Injuries are the bane of all runners. At best, the pain is uncomfortable; at worst, it’s debilitating. Other than popping an Ibuprofen and grabbing an ice pack, what can we do to promote a speedy recovery?
While there are plenty of complementary treatments (acupuncture, massage) and procedures (surgery), few know of the alternative treatment known as biopuncture. Originating in Europe and entering the states in the late 2000’s, the bioregulatory based therapy is considered a more natural approach to treating injury and involves injecting the patient with a diluted solution comprised of minerals and plant-based material or what is sometimes referred to as biological products.
Podiatrist Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Director of The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York, has been using the treatment in his practice since 2007. Board-certified in foot and ankle surgery, his practice has been sought out by runners and other athletes since opening its doors in 1990.
“Biopuncture is safe and effective and is used to stimulate the natural healing process,” he shared. “We have used it for common running injuries like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis as well as for ankle sprains. We [use it] with patients who have [had] failed conventional treatments or in situations where cortisone is inappropriate, especially around tendons.”
Unlike more traditional injection therapies that work by suppressing symptoms of injury, such as swelling, bruising or pain, the solutions used in biopuncture activate the body’s own healing mechanisms. This occurs mainly by stimulating the systems in the body that promote tissue repair and blood circulation. Along with issues common to athletes, such as muscle tears, tendonitis, strains or sprains, it has also been used to treat allergies, digestive issues, headaches and even asthma.
Treatments are straightforward: After an examination and diagnosis, patients are given what are known as micro-doses of a solution into muscles, joints or tendons. Needles are thin, resulting in minimal, if any, discomfort. Multiple areas can be injected in one sitting and sessions take between 20 to 60 minutes. The cost of treatment ranges between $70-$120 dollars per visit.
The ingredients that go into a biopuncture vary and include botanicals such as chamomile or arnica to bio-identical hormones or platelet rich plasma. For athletic injuries, the more commonly used biological products are Traumeel, Zeel or Lymphomyosot. In a 2011 clinical study published in the International Journal of General Medicine, Traumeel was shown to be effective at treating acute musculoskeletal injuries and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Zeel, also an anti-inflammatory, is often used to treat joint pain. A recent clinical trial showed it effective in reducing moderate-to-severe knee pain when mixed with Traumeel. Lymphomyosot aids in tissue repair. For those looking to reduce the amount of over-the-counter pain relievers or avoid the side effects of cortisone, these could provide an effective alternative.
Like many natural remedies, it can take time to see the effects. “Typically, five sessions,” Dr. Geldwert explained. “But it can be longer depending on how long the injury has been present.” He also notes that for more serious injuries like a complete tendon or ligament rupture, biopuncture may not be the most appropriate course of treatment. You don’t have to see your general practitioner for a referral but finding a doctor who is certified in biopuncture techniques and knowledgeable about different formulas is recommended. While most insurance companies do not cover the cost, if you’re eager to resume your training or address a reoccurring issue, it may be worth exploring.