AYURVEDA AND SPORTS INJURIES: OVERVIEW
Ayurveda is an ancient, holistic system of medication which aims at treating diseases by focusing on the balance of the three energies or ‘Doshas’ of the body — Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that diseases result from an imbalance of the three doshas, and recommend the use of herbal formulations for rectifying the imbalance. In addition, they also advise patients suffering from different health conditions to make some necessary changes in diet and lifestyle, in order to ensure overall health and well-being.
Sports Injuries are the injuries which generally involve the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These injuries may affect sportspersons suddenly or over a period of time. They are often quite acute and painful. In a large number of cases, sports injuries usually lead to sprains, fractures, and ligament tears.
Though Ayurveda does not have any specific category for sports medicine, it can still be an excellent treatment option for managing them. Particularly for the musculoskeletal system.
Some common sports injuries that can be effectively treated through Ayurveda are:
- Fractures to any part of the body, including the head, shoulders, arms, legs, etc.
- Joint pain and joint injury (like dislocation)
- Injuries to the wrist, elbow, fingers, ankle, and foot
- Injuries to the back, such as slip disc or sciatica
- Complications related to the knees
- Hamstring and quadriceps injuries.
DEALING WITH SPORTS INJURIES THROUGH AYURVEDA
Management of sports injuries with the help of Ayurveda does not merely imply symptomatic treatment; it underscores a holistic approach. As per Ayurveda, sports injuries are a type of traumatic episode which provokes the Vata dosha and results in pain at the site of injury. Hence, Ayurvedic treatment of sports injuries ensures the elimination of toxins from the body and the restoration of the Vata, Pitta and Kapha balance.
According to the principles of Ayurveda, the treatment of sports injuries is based on an individual’s unique body constitution. The treatment is aimed at providing relief from pain and ensuring a speedy healing of the injury. Hence, to treat sports injuries, Ayurvedic practitioners depend on a complete treatment package which includes herbal medications, physiotherapy, detoxification, packs for external application, case-based exercises and massages, dietary and lifestyle advice, proper rest, and rejuvenation of the musculoskeletal system.
More specifically, some of the Ayurvedic practices of rehabilitation after sports injury are:
- Abhyanga or medicated oil massage
- Swedana or medicated fomentation
- Bandhana or bandage (with or without oil)
- Sthanika vasti therapy or localized medicated healing to pacify the vitiated Vata that causes pain and stiffness
- Lepa or herbal paste for topical application on affected areas to provide temporary relief.
In addition to these practices, there are some beneficial Ayurvedic home remedies which can accelerate the repair process after sports injuries. These remedies include:
Ayurvedic practitioners recommend the application of Honey on cuts and wounds. Honey acts an Ayurvedic antiseptic cream because of its proven ability to cleanse the wound and avert infections by preventing the germination of harmful bacteria on the wound site. The addition of some crushed garlic cloves to honey provides greater antibacterial benefits and enables the natural healing of wounds.
Turmeric is widely known in Ayurveda for its time-tested properties as a blood thinner and pain reliever. The application of turmeric paste is believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect on painful joints. Turmeric is usually taken internally with milk, or applied externally, to reduce pain and swelling related to sports injuries.
Castor Oil Packs
For healing sports injuries quickly and reducing the chances of scarring, Ayurveda practitioners suggest the application of castor oil packs. To benefit from this remedy, a teaspoon of castor oil should be warmed and take in the hands and then massaged into the area of injury. The injured part should then be covered with a dish cloth or fleece sheets, on top of which a warm water bottle or heated blanket should be placed, to enable the absorption of the oil into the skin
The consumption of bananas is an excellent remedy for treating muscle cramps. Since the cramping of muscles is associated with low potassium levels and poor circulation of blood in the body, eating bananas frequently during the day can prevent the painful condition. Bananas are a remarkable source of potassium and can elevate potassium levels in the body without an artificial supplement.
Ginger also has proven anti-inflammatory properties like turmeric. The use of ginger in daily diet can be helpful in managing sports injuries. Moreover, the intake of ginger tea, or a mixture of a few drops of ginger juice with fresh lemon juice and honey, can also have a beneficial effect in injuries which cause pain and inflammation.
Pineapple and Pomegranate Juice
The juices of pineapple and pomegranate can speed up the healing process after a sports injury because of their anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant actions. Both the juices contain abundant of enzymes which support the repair process and reduce pain. To enhance the impact of this remedy, small amounts of ginger and turmeric can also be added to the two juices.
The use of ice packs — made by wrapping ice in a dishtowel — is also a very effective remedy for managing sports injuries, especially when the injury is fresh. Ice packs have the ability to neutralize inflammation and can numb the pain receptors by reducing the flow of blood to the injured part. Ice packs should be used along with heat packs alternately, for better results.
Epsom Salt Baths
Bathing in Epsom salt water for about twenty minutes is also considered an excellent remedy for sports injuries. An Epsom salt bath can calm the mind, relax the body, reduce pain, relieve muscle cramps, increase blood flow, and enable proper functioning of the nerves and muscles. Epsom salt baths can be very helpful in recovery after an injury.
Ayurveda also recommends the use of essential oil like Helichrysum (Immortelle or Helichrysum italicum) as well as Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) herbs for managing sports injuries in a natural way. Overall, the Ayurvedic treatment of sports injuries is based on the nature of the injury, that is, whether the injury is acute or chronic. For best results from Ayurvedic treatment, people suffering from sports injuries should follow the home remedies along with the consultation from a renowned Ayurveda expert.