Good Sam’s Integrative Centers acupuncturist Sheila Liewald, L.Ac. has an article published in the fall/winter issue of Colorado Runner magazine. It is a paid subscription only publication so no link is available. While the article speaks to runners, the tips apply to anyone who plays outside!
See How Acupuncture And Related Natural Tips Can Help You Prevent And Manage Cold Weather Injury
“As winter temps plummet, the cold and darkness can make it difficult to get out of bed let alone get outside and run. The inherit quality of winter is to be inward, and involves reflection, contraction, and quietude. In Chinese medicine it is referred to as ultimate Yin. Yin represents depth, darkness, cold, stillness and rest in relationship to it’s partner yang which is rising, expanding, movement, warmth and brightness. It’s harder for us to express the yang quality of output, movement and exercise during the time of winter or utmost Yin and we need to be extra aware of how to balance that to prevent and stave off illness or injury.
Injuries that most commonly occur in the winter are due to the cold, be it a slip on the ice, improper warm-up or not enough clothing coverage to keep muscles warm and circulate fluid. A bitter cold wind can contract our musculature causing stress, minor tears, aches and pains. Sometimes it also causes head-colds, coughs or headaches. Winter is indeed harder on many of us than summer. Seeking acupuncture or following these helpful therapies below can help prevent injury or quicken your recovery.
While acupuncture is most popularly known to treat pain, it is an extension of an entire medical paradigm that is able to address issues such as:
- energy levels
- sleep issues
- Raynauds symptoms (chronic cold hands/feet)
Acupuncture and it’s affiliated therapies can support the whole person in addition to runners injuries and millions of people worldwide continue to benefit from it.
Below are some tips to help you prevent or manage your winter and cold weather specific injuries:
- Warm up from the inside. Ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger or cardamon and be very beneficial. These flirt with the categories of both spices and herbal medicine as they are used very often therapeutically as either topical and/or ingested forms. These above mentioned ones are warming and support warming up your core. Incorporate these into your diet or drink as a tea before or after your run daily and this can help you stay warm from the inside out to combat the cold. Natural food stores sell ready-made teas that are similar to this effort for you.
- Minimize raw and cold foods. Be sure to kick the habit of “cold foods” such as salads, ice cream, fruits or raw foods. Bone broths, soups and steamed or sauteed foods are now our friends during the cold months. This is particularly beneficial for those with weak digestions. Eating oatmeal or similar warm grain in the morning (boost it with cinnamon!) is a great way to launch the day and help your body.
- Foot Soaks: See number one above! If you’ve got plantar fasciitis, Achilles pain or other foot pain, I often recommend a therapeutic warm foot soak as a home remedy. Here are some suggested herbal ingredients: salt (softens your tissues) cinnamon (increases circulation), safflower (increases circulation). These will help warm up your bones and soft tissue and break up fascia to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Protect the neck. Be sure your neck is always covered in addition to the trunk of your body. Vests are common and popular enough, however many forgo the importance of keeping their neck warm and this is very important. According to acupuncturists worldwide it is believed that many chest and head colds will enter us through the neck if it’s unprotected from the cold. This part of your body is vulnerable and sensitive to cold and windy conditions. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an acupuncturist without a scarf or high collar in the wintertime for this reason. That said, this is not only applicable during your outdoor workouts but also doing daily errands.
- Moxabustion. If there is an injury or illness acupuncture can be incredibly helpful. Moxibustion is an herb that is often paired with acupuncture that is used often for treating “cold” injuries and illnesses. It is heated either over the skin or on the needle bringing immediate warmth, increasing circulation, boosting white blood cell counts, and moxa also reduces inflammation. This treatment is phenomenally therapeutic. I see many patients young and old get benefits with this. I have treated ailments from carpal tunnel, to menstrual cramps, to repeat colds, in addition to the common running injuries with moxa and acupuncture combinations. In clinical studies it is being used to boost the immune systems for chemo patients because it is that powerful.
- Herbal supplements. These can be drunk as a tea or applied topically. Wraps can be made to apply over bursa, sprains, tears, swellings and so on to help heal. Similar to what has been suggested dietarily, you could expect to find in your Chinese herbs- herbs that are warming, circulate your blood, and decrease swelling. But they can also help combat chronic coughs or headaches from the cold. I had one patient who loved to cross country ski, but she would fall sick with a runny nose, sore throat and headache each time she spent time in the cold. I gave her a very simple herbal formula she could bring in her water bottle to sip on the trails and it stopped all of her cold weather issues immediately.
Sheila Liewald, L.Ac., has been a runner for over 25 years and maintains practice in Boulder, Colorado where she is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified Chinese herbalist at Red Aspen Wellness. She’s the recent recipient of 2017 write-in category Best of Boulder acupuncturist. She also works for Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette, Colorado as a staff acupuncturist at their Center for Integrative Medicine.