Milder weather and better air quality make September ideal for family outings, but being active comes with the risk of injury. Since prevention is a key component of naturopathic medicine, here are some steps to avoid and treat a common injury: the sprained ankle.
Before physical activity, it’s essential to warm up appropriately. Get your heart rate up and work the muscles you will be using during the intended sport or exercise. For ankles, flex and extend your toes and rotate your ankles in a clockwise and counterclockwise direction.
It’s easier to sprain an ankle if you’re not wearing proper shoes. Always wear well-fitting footwear appropriate to the type of exercise you’re doing, and be cautious when running or playing on uneven ground.
What should you do if you twist your ankle? The first step is to put ice on it in order to decrease pain and inflammation. Stop exercising and elevate the foot. If walking is difficult or painful, consult a professional. Treatment may include therapeutic ultrasounds, massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic adjustment.
Homeopathic arnica can help bring the swelling down, relieve pain, and decrease bruising. A product called Traumeel is especially effective. It can be used for new or old injuries, and can be applied topically or taken internally.
However, it’s only available overseas; in China I recommend Yunnan Baiyao (云南白药), a well-known medicine that has been used for over 100 years. It’s available in many forms at drugstores throughout Beijing, but the spray is easiest to use and carry. For best results, apply it as soon as the injury happens.
However, keep in mind that inflammation is needed for healing so it’s best not to halt the process completely. On day two of the sprain, alternate hot and cold water baths. This form of hydrotherapy improves circulation and speeds up healing. Place the injured foot in a bucket of hot water for three minutes, then immerse it in a bucket of cold water for one minute. Repeat the cycle three times and end with a cold water bath.
When immersed in warm water, move your ankle around as much as you can in as many directions as comfortable. In the cold bath, just rest and relax your foot. Repeat this process three to four times a day.
As soon as possible, begin walking on your injured foot while making sure to not put too much weight on it. Rest and elevate it a few times a day. Don’t push yourself and stop immediately if you feel pain. Massaging with castor oil is also helpful for breaking down scar tissue; do this every evening before bed for at least six weeks. Keep safe and have fun!
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