overuse or over exertion (e.g. repetitive strain injury) and are treated in a similar way, i.e. rest the injury, apply healing agents to speed resolution.

If symptoms such as numbness and strange lumps appear around the area, you have severe pain or the injury does not seem to be getting any better after a few days of self treatment then have the injury seen by a professional.

Healing objectives include strengthening, nourishing and repairing the tissues that are injured and avoiding movements that will put further pressure or strain on the affected tissues.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Avoid the inflammatory promoting foods and cooking techniques such as refined and processed foods, sugary foods and drinks, red and processed meats, excessive protein, refined fats and oils and avoid frying or cooking in oil whilst you are healing.

Include plenty of foods rich in essential fatty acids such as flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and similar.

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, the most vital of healing agents.

Have a fresh juice daily made from 3 carrots, 1 apple, a few dark green cabbage leaves and a large stick of celery to help provide healing nutrients.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Comfrey leaf and root are some of the best tissue healers in the world of plant medicine. Use either (or both) externally as a poultice, soak, or add to a bath. Simmer the root for 15 minutes or so to release the goodness before use. The leaves can be made into a strong tea and used as a soak or poultice. They will begin work on repairing the damaged tissues immediately and also help to reduce inflammation.

Solomons seal root is another herb that makes a great healing poultice and can also be taken internally.

Boneset is a good all round healer of muscle and bone.

Simmer a tablespoon of flaxseeds (linseeds) in a pint of water for 20 minutes or so then drink half the liquid and apply the rest to the injury as a poultice.

Take arnica in homoeopathic form as soon as you can after the injury or soak the area with fresh arnica tincture.

A good all round healing poultice or soak could contain comfrey (leaf/root), solomons seal root, horsetail, agrimony, plantain leaves, chamomile, buchu, st johns wort (for pain, nerves and anti-inflammatory) and a pinch of cayenne (chilli), turmeric powder and/or ginger root.

Herbs containing natural painkillers such as meadowsweet and white willow bark also thin the blood and help to dissolve any blood clots present around the injured site.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Apply alternating hot and cold packs to the injury as soon as possible after the initial event. Apply heat for 30 seconds then ice for 30 seconds, then heat, then ice etc. for several minutes. The heat will dilate blood vessels, relax the area and allow greater blood flow to and from the injury. The cold will constrict the blood vessels and reduce swelling. The cold and heat alternating will force the blood vessels to act like a strong pump, encouraging a greater blood and lymph flow to and from the injured tissues and therefore speeding up the cleansing, healing and resolution of the injury. The pumping action can sometimes increase the sense of pain so end the treatment on the temperature that soothes you the most (often heat). *I sprained my ankle quite badly in a martial arts class once and could barely walk home. I immediately began the ice/heat treatment but the pain became so intense during the ice part that I decided to soak my ankle in hot comfrey leaf tea for the remainder of the evening. The pain began to ebb away and the next morning the ankle was so improved, I almost forgot that it had been strained the evening before.

Try not to move the injured joint at first, strap it gently if possible and try not to put weight or stress on the area.

An old folk remedy is to wrap the sprain in several layers of lightly steamed/wilted green cabbage leaves.

Compression bandages can help to keep swelling to a minimum but be sure that blood flow to and from the injury is not reduced in any way.

Cider vinegar can be added to herbal soaks or poultices to help clean up the area and assist in healing. You could also take a teaspoon twice daily in a little water to increase the positive effects.

Essential oils of lavender, rosemary and chamomile can be diluted (in a carrier oil) and applied to the area to ease inflammation, improve blood flow and reduce pain.


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