Book excerpt: Healing Injuries the Natural Way
“Soft Tissue Injuries: Muscles, Tendons, Fascia and More”
By Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc
Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook
Reprinted with permission of the author
Soft Tissue Injuries
What exactly are soft tissue injuries? “Soft tissue” is an expression commonly used to refer to the “softer” aspects of the outer body, not including bones and joints. Muscles, tendons, and fascia are examples. Soft tissue injuries are commonplace and range from minor to very serious, depending on the nature of the injury.
Muscles are the tissues that enable us to move and stay warm. Muscles are arranged in pairs to enable pulling and pushing types of movement. Whenever one muscle in the pair contracts the other is relaxed, and vice versa. This is the basic premise of movement throughout the body. Millions of muscle cells (also known as fibers) operate together to form muscles. The health of the muscles depends on the quality of nourishment they receive. Well-nourished muscle cells are less likely to develop spasms or cramps that lead to pain.
If you’ve sustained muscle injuries, it is important to be aware of the tendency many people have to adjust posture into a position that alleviates the pain, but which may weaken the structure and create muscular stress.
Tendons connect muscles to the bones they move. Injuries to tendons involve either a tear of some of the fibers or a complete rupture, where the tendon is torn in two. Because tendons require less blood supply than muscles to function, they take more time to heal. If a tendon tears near the surface of the body, bleeding from it may produce bruising. Chronically weakened tendons can occur anywhere, but especially around joints such as the shoulder, knee, elbow, etc.
Tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons, which are tough bands of tissue that attach muscle to bone. Because tendons are not elastic, they’re more susceptible than muscles to inflammation, even from overuse. The most common areas affected are the hips, knees, shoulders, heels, and elbows.
Activities that require a different range of motion than your usual activities are beneficial to increase the resilience of tendons.
The tissue that links all the components of the body together is known as “fascia.” It carries nerves, blood, and lymphatic vessels through it. Fascia also helps to distribute the weight of the body during movement.
Nerves carry information from the brain to the body and vice versa. They allow you to move because the brain can co-ordinate all movements based on signals from the nerves. Nerves also send the brain information about the muscles and joints. Nerves transmit pain signals so the brain knows there is something wrong in the body and can co-ordinate a healing response.
When soft tissues are injured they usually become inflamed so it is critical to understand healthy ways to deal with inflammation.
Inflammation is a common symptom of many injuries. Any disorder that ends in “-itis” means there is inflammation involved, for example, bursitis, arthritis, etc. Inflammation is the body’s healthy response to infection, tissue damage or both. By sending increased amounts of white blood cells to the injured area, the body is better able to repair any damage. Without the inflammation process, injuries would not heal. Most holistic health practitioners feel that taking anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs in fact masks and hence lessens the chances of proper healing.
Martha Moore, A.H.G., describes numerous causes of inflammation in her book, Beyond Cortisone, including:
· physical damage (trauma, wounds, burns, sunburns and radiation);
· chemical substances (including some pharmaceutical drugs);
· microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and parasites);
· ischemia or death of tissues from lack of oxygen;
· foreign particles; and
· all types of immune system reactions including autoimmune conditions and hypersensitivity reactions, e.g., arthritic conditions.
Depending on the nature of the injury, a person who has sustained any or all of the preceding conditions may be experiencing inflammation.
Your Inflammatory Response
The March/April 1994 edition of the online nutrition journal, Nutri-Notes described the “inflammatory response” as the body’s internal defense mechanism against injury. It is the body’s effort to protect itself by neutralizing and destroying toxins at the site of an injury so that any infection cannot spread to other tissues. The following occurs as part of an “inflammatory response:”
1. Blood vessels dilate, increasing in size and becoming more permeable so that substances normally contained in the blood can travel out into tissues, enabling greater blood flow to the site of an injury. The larger volume of blood at the injured site allows the body to remove toxins and dead cells.
Increased permeability allows the white blood cells and clot-forming substances to enter the damaged area. This occurs because the body has released chemicals such as histamine, kinins, and prostaglandins. The increased blood circulation and permeability of small blood vessels (known as capillaries) produces heat, redness, and swelling within minutes of an injury. Pain is the result of damage to nerves, toxin irritation, and/or pressure from the swelling. Prostaglandins worsen and lengthen the pain attributed to inflammation.
2. Kinins also affect nerve endings and contribute to pain.
3. Bacteria-eating cells known as phagocytes migrate to the area to help ward off infection after the inflammation process has begun. The different types of white blood cells squeeze through the capillaries to reach injured tissues, and another type of immune system cell called neutrophils (storage centers for proteolytic enzymes, which I’ll discuss later) clear away any toxic debris.
4. Nutrients that the body has stored are released to be used in the area of the injury. They support the defensive immune system cells and injured cells.
