Top 5 Naturopathic Approaches to Musculoskeletal Injuries
As a naturopathic doctor, I encourage patients to think about the importance of staying active to maintain a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. The side effect of being active is that you may experience muscle pain or injury. Did you know there are natural options for helping treat and prevent muscle injuries?
Here are my top 5 naturopathic treatments for muscle injuries and pain:
1. Acupuncture and cupping
Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) where thin, sterile needles are inserted into the body to stimulate the release of endorphins - our natural pain killing hormones. Points are chosen along channels based on their activity with stimulation. Your naturopath or acupuncturist may add electro-stimulation to the needles for a more intense treatment and to get faster results for pain relief, easing muscle spasm and even supporting bone regrowth following a break. If you are apprehensive about needles, cupping may be a better option for you! Suction is applied to a glass or silicone cup on the skin to create a vacuum. This suction stretches the fascia and increases blood flow to that area of the body to speed healing of muscle sprains and strains.
2. Natural anti-inflammatory supplements
Lots of people reach for Aspirin, Advil or Tylenol when they experience aches and pains associated with exercise. Unfortunately, the research for NSAIDS in particular (ibuprofen and naproxen), recommends using these sparingly due to their impact on slowing muscle strain healing. Did you know there are natural options for helping reduce inflammation and pain? Two examples are curcumin and boswellia. Consider seeing your naturopath to help determine which is right for you and to advise you on dosing.
3. Remove pro-inflammatory foods from the diet
Reducing foods that can contribute to inflammation in your body can help alleviate the pain experienced with a muscle injury. A diet high in trans-fats, omega-6 rich vegetable oils, and saturated fat will be pro-inflammatory (in other words, it will worsen inflammation). A diet high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats will be anti-inflammatory – think salmon, avocado, fish oil, nuts and seeds. Cut back on fried, greasy foods, sugar, alcohol, dairy and gluten. Some people may also need to cut out the nightshade family vegetables (they are pro-inflammatory) – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant - to get inflammation under control.
Hydrotherapy is the use of water at varying temperatures and pressures to help increase circulation, decrease pain and treat injuries. Hydrotherapy is something you can access at local spas but you can also treat yourself easily from the comfort of home! For general, whole body treatment I recommend alternating showers. This treatment creates constriction and dilation in the blood vessels to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and ease pain. For more acute, lower body injuries I recommend cold water marching. This cold submersion paired with friction will increase circulation to the lower body helping to reduce inflammation and ease pain. This treatment also works very well for more chronic pain like arthritis. Hydrotherapy is a great thing to implement regardless of having an active injury. Use these treatments to help your body prepare and recover from training!
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ALTERNATING SHOWERS:
Shower with hot water for 3 minutes, then switch the water temperature to cold for 30 seconds. Go back to hot and cycle back and forth 3 times, finishing with cold.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR COLD WATER MARCHING:
Fill your tub with cold water to cover the ankle, or slightly higher if you are treating the knee. Walk in place for as long as you can tolerate – usually 5-10 minutes. Get out of the tub, and friction dry your legs and feet using a towel.
5. Intravenous therapy (aka IV or drip therapy)
Naturopathic doctors use IV therapy to infuse vitamins and minerals directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive tract, to get a faster treatment. Depending on your concern, treatment can be adjusted to help with hydration following intense periods of exercise or training. We infuse magnesium to help ease muscle spasm or restless legs syndrome, B vitamins for energy and amino acids for muscle recovery.
If you would like help preventing or treating muscle injuries, you can call the clinic, (519) 265-8035, or CLICK HERE to schedule your appointment with Dr. Alaina Gair, ND.
If you have more questions about how naturopathic medicine can help – you can book a complimentary 15 minute visit to discuss your health.