Although vigorous exercise is one of the most important steps toward good health, it can also have “side effects,” ranging from muscle soreness to injury. While these adverse consequences of exercise can be minimized by graduated training and careful activity, problems may develop anyway.
Homeopathic treatments (especially topical creams) are quite popular for such sports-related conditions, and, as we shall see, they have shown some promise in studies.
There is some evidence to support the use of homeopathic creams for the treatment of sports injuries.
However, studies of oral homeopathic remedies for exercise-induced muscle soreness have not been promising.
Investigators performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 69 people with sports-related ankle sprains to test the efficacy of a combination homeopathic ointment.1 The particular product tested contains a combination of the following 14 homeopathic preparations: Arnica montana, Calendula, Hamamelis, Aconite, Belladonna, Bellis perennis, Chamomilla, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purperea, Millefolium, Hepar sulphuris calcareum, Mercurius solubilis, Symphytum, and Hypericum.
During the 2-week trial, all of the participants received electrical muscle stimulation. The investigators also applied cream—either the treatment cream or another cream without any medicine in it—a total of seven times during the study. The results showed that people given the real treatment recovered more rapidly than those given placebo.
In another double-blind, placebo controlled study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the same homeopathic ointment, as well as a modified version of the ointment, for the treatment of various mild to moderate sports injuries, including sprains.2 All of the approximately 100 participants in the trial had slight to moderate sports-induced injuries that had occurred in the past 4 days. The first application of ointment and a bandage was applied by the investigators on day 1 of treatment. Then, the participants applied the ointment themselves, twice daily, for 14 more days. The results were promising. By the end of the trial, participants using either form of the ointment experienced significantly superior improvement as compared to those taking placebo, according to some but not all measures.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study tested homeopathic Arnica (30X) in 519 long distance runners, but did not find positive results.3 Participants took five pills twice daily, beginning the evening before a race and continuing for four successive days. Evaluation after the race showed that Arnica was no more effective than placebo for reducing post-race soreness or speeding recovery.
Previous, much smaller studies had found some suggestion of benefit for long distance runners, but the results were, in general, not statistically significant.4,5
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, conducted in the physiotherapy department of a homeopathic hospital in England, evaluated the efficacy of an oral homeopathic preparation in the treatment of muscle soreness caused by stepping exercise.6 The remedy used was a combination of Arnica, Rhus tox, and Sarcolactic acid. The results showed no statistical difference between the treatment group and the control group.
In classical homeopathy, there are many possible homeopathic treatments for sports injuries, to be chosen based on various specific details of the person seeking treatment.
If you have an injury that is very sensitive to touch and you would describe the pain as shooting, violent, tingling, or cutting, and you feel worse at night and in the cold, then you may match the symptom picture for homeopathic Hypericum. Note: an injury with symptoms like these suggests nerve involvement, indicating an urgent need for physician examination.
If you feel worse when exposed to motion, drafts, and heat, and during the afternoon, and if you are experiencing spasms, shooting pains, tearing sensations, jerking, trembling, swelling, redness, and heat, possibly with cold extremities, then you may fit the classic symptom picture for homeopathic Belladonna.
If you have a sprain with a great deal of swelling and inflammation of the soft tissue around a joint, the homeopathic remedy Arnica might be recommended. Arnica is also commonly used as a remedy for exercise-induced muscle soreness.
If you have an injury to a bone, cartilage, or tendons, and if touch, motion, and pressure all aggravate you, while warmth helps you, you may fit the symptom picture for homeopathic Symphytum. Many homeopathic practitioners use Symphytum after Arnica if deep pain or soreness remains after the initial soreness has cleared.
If you have stiff, painful muscles brought on by straining, overlifting, or getting wet when already hot and perspiring, and if your muscles seize up with rest but loosen with exercise and heat, then you may fit the traditional homeopathic indications for Rhus tox.
For herbs and supplements that be useful for sports injuries, see the Sports Injury article.
For a thorough explanation of homeopathy, including dilution of therapies, see the Homeopathy Overview.
1. Zell J, Connert WD, Mau J, et al. Treatment of acute sprains of the ankle joint. Double-blind study assessing the effectiveness of a homeopathic ointment preparation. Fortschr Med. 1988;106:96–100.
2. Bohmer D, Ambrus P. Treatment of sports injuries with Traumeel ointment–controlled double-blind study [translated from German]. Biologische. 1992;21:260–268.
3. Vickers AJ, Fisher P, Smith C, et al. Homeopathic Arnica 30X is ineffective for muscle soreness after long-distance running: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin J Pain. 1998;14:227–231.
4. Tveiten D, Bruseth S, et al. Effects of Arnica 30D on hard physical exercise. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 1991;111:3630–3631.
5. Tveiten D, Bruset S, Borchgrevink CF, et al. Effects of the homoeopathic remedy Arnica D 30 on marathon runners: a randomized, double-blind study during the 1995 Oslo Marathon. Comp Ther Med. 1998:6:71–74.
6. Vickers AJ, Fisher P, et al. Homeopathy for delayed onset muscle soreness: a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Br J Sports Med. 1997;31:304–307.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 9/18/2014