Salvation for Soft Tissue Injury – Strains, Sprains and Bruises
I love the expansive energy of summer—productive, yet laid back. I love the sun. I love the longer days. I love veggies. I love vacations. And, I LOVE air conditioning!
Summer is when many of us get adventurous and push physical limits to enjoy “fun in the sun.” Thus summer is also a time of soft tissue injury, including bruising, muscle strains and ligament sprains.
Soft Tissue Injury Doesn’t Have to be Hard
A recent amazing healing experience outlines some measures YOU can take to minimize damage and speed your recovery should you have a soft tissue injury. I sprained my ankle AND was able to maintain my work schedule while healing the ankle to at least 90% functionality inside of two weeks. Of course I am not a doctor, and this personal story is no substitute for good doctorly advice in the face of serious injury.
A Twist of Fate
I twisted the ankle on a Monday morning—I just placed my pedicure on a pebble poorly while parading with purpose across a parking lot in platform flip flops. POW came the pain! It was the worst ankle twist I’ve had in my increasingly long life. As has been my habit when I feel a noisy, insistent PAIN signal, I immediately stopped, sat down and directed reiki healing energy to my ankle (for 5-8 minutes) until the powerful pain paled.
Hurreiki! Hurray for Reiki!
Reiki is a spiritual/energetic healing technique where the practitioner assumes the role of a conduit of Divine healing energy. It is especially effective in the minutes following an injury, perhaps because the full effects of the trauma have yet to manifest and the mind is more willing to LET GO of these potential effects. In my experience, sometimes reiki proves to be the only treatment needed. I bring this reiki energy into all of my sessions.
After diffusing the pain with reiki, I stood up and found I could put weight on the ankle with only mild discomfort. The ankle felt vulnerable, not wrecked—like I would need to be very careful about HOW I walked on it. I pulled the compression leg sleeve I was wearing down around the ankle to give it some support.
I was just starting a long drive when this happened, so I hopped—OK, maybe I hobbled—into the car and got going, grateful that it was my LEFT ankle that had been hurt, not my speedy lead foot. I rested the ankle as I drove, but made sure to move it gently within my pain tolerance so it didn’t stiffen up too much. Two hours later I stopped at Starbuck’s, and the severity of the sprain was spelled out to me! I was now limping. Although walking was “doable” I was very aware that placing my weight on the ankle in the wrong way would be a painful mistake that would result in further injury. The sideways, pushing off movement of my left foot to sit back down in the driver’s seat brought this point front and center: I could not help but cry out because of the pain.
Calling the Waa-mbulance!
Now I thought about what else I had on hand to treat the sprained ankle. No arnica gel. No ice, but I was busy driving anyway. No homeopathic arnica tablets, which I had never used but had purchased on reputation and were in my cupboard at home. (You know I carry them with me NOW.) All I had was NSAIDs—the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen (Advil). I took two and continued driving. I also continued to gently move the ankle within my pain tolerance. I couldn’t rotate the ankle, but gentle flexing and extending was okay.
Home, O Pathetic Me: a Dash of Homeopathy
Back home ten hours later, I began treatment of my sprained ankle in earnest with topical arnica gel (applied externally) and homeopathic arnica montana tablets (30 C, dissolved under the tongue per package instructions). The word “homeopathic” is very important. Homeopathic remedies are extremely dilute—so dilute that the healing constituents are sometimes described as “undetectable” (this should also describe the controversy). Nonetheless there is no lack of evidence that homeopathic remedies work.
Because of their diluteness, homeopathic remedies are very safe. In this case the distinction is important, because too much arnica as an un-diluted herbal extract is poisonous. So let me be VERY CLEAR—whenever I talk about taking arnica internally, I mean homeopathic arnica. Also, it is important that topical arnica gel is applied only to unbroken skin. Damaged skin might allow too much arnica to be absorbed into the body.
Homeopathy – the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in larger doses would produce symptoms similar to those being treated (“like treats like”).
“Homeopathy can be safely used alongside conventional drugs and will not interfere with the action of any medicines prescribed by a doctor. Homeopathic treatment has an excellent safety record and because homeopathic medicines are non-toxic, they can be used by babies, children and during pregnancy.”
More information about arnica: https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/arnica
High Five Toes
In addition to treatment with arnica, I continued to elevate the foot whenever possible, mainly at night when I was not seeing clients. A few times I used a cold pack as well. I continued to use mild compression via a leg sleeve placed around the ankle. During the first 12 days post injury I also increased my intake of omega-3 fatty acids to an excess (about double the recommended daily amount on the supplement bottle), to give my body the raw material needed for healing.
