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Jaseng Hospital
Sports and Sprains — a Bad Combination!
Special Contribution
Dr. Raimund Royer, Jaseng Hospital
Dr. Raimund Royer, the head of the Jaseng International Clinic being interviewed by The Seoul Times

During the cold, snowy reign of winter, more and more people are enjoying sports like skiing or ice-skating. Consequently, the rate of moderately severe injuries is increasing, often due to improper preparation or overestimation of one’s own capabilities.

Muscles and tendons need proper warm-up exercises in order to maintain their elasticity. In cold or “tense” conditions they can be easily torn or strained by the sudden, erratic movements that icy or snowy surfaces sometimes inspire. As a result, many people suffer twisted ankles, wrists, knees, and even 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 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 extremity. For acute ankle sprains we follow the so-called R.I.C.E. procedure.

The first 24-48 hours after the injury is considered a critical treatment period, during which activities should be curtailed. Gradually put as much weight on the involved ankle as tolerated, and discontinue crutch use when you can walk with a normal gait.

For the first 48 hours post-injury, ice pack and elevate the ankle sprain 20 minutes at a time every 3-4 hours to lessen or prevent swelling.

Use compression when elevating the ankle sprain in early treatment. Using an ACE bandage, wrap the ankle from the toes all the way up to the top of the calf muscle, overlapping the elastic wrap by one-half of the width of the wrap. 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!

Keep your ankle sprain higher than your heart as much as possible. Elevate at night by 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 stagnated 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 swelling, bruising or severe pain. Symptoms can recur years later, after long walks or when generally 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 daily. 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 on.

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