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Exercise your resolutions! Tips for keeping fit and healthy
Homeopathy Today: January/February 2005
by Luc De Schepper, MD, PhD, CHom, LicAc

At the start of a new year, many of us resolve to lose weight and get in shape. It’s commonly thought that most people gain from five to ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Not so, according to the National Institutes of Health. Americans probably gain only about a pound during the holidays—but the extra weight accumulates over the years and may be a major contributor to obesity later in life.

Getting Back to the Gym
If you’ve just started exercising after a hiatus, you may discover some muscles you wish you’d never felt. After all your excitement and willingness to take care of yourself, you may overdo it on your first day at the gym. You wake up the next morning saying, “Ouch, what have I done?!”
According to The Merck Manual, more than six out of ten people who start an exercise program drop out in the first six weeks due to injury. So should you become a spectator, or can you help yourself get over an exercise injury?

After studying Western medicine, acupuncture, and homeopathy, I believe that homeopathy can offer the quickest, gentlest, and safest relief for sports injuries. In fact, I’m surprised we don’t hear that more professional athletes use homeopathy. In my experience, homeopathic remedies can shorten the duration of almost any injury to one-third of its projected length. Let’s start our tour through the world of common exercise injuries and give you the power to speed up the healing process. (Consult your health practitioner for a correct diagnosis.)

Oops, I Think I Sprained Something
Sprained ankles are the most common injury in the U.S. and can occur during sports or recreational activities. A sprain occurs when ligaments become over-stretched or torn. If you land on the side of your foot during aerobics and suddenly feel swelling and a bruised sensation, Arnica (leopard’s bane)* will come to the rescue. This mountain flower is called “king of the sports remedies” for its ability to absorb blood, reduce swelling, and relieve pain quickly. Arnica is indicated when the injury becomes bruised, feels worse when touched or jarred, worse from motion, and worse at night. The injury feels better with cold applications.

Another homeopathic remedy for sprains is Rhus toxicodendron (poison ivy). Use Arnica first to absorb the blood and reduce swelling, then follow with Rhus tox to heal the sprained ligaments. Any ligament injury, anywhere in the body, will respond quickly to this remedy. An injury needing Rhus tox will feel stiff and worse from damp, cold and at night. The swelling is better from rest, but the person feels restless and can’t get comfortable in any position. The pain is worse when starting to walk but feels better after continued motion or with warm applications.

Aching Elbows
Every tennis player dreads “tennis elbow” or epicondylitis, which often starts from trying out a new racket, stringing a racket too tightly, or playing too eagerly after an injury. Some other activities that put excessive or repetitive stress on tendon attachments in the elbow include: golfing, weight training, pitching ball, hanging wallpaper, and painting ceilings.

Ruta graveolens (herb-of-grace), Bellis perennis (daisy), or Rhus tox can stop that nagging ache. If you need Ruta for tennis elbow, you may have tingling in the hand. Ruta shares characteristics with Arnica and Rhus tox. It is mainly indicated when the periosteum (membrane surrounding the bone) has been affected. You may feel stiffness, as in conditions relieved by Rhus tox, and have a bruised feeling like those who need Arnica, but moving around makes the pain worse.

Bellis works more deeply than Arnica. Try Bellis, which can be a specific remedy for tennis elbow, when Arnica or another remedy doesn’t completely resolve the injury. An injury needing Bellis will be swollen and bruised and will feel worse from touch, hot bathing, and getting chilled. The injury feels better from motion, cold applications, and rubbing.

Endorphin Junkies
If you’re afraid of starting exercise because you are new at it or are coming back after an injury, take Arnica before the workout. You will be amazed at how well you can keep up. For the aerobics fanatic who puts too much strain on her knee joints, Ruta can specifically address knee problems like sprains, tendonitis, cartilage tears, and bursitis. If there’s weakness in a lower limb and the knee gives way when climbing stairs or on rising, the injury may benefit from Ruta (see other indications above).

Feel invigorated after step aerobics class? If you’ve been overly enthusiastic, you could develop knee strain. Bryonia helps red, swollen, tender, inflamed knees that feel worse with motion or touch and better with rest or local heat. A knee that needs Bryonia will have stitching pain when walking, painful stiffness, and weakness.

Did you sweat a lot during your workout, then forget to cool down and dry off before heading out into the cold weather? I did this at a tennis match, and by the time I got home I had to crawl out of my car because of severe stiffness in my low back. Rhus tox put me back on the court the next day.

All Stretched Out
Running late to your yoga class and forget to warm up? You could easily over-stretch a muscle or tendon if you push yourself too far, too soon. Most yoga injuries, like ligament sprains and muscle strains, are caused by repetitive isometric strain or over-stretching. These injuries can occur at the wrists, shoulders, neck, hamstrings, knees, along the spine, and at the sacroiliac joint, which links the spinal column and pelvis. An over-stretched muscle or tendon may get relief from Arnica, Bryonia, Rhus tox, or Ruta. Low back strain needing Rhus tox feels worse after exertion and from bending. After resting, the back stiffens up, and you feel restless and need to stretch. Local heat helps the pain.

If you tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude and push yourself at yoga, you may get a low back pain requiring Nux vomica (poison nut). With the stitching pain, you feel irritable, and you must sit up to turn over in bed. The pain is worse with motion, cold, and touch, and is worse in the morning. It feels better from warmth and pressure.

If your low back and sacrum constantly ache and feel heavy or stiff, Phytolacca (poke root) may help. You feel restless and compelled to move, but motion doesn’t help the pain (opposite of Rhus tox). Pain in the low back radiates to the lateral thighs down to the knees and toes.

Cramping Up
Muscle cramps can occur when a little-used muscle is over-exerted. The sudden cramping pain feels as if the muscles have gathered up in knots. Cramps can occur in any sport at any point during exercise. Magnesia phosphorica (magnesium phosphate) eases muscle spasms and cramps, especially in the legs and feet.

Swimming Away Your Stresses
People often choose swimming because it reduces the load on joints. But too much swimming and poor technique can lead to “swimmer’s shoulder.” This overuse injury involves inflammation in the supraspinatus and/or bicep tendons. If you’re feeling shoulder pain, Rhus tox or Ruta may help. See your doctor for a diagnosis, and have a swimming instructor evaluate your stroke.

Taking a Remedy
In general, a 30c potency is a good choice for most exercise-related complaints. If you continue to have problems after following these directions, consult your homeopath and/or physician. Dissolve one pellet in 4 ounces of water, and use this throughout the day; take one teaspoon every 15 to 30 minutes, decreasing the frequency as you start feeling better. Stop when you feel completely well. Homeopathic remedies are available over-the-counter in most health food stores.

* Homeopathic remedies have Latin names based on the source of the remedy. The   common names of the remedy source are noted in parentheses.

5 tips for safe workouts

1. Fuel-up
Eat a snack about two hours before exercise to energize your workout.

2. Drink water
To help prevent injuries and stay hydrated, drink 16 oz. of water
over the two hours prior to exercise. Drink water during and after your workout to replace lost fluids.

3. Listen to your body
If you experience any sharp pain, weakness, or light-headedness during exercise, stop immediately to avoid a severe or chronic injury.

4. Rest
Schedule rest days. Working out too much for too long can inhibit the body’s ability to recover.

5. Be ready with remedies
Have a homeopathic first-aid kit handy to address any injuries that arise. The sooner you take a remedy after injury (e.g., Arnica), the better your chance of a speedy recovery.