My experience as a naturopath and a remedial body therapist has seen me treat martial arts, rugby, soccer, swimming, weight-lighting and a whole host of other sporting injuries. Given that most sports injuries are similar in nature, below is my naturopathic take on how to treat and in some case help prevent sports injuries.
What comprises a sports injury?
Sports injuries fall into four main categories – muscles injuries, joint injuries, bone injuries and head injuries.
- Muscle injuries: are strains and/or bruises. Strains tend to occur along the length of a muscle and when the fibres are wrenched and suddenly pulled apart. Bruising results from trauma or impact to muscle or soft tissue – shattering numerous small blood vessels. As an area of high blood flow, most strains and bruises should heal within a week.
- Joint injuries: involve straining or tearing tendons or ligaments. Tendons attach muscle to bones and ligaments attach bone to bone. Both have a poor blood supply. This means they can withstand a lot of tension and stress before tearing or being strained, but it also means ligaments and tendons can take longer to heal.
- Broken and cracked bones normally heal within six to eight weeks if there are no other factors involved.
Vitamin C & Bioflavonoids
Apart from a head injury, which is a “go-to-hospital” injury, all the above have a certain connective tissue fibre in common – collagen.
Collagen has received a bit of press over the last decade, especially in women’s skin formulas. Collagen is one of the main fibres that holds everything together. Without it our organs would literally slop down into the bottom of our belly and slosh around. Think of collagen fibres as the lattice work upon which everything is grown – much like a trellis used to grow runner beans.
Torn and damaged collagen fibres occur in all muscle, joint, and bone injuries, and Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids are some of the main nutrients the body uses to help literally repair and glue the various damaged cells back onto freshly repaired collagen fibres.
If you woke up tomorrow and had no Vitamin C or Bioflavonoids you would develop the symptoms of scurvy – bleeding, swollen gums, painful joints, listless, bruising and dry hair; all symptoms of a lack of collagen fibres “glueing” body tissues together.
Even when not injured
In reference to how societies sporting activities has increased in the last hundred years, there is now an even greater need for regular Vitamin C and Bioflavonoid intake. Our joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles are being pushed further and for longer. While we may be fitter and living longer, the number of joints that are being eroded due to excessive activity and inadequate nutrition remains high.
Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids can help provide a greater nutrient pool from which the cells responsible for repairing damage (before you even feel it) can feed. We often don’t think of our cells needing to feed – but the food we eat, or don’t eat, feeds the cells of our body. Humans are unable to make Vitamin C – we are totally dependent on our dietary intake to meet the body’s daily needs.
As well as the damaged collagen fibres in a sports injury the cell wall of muscles, ligaments and tendons becomes ripped open. This ripping open provides one of the key signals to create pain and inflammation.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) and omega 6 EFAs should make up the cell wall. If molecules of these are present in a high numbers then cellular repair happens quicker and with less pain and inflammation. If you have just injured yourself then fish oil, krill oil or Evening Primrose oil will greatly speed up your recovery.
R.I.C.E is always good. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Arnica drops and arnica cream can help take away the initial symptoms and speed the healing process. Icing it for ten minutes, arnica cream rubbing it for ten minutes and then repeated the same steps twice over can help reduce inflammation.
I was asked recently about using glucosamine for acute injuries. While it will do something, its cartilage building properties in the body can take weeks and sometimes months to be fully felt and is best suited for chronic conditions.
If you need specific information tailor made for you and your family please call us on our naturopathic FREE on 0800 622 533.
Why are we pounding ourselves so much?
I have a background in martial arts and hold the rank of fourth dan in Seido Karate. Over the last thirty years I have managed to lock my neck bones together (kick to the top of the head), break the bones in my right foot (a leg sweep gone badly wrong), rupture a disc in my lower back (getting older and trying to kick as if I was twenty again), plus numerous sprains, strains, breaks, contusions and minor injuries.
In the last one hundred years sport has come a long way, especially in terms of performance and stress on the body. In the 19th century school boys and girls alike were encouraged to participate in physical education, though by the time they were adults physical recreation as we know it today gave way to work and family. Rugby and Soccer were two sports where adults carried on participating – though the full time punishing regime of professional and amateur sports today was pretty much unheard of. Even the boxers at the turn of century trained minimally compared with today.
Check out the following video on youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4CXY6TVBMc. It is a humorous look at modern day soccer compared with soccer prior to the 1950’s. Obviously a lot of it is overdone but quite close to the truth of how things were.
By the sixties and seventies Arthur Lydiard was advocating recreational running and international stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger promoted body building. Both helped propel health, fitness and well being into an accepted way of modern living. Since then we have pushed and punished our bodies more and more on a regular basis, as a result sports related injuries have increased in the last thirty years.