When injury strikes, how do you deal with pain? For many dancers, coping involves generous amounts of ibuprofen and ice. But pain pills, like Advil or Tylenol, can be tough on your stomach, and icing requires time—and a freezer. That’s where homeopathic pain relievers come in.

Homeopathy has been around for over 200 years. It uses natural remedies—like extracts from plants or minerals—to help the body heal. Many homeopathic pain relievers are topical, meaning they’re applied directly to the skin. “Topical pain relievers deliver site-specific relief, with minimal side effects,” explains Jacqui Haas, director of dance medicine at Wellington Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Therapy Services for Cincinnati Ballet.

There are tons of homeopathic formulas out there. To make things simpler, we got the scoop on three dancer faves.

(Photos courtesy Tiger Balm, Biofreeze, Arnicare)

Tiger Balm

Active ingredients: Menthol and camphor, which comes from

the wood of camphor trees

How it works: Menthol and camphor have similar effects. Like Biofreeze, Tiger Balm uses cold therapy to ease pain symptoms.

Best for: Sprains, strains and general muscle soreness

Biofreeze Gel

Active ingredient: Menthol, a chemical found in mint oils

How it works: The menthol creates a cooling sensation, which keeps pain signals from reaching your brain. It also reduces blood flow to the applied area, which prevents swelling.

Best for: Sprains, strains and general muscle soreness

Arnicare

Active ingredient: Arnica, which is extracted from the Arnica montana flower

How it works: Arnica’s dispersive properties help reduce bruising and swelling.

Best for: Bruises and swelling

You shouldn’t use topical homeopathic pain remedies…

…under braces or taping.

…on broken or sensitive skin.

These products can cause rashes or blistering, and they can be poisonous if they enter the bloodstream.

Haas says: “If, after using the product, your symptoms get worse, you develop skin irritation or you experience no relief in seven days, stop using it and consult

a doctor.”

Got a sweet tooth that won’t quit? Pump up the a.m. protein! According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, eating a high-protein (about 35 grams) breakfast helps quiet your sugary cravings throughout the day by upping the level of happy hormones in your brain.

Did you know...

…dark chocolate is awesome? You probably did.

But in honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s yet another accolade to add to its trophy case: Dark chocolate can reduce muscle pain and soreness. Its high cocoa content works like ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce inflammation, one of the major causes of pain. What’s more, if eaten before physical activity, dark chocolate may even prevent inflammatory molecules from forming, according to a study conducted at Aberystwyth University in Wales. That’s reason number 3,465,891 to pack a square of the dark stuff for a pre-rehearsal snack.

(Photo by Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

Hugz, Not Strugz

Does your competition team or student company have a pre-performance ritual? Believe it or not, those hand-squeeze chains, massage trains and hug seshes do a whole lot more than calm your nerves.

You’ve probably heard of oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love hormone.” It’s the chemical that makes you feel so darn awesome whenever you get a good hug. But oxytocin also has a lesser-known function: It boosts team performance. Numerous studies have found that teams that engage in physical contact before a competition—such as hugs or pats on the back—perform better than teams that don’t. Scientists attribute the performance boost to the release of oxytocin, which can strengthen important team attitudes, like trust, empathy and generosity.

Ever wonder about the little blue tubes you see at the health food store? The funny names on the labels, like Bryonia Alba or Arnica Montana, are intriguing, but what are they all about? These little containers hold homeopathic remedies—natural medicine used to treat illness and injury holistically.

If you go to a traditional doctor with a sore throat or a fever, the doctor will look at your throat and ears and prescribe a medicine to treat the symptoms. A homeopathic doctor, however, might ask if you favor warm drinks over cold drinks, or what side of your body a cold usually starts on. These might seem like unusual questions, but from a homeopath’s point of view they have everything to do with why you are sick in the first place.

Ancient Greek Wisdom

Homeopathy, which literally means “treating like with like,” was founded over 200 years ago by a German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann, who was practicing medicine at a time when people were bled (blood was drawn), or given emetics (an agent that induces vomiting) and purgatives when they were sick. It was believed that illness was the result of bad blood or poisons in the body; however, Hahnemann found these practices made people sicker because they became weaker and less able to function, and often died prematurely.

“Hahnemann refused to practice medicine like that, and, because he was a linguist, started supporting himself by translating old medical journals from the Greek language,” says homeopath Maria Bohle. “He began reading ancient Greek medicinal journals, which said if you wish to cure, let like be treated with like.” This was how he got the idea to treat people with the substance that would cause the same symptoms that they were having, and ultimately led him to found modern-day homeopathy. “It is the hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-you theory,” says Bohle. “For example, if you need to vomit, ipecac will make youvomit if you take a large dose, but if you are already vomiting, a tiny dose of ipecac could help to stop that vomiting.”

Nature’s Medicine

Homeopathy uses remedies—diluted doses of plant, animal, or mineral substances in the form of pellets, creams, gels, or liquid—that jump-start your body into curing itself without using prescription drugs. If you have a headache, homeopathic treatment will not try to hide the headache, but rather will focus on why you have a headache.

For example, if you have a pounding headache, it could be because you are sensitive to light or have a salt imbalance. Natrum Muriaticum will help regulate your salt balance and relieve excess body fluids which cause pain and pressure, thus eliminating the headache. It would not suppress the symptoms, but instead bring them out and use your body’s own defenses to cure what ails you. “Once something is put right, it tends to stay right,” says Emlyn Thomas, author of Homoeopathy for Sports, Exercise and Dance.

A Complementary Treatment

Homeopathic treatment is not for all illnesses and injuries. If you break your arm, for example, you need to see your medical doctor. “If a dancer tears a ligament, homeopathy will help to reduce inflammation, bruising and pain, but it will not repair the damage,” says Thomas. “See a sports physiotherapist and make sure you get the correct surgery or rest that is recommended.”

Detecting Wellness

Your first visit to a homeopath is more like a visit to a psychologist than a doctor. “There is a lot of talking in the first session,” says Bohle. “Homeopaths have a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ tendency [as] they try to get to the root of your physical problem through your emotional side as well. We treat holistically, so every aspect of the patient is important.”

A good diagnosis is the key to using homeopathy, and taking the correct precautions is crucial. “If a dancer is seriously injured, it is not the end of the world if you have to stop dancing for awhile,” says Thomas. “Allowing your body to heal is essential. Homeopathy does not offer miracles, but when used in conjunction with the right care, it makes recovery quicker and reduces the time a dancer must spend out of commission.”

Homeopathy is relatively risk-free because remedies contain such minuscule doses. It doesn’t interfere with any other drugs and has no side effects.

Remedies to Remember

Below are a few homeopathic remedies that may come in handy for symptoms common to dancers. Note: The symptoms and descriptions listed below are generalized. Before you try homeopathy, speak to a homeopathic professional.

Argentum Nitricum is for problems associated with nervousness. Can be helpful if you are feeling overly anxious about performing, or feeling so nervous that you have trouble remembering your routines.

Arnica Montana helps with healing damaged tissue. Can be used for most muscle injuries. If you fall in class, Arnica Montana helps reduce swelling, bruising or shock from the injury.

Ruta Graveolens is good for muscles that are beginning to contract or cramp. It can also be used if you have inflammation in your muscles or if your arms and legs are feeling unusually heavy when you dance.

Bryonia Alba eases aching muscles. Can help if your arms and legs are extremely tired or if all movement is painful.

When taking a homeopathic product orally, it is important to remember to have a clean mouth. This means not to have eaten, drank (besides water), or brushed your teeth within 20 minutes before taking the product. Food and toothpaste can interfere with the effectiveness of the homeopathy.

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