While inflammation is the body’s means of dealing with injury to soft tissues, if it remains unchecked for lengthy periods of time, then it can cause serious harm to the body. However, even for short durations, inflammation can cause mobility problems and be linked with pain that is difficult to deal with.
Pharmaceutical vs. Natural Approaches to Inflammation
There are more than 200 potential anti-inflammatory drugs, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids in the form of cortisone injections, creams, etc.), to gold salts, methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine. However, many people find a natural means is best to control inflammation since this approach also promotes healing and does not involve side effects. As well, natural remedies do not interfere with the body’s innate ability to heal and repair injured areas.
NSAIDs include aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), and others. Some of the side effects of these medications include: stomach bleeding and ulcers, gastrointestinal distress (heartburn, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea), headaches, dizziness and/or tinnitus, which is a continuous buzzing or ringing in the ears with no obvious cause. It is one of the most common hearing disorders in adults. Over longer periods of time NSAIDs can cause kidney and liver damage. These medications also appear to accelerate the development of osteoarthritis and increase the rate of joint destruction.
Corticosteroids are powerful drugs with powerful side effects. They deplete your body’s immune system response, thereby making you more prone to infections of all kinds. In addition, they’re harmful to the adrenal glands (the stress glands), and can cause depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, cataracts, blurred vision, severe muscular weakness, ulcers, thinning of the skin, and osteoporosis.
More Strikes Against OTC/Prescription Pain Killers
According to Dr. Sherry Rogers, author of Pain-Free in 6 Weeks,“ side effects from OTC and prescription drugs are the third highest cause of death in the U.S. When one considers how many of these drugs are in the category of “analgesics” (pain medications), which include the non-narcotic drugs such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or narcotic drugs, such as opioids and opiates, this is significant.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications also deplete your body of much-needed vitamins and minerals required for all your body’s basic functions. Over-the-counter pain relievers like Aspirin, Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, and the countless others on the market deplete your body of Vitamin C, folic acid (Vitamin B-9), iron, and zinc. These nutrients are needed to keep your immune system strong, heal tissues, maintain cellular integrity, build healthy blood, heal wounds, and nourish skin and hair.
Besides that, OTC and prescription pain medications do not eliminate the underlying causes of the symptoms people take them for; instead, they merely mask them. While that pill may help alleviate a symptom in the short term, in the long term, the medications may be creating other problems. The liver and kidneys must filter every synthetic chemical that enters your body including medications. Repeated use of these medications can weaken these organs and the body’s ability to detoxify. Plus, the cause of the original problem that was covered up by medications may rear its ugly head somewhere down the road in a much nastier form.
Before you stop using any drug, it is important to see your physician. Sudden discontinuation of some prescription medications can cause severe health problems.
And if you’re taking any OTC or prescription pain medication, you must consider that they may interrupt the delicate workings of the body and deplete vitamins and minerals that the body requires for proper healing.
Alternatives to NSAIDs
The best-known pain-reliever is aspirin. Aspirin’s active ingredient is salicin, which converts to salicylic acid in the stomach. Chemists first synthesized salicylic acid in the nineteenth century. The drug was given its name, which reflected its herbal heritage. The herb, meadowsweet, was called “spirea” at the time. Meadowsweet, along with willow bark, contains a natural version of salicylic acid. Herbalists recommend meadowsweet or willow bark for many of the same symptoms for which doctors suggest aspirin. One benefit is that there are fewer side effects with herbs.
Substantial research shows that herbs like ginger, turmeric, boswellia gum, cayenne, guggul gum, and proteolytic enzymes can be as effective or more effective than aspirin when used appropriately and in appropriate herbs. Also, recent findings in nutritional therapy, suggest that compounds in some foods are more powerful than aspirin at alleviating pain and inflammation.
When it comes to muscle, tendon, fascia, or other soft tissue injuries, you don’t need to suffer. And there are many natural options to OTC and prescription painkillers.
For more information about soft tissue injuries, bone and joint injuries, herbs, nutrients and herbs to deal with inflammation and pain, as well as information about the top 20 anti-inflammatory and anti-pain foods, consult Healing Injuries the Natural Way : How to Mend Bones, Muscles, Tendons and More by Michelle Schoffro Cook. To order, call toll-free 1-866-638-6884, or www.amazon.com. For more information go to www.healinginjuries.com.
BYLINE: Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc, CNC, CITP, is an award-winning author, doctor of natural medicine, doctor of acupuncture, holistic nutritionist, quantum biofeedback therapist, and the author of Healing Injuries the Natural Way : How to Mend Bones, Muscles, Tendons and More and The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan: A Program for Greater Energy, Health, and Vitality . She can be reached at www.healinginjuries.com or www.energyeffect.com.
To order, call toll-free 1-866-638-6884, or www.amazon.com. For more information go to www.healinginjuries.com.