How do Acupuncture and TCM help with sprains and strains?

It’s that time of year again. As we become more active and start to venture outside accidents are bound to happen. Regardless of if you are a sport enthusiast or stepped off the side walk and twisted your ankle acupuncture and TCM (also referred to as East Asian Medicine) can help speed up your recovery.

It may seem like the terms sprain and strain are used interchangeably. However, they actually refer to different types of injury.

A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament

Sprains can occur due to a fall, a sudden twist or a blow to the body that forces a joint out of place. There may be a “pop” when the injury occurs. Symptoms include: pain, swelling, instability, bruising, and loss of functional joint ability.

There are different levels of sprains. Grade I or mild sprain is generally caused by overstretching or minor tearing of a ligament. The person will still have joint stability.  With a Grade II the person experiences some loss of joint function. Grade III is the most severe and occurs when there is a complete tear in the ligament. The person is unable to put any weight on the joint without pain.

It can take anywhere from 5 days to 6 weeks to heal a sprain depending on the severity.

A strain is an injury to muscle or tendon

A strain can occur from twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon. Symptoms include: pain, limited range of motion, muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, inflammation, and possible muscle weakness.

A mild strain can take a few weeks to heal. However, more severe strains can take months.

Treatment options for sprains and strains

To RICE or not to RICE

The age-old treatment protocol for these types of injury are Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation – RICE. Taking pressure off the joint, raising the affected joint, and applying ice to alleviate swelling and inflammation are a great place to start. Especially for the first 48 to 72 hours. It is important to decrease the swelling to prevent damage to the tissue.

However, prolonged use of ice may impair movement and interfere with the healing process. Think of what happens when you stick water in the freezer, it hardens. Now think of what happens when you stick water on the stove, the water moves freely. The same thing happens when you apply ice to the body. Cold constricts the vessels and prevents fresh blood flow from getting to the area. It may feel nice because it is numbing. For healing, though, the injured area requires the flow of nutrients and fresh oxygenated blood. This is why you should consider seeing an acupuncturist or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for sprains and strains

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine have many tools at their disposal to help with healing. In both injuries the muscles around the surrounding area tighten up to protect the joint. This is the body’s natural defense mechanism. However, that contraction/tightening prevents fresh blood flow from getting to the area. A TCM practitioner uses acupuncture and other modalities, such as heat, which help increase blood flow to the area, bringing oxygen and nutrients, which in turn help to loosen the muscles and speed healing.

Regardless of if you are an active child, adults playing sports, or maybe just not the most coordinated person. TCM and Acupuncture can help to decrease inflammation, alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and speed healing time for a sprain or strain. The faster you seek help the faster that you will heal, and potentially prevent recurring injuries.

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health and Wellness in Chicago, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).