TMI Injury Timeline:
Monday, 9:00 a.m. – serious ankle sprain (over-stretched ligaments), swelling apparent.
Tuesday, 8:00 a.m. – swelling remains mild and is no impediment to basic function.
Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. – able to be on my feet to give Swedish/deep tissue massage.
Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. – small but dark areas of bruising now apparent on both medial and lateral sides of the foot, swelling remains mild.
Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. – able to give ashiatsu (massage using my feet) and Sacred Lomi (massage requiring fancy footwork).
Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – able to walk briskly all around a large hospital and give inpatient massage.
Thursday, 5:30 p.m. – able to give ashiatsu.
Friday, 9:30 a.m. – able to walk distances briskly and give oncology/Swedish massage in clinic.
Friday, 6:00 p.m. – able to take a long walk for pleasure and exercise, mild achiness afterward.
Saturday a.m. – ankle not 100% healed and pain-free, but almost no swelling or bruising left and able to engage in all moderate activities.
1 Week Post Injury:
Monday p.m. – mild soreness in ligaments after a whole day on my feet with no reduction of activity and normal function of ankle.
Tuesday – ran out of homeopathic arnica and an interesting thing happens: my ankle gets achy—achier than it had been since the injury occurred! Now I begin using NSAIDs again, sparingly.
Sunday – ankle feels good with normal use less than 2 weeks post sprain.
2 Weeks Post Injury:
Monday – no pain, just occasional twinges of awareness (I can’t even call it “pain”) under heavy use that the ankle is not 100% healed.
Friday – 90-95% range of motion and strength regained. I got so enthusiastic rotating my ankle this day I made myself sore afterward. Arnica (both homeopathic tablets and topical) and a little self-massage took care of it.
Who’s on First Aid? You!
If you’re intrigued by what I’ve said about reiki, learn it! Basic training takes as little as a day. Divine healing energy is available to all of us—we do not have to be “special.” Believe this, and allow it to work through you.
Use homeopathic tablets and topical arnica montana as soon as possible after soft tissue injuries such as strains, sprains and bruising. Also follow the classic advice of RICE:
R – rest
I – ice or cold pack
C – compression (Ace bandage or compression sleeves)
E – elevation
Make sure you’re getting adequate omega-3 fatty acids during the healing period—double the normal dose should do it. Remember to cut back to normal when most of the healing is accomplished. Omega-3 fatty acids are typically high in grass-fed meats and dairy, some seafood, flax seed and walnuts. Supplements for omega-3 fatty acids include krill oil, fish oil or flax seed oil.
Uh, Where’s the Rub?
So how does MASSAGE fit into this?
Massage can be extremely helpful for soft tissue rehabilitation after injury, but it needs to be applied at the right time—AFTER the acute phase of inflammation and swelling subsides. (One exception is LYMPHATIC massage, which helps the body deal with excess fluids. I do not offer this type of massage.) After the acute phase of injury has passed, massage helps to align the collagen the body has quickly but haphazardly laid down to repair the injured area. Massage helps to free adhesions and reorganize scar tissue, which means better function and less pain. Massage after the acute phase of injury is appropriate for muscles, ligaments and tendons, and can be self-administered (stay within your pain tolerance) or professional, as often as every day.
I started massaging my own ankle on Friday evening, 5 days after the injury, mostly cross-fiber friction (deeper, short strokes) to the retinaculum—ligaments that bridge the front of the ankle—while applying lotion that contained arnica. Just a few minutes of work here and there over the injury’s course did the trick.
This combination of therapies saved me. I was spared from pain, loss of income and having to disappoint clients by canceling sessions (my clients are busy people and alternative times are not that easy to find). What would such effective treatment for a soft tissue injury save you? Pain? Loss of income or vacation days? Stalled progress on an important project? Disappointment from canceling carefully-laid plans for your precious time off? Loss of assets put forth to create some worthwhile experience?
Sweet summer solstice—savor the season in safety! And if you have a soft tissue injury, treat yourself wisely for the speediest possible recovery. If pain, swelling or bleeding are severe, or a joint will not function, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
And wherever you are, when you’re not off on some adventure, be sure to take a 90 minute massage or bodywork vacation in your hometown with your favorite therapist.
With Peace and Love,
P.S. My penchant for platform flip flops has not fizzled. . . .
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