If you’ve ever sprained your ankle, you’re no stranger to the misery associated with that one brief moment of klutziness.
Some people say that a sprain is worse than breaking the bone, and there’s some truth to that, as a sprain can lead to years of weakness and instability in the injured joint.
Sprains and Chinese Medicine
In Chinese medicine sprains are considered damage to the sinews, which is a general term that refers to your tendons, ligaments, cartilage, or joint capsules.
A sprain can occur at almost any joint and is the result of taking a hit, over extending, twisting, wrenching, or any other trauma.
A sprain causes dark purple bruising, swelling, and loss of range of motion. And pain.
In fact, it hurts so much because you have either pulled the tendons or ligaments beyond their capacity or damaged the cartilage or joint in some way.
In Chinese medicine, this kind of injury is considered a blockage of energy and blood.
Essentially, nothing is moving through the injured area, and you can see the stagnation in the swelling and purple bruising around the joint.
The first order of business in Chinese medicine is to get the energy and blood moving, relieve the pain, and soothe the injured tissues, so they can heal. If a sprain doesn’t heal properly, over time wind, cold, and dampness can move into the joint.
You’ll know if this has happened if the injured joint feels chronically sore, or if that joint feels achy whenever it rains, gets cold and damp outside, or when the weather changes in general.
Your acupuncturist may use a number of methods to help heal a sprain.
One likely place to start is with acupuncture, possibly by inserting needles into something called a-shi points, which are spots that are tender when they’re touched. Don’t worry — inserting a needle into these points isn’t necessarily painful, it just gives your acupuncturist a good idea of where to begin.
Your practitioner may also ask you to move the injured joint or she may warm the area while the needles are in place.
Like a hologram, your body has a map of its entirety in each individual part.
Think about the DNA in each of your cells, which contain the building instructions for your entire body. Another example is foot reflexology, in which all your organs are represented on the sole of your foot.
In a similar way, if the injured area is too inflamed or painful to needle, your acupuncturist may choose to needle the same joint but on the opposite side of your body. For example if your right ankle is sprained and looks like a big purple grapefruit, your acupuncturist may work on the left ankle, which can be just as effective.
Your practitioner may also perform ear acupuncture to help heal a sprain.
Like foot reflexology, your ears also contain a map of your entire body, and are easier and less painful to needle than the bottoms of your feet.
Herbal Treatment & Massage
An herbal formula may also be used to move or quicken the blood and relieve your pain.
Once the initial trauma of a sprain has passed, Tui Na massage can also be effective in decreasing swelling and improving the range of motion in the injured joint.
Self care for your sprain should include the sage advice of RICE–rest, ice, compression, and elevation, especially during the first day or two.
Additionally, if you suspect a fracture, get to your Western medical provider for assessment and treatment.
Here’s hoping that you don’t sustain any kind of a sprain in the near future. However, if you do, don’t rule out Chinese medicine to help relieve the pain and speed up the healing process.