Minor strains are caused when there is muscle fibre damage, but the muscle sheaths remain undamaged. (Medium strains involve a partial rupture of sheaths.) Although major strains require hospital treatment, minor strains can be treated at home by immediately applying cold packs, which reduce pain and aid in constricting blood vessels. Follow with a compress of nettle spirit (made from both Urtica urens and dioica, or a moist dressing of Arnica (15 ml mother tincture to 500 ml cold water). Onion compresses (finely chopped onion mixed with water and a little salt) are also highly useful for pain relief (R F Weiss, Herbal Medicine, Gothenberg: ab Arnacum, 1988: 345).
Medium strains need professional strapping or splinting, which provides physical support for the injured part, limits pain, resists harmful movements and allows the injured area to come into graduated use. Controlled, early mobilisation is also helpful.
Sprains, on the other hand, are overstretched injuries to ligaments and tendons. Complete ruptures, which are often surprisingly pain free, require surgical repair. It is partial tears which cause excruciating pain. The best treatments are those for minor sprains, and rest best achieved with a splint for a fortnight is essential.
You can diagnose heat collapse in any sports enthusiast because they feel unwell or collapse during vigorous exercise. (The rectal temperature is more than 38^u C, or 100.4^u F.) The best remedies are to sponge down the victim with tepid water, and have him drink fluids and elevate his legs (J Appl Physiol, 1997; 82: 799-806).
Eating a meal, in addition to drinking water, can be more effective than a sports drink alone in restoring the body's water balance (Eur J Appl Physiol, 1996; 73: 317-25).
Suspect the opposite problem, hypothermia, or a dangerous lowering of body temperature, when the sports person slows in pace or stumbles, has cramps, and later has a kind of euphoric confusion (particularly when mountaineering). (With hypothermia, the rectal temperature is below 35^u C, or 95^u F.) In this instance, the person needs immediate shelter from the wind and cold, and needs to be warmed up, say, by sharing a sleeping bag. A good first aid remedy is Camphora 1DH, three doses, given at 15 minute intervals (J H Clarke. The Prescriber: A Dictionary of New Therapeutics, Rustington, Sussex: Health Science Press, 1972: 134). Once safety is reached, a hot bath will quickly restore body temperature. However, if the person has suffered some frostbite without gangrene, the affected parts should be slowly rewarmed and dressed with cotton wool dressing. (Gangrenous parts will require amputation.)
For septic conditions: Give Echinacea tincture, 20 drops, every two hours and also larger doses used locally as a cleansing and antiseptic wash (Zeitschrift fuer Phytotherapie, 1981; 5: 166). Homoeopathically, you may also give Pyrogenium (Pyrexin) 6CH every four hours.
For shock: Increase blood flow by raising the foot of the bed or sofa where the patient should be lying undisturbed and give fluids by mouth when possible. Offer Hypericum1DH four hourly (Arzneitmittel/Forschung, 1971; 21: 1999).
For blisters and haematomas, if aseptically aspirated, leave the roof intact to allow healing to occur more rapidly (Arch Dermatol, 1968; 97: 717-21). For haematoma, to avoid reaccumulation of blood, apply a protective compress (made of 15 ml mother tincture of Digitalis purpurea to 500 mg of water, or 10 g fresh Digitalis leaves to 1 litre of water) (Med Klinik, 1965; 60: 2028). Hypericum ointment can be applied to the blistered area to reduce discomfort and aid healing.
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homoeopath and osteopath.