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[Oriental Medicine]When the snow falls ankles start to sprain

Jan 20,2007
During the cold, snowy depths of winter, people turn to sports like skiing or ice-skating. Consequently, the rate of moderate to severe orthopaedic injuries are increasing, often due to improper preparation.
Muscles and tendons need to be properly warmed up via moderate exercise in order to have the correct elasticity. In cold or “tense” conditions they can be easily torn or strained by the sudden, erratic movements that icy or snowy surfaces sometimes require. As a result, many people suffer twisted ankles, wrists, knees, necks and lower backs. Among these, ankle sprains are the most prevalent winter injuries.
In medicine there is a distinction between acute and chronic sprains. The acute form is evident after twisting an ankle, and is followed by severe pain, combined with a reddish swelling and bruising that turns blue the next day. In this case an x-ray is advised, to rule out bone fractures that would require a cast to immobilize the injured bone. For acute ankle sprains we follow the so-called R.I.C.E. procedure.

Rest: The first 24-48 hours after the injury is considered a critical period, during which activities should be curtailed. Gradually put weight on the injured ankle and discontinue using a crutch when you feel you can walk normally.

Ice: For the first 48 hours post-injury, elevate the ankle and place an ice-pack on the sprain for 20 minutes every 3-4 hours to reduce swelling.

Compression: Use compression when elevating the ankle sprain in early treatment. Using an Ace bandage, wrap the ankle from the toes to the top of the calf muscle, overlapping the elastic wrap by one-half of its width. The wrap should be snug, but not enough to cut off circulation to the foot and ankle. So, if your foot becomes cold, blue, or falls asleep, re-wrap!

Elevate: Keep your ankle sprain as high above your heart as possible. Elevate at night by, for example, placing books under the foot of your mattress, and stand up slowly in the morning.
In Oriental Medicine, treatment is focused on revitalization of the damaged meridians, whose “energy blockage” is causing the pain. Cupping is applied to remove stagnant blood (bruising) from the injured tissue and acupuncture treatment activates the meridian energy flow, which expedites the healing process.
Chronic pain can develop if acute sprains are not sufficiently treated, even in cases with no initial bruising or pain. Symptoms can recur years later, after long walks or when fatigued. In such cases, acupuncture will be combined with moxibustion (a form of pinpointed heat induction, created by burning dry herbs directly or indirectly on related acupuncture points). In severe cases, bee venom can be injected to induce inflammation, which revitalizes the joint through increasing the circulation of nutrient-giving blood.
Winter sports are new forms of recreation that involve different muscle groups than those we use each day. These muscles are usually less developed and tire easily, factors which increase the risk of injury. If injury does occur, it is important to seek thorough treatment so that it doesn’t recur later. www.jaseng.net

Raimund Royer is Medical Director of the International Clinic at the Jaseng Hospital of Oriental Medicine.