It is a mother’s worst nightmare and a huge set-back for adults. But the reality is, bones can break at any age – even strong ones. From a wrong step on uneven road to a high-impact sports injury, the severity of the break can only be determined through proper medical attention and X Ray. Although one never plans for such an event, it is good to know your options to promote the most optimum healing.
Depending on the location and severity of the break, it may be difficult to determine if the area is sprained, fractured or actually broken with the naked eye. The first thing to do is elevate it, stabilize it, and get in for an X Ray to know the damage. There are various levels of breakage and degrees of separation of the bones. The image above is of a broken fibula (my current case – see more below), which occurred during a late-night ice hockey game. As you can see, the bone broke all the way through, but did not shift laterally leaving it in perfect alignment. The swelling that immediately took place is the bodies natural response to hold the bone and ankle joint in place.
With swelling always comes the risk for stagnation, a term in Chinese medicine referring quite literally to obstructed free-flow. Stagnation is not only detectable by visual swelling, but also by the severity of pain. It is safe to assume that the more pain there is with swelling, the more stagnation there is. Although some level of swelling – or stagnation – is good because it is the bodies natural way to stabilize the bone, we want to be sure that proper nourishment can flow to the trauma and that nothing gets trapped in the area as it heals. Unattended stagnation can lead to further pain down the road, reduced mobility, or area weakness. As the trauma heals, acupuncture and herbs can help circulate the area – allowing debris and toxins to to move away and nourishment to move in.
The first thing to do is distal acupuncture and application of the herbal liniment San Huang San. This will reduce any unnecessary heat or inflammation trapped at the site and promote healthy circulation. Because of its cooling effect, it should not be used for more than 24 hour post-trauma. The same goes for ice. (I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it…) but the main cause of stagnation in trauma-healing is the over application of ice. Ice constricts blood flow in the area and decreases circulation. It can cause debris and blood to congeal, and although it may provide temporary relief of the pain it may also cause more problems later on in the area. Remember to follow your own doctors advice and intuition, but also keep this in mind next time and see for yourself. Perhaps you will notice the increased mobility and strength of the injured area once it has healed after leaving the ice bag in the freezer during rehabilitation.
Bone mending will occur on its own through the bodies innate healing potential. The first thing before bone mending takes place (whether naturally or with assistance of acupuncture and herbs) is to be sure the bones are properly aligned. If not, this will cause the bones to mend askew and may require setting or surgery. The X Ray above has perfect bone alignment for mending to begin, it was a lucky break (har har).
Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help promote healing and bone-mending in accordance with your body’s natural ability. Herbal medicine is a great first-line of defense when mobility is a problem and getting to an acupuncturist is not feasible. My colleague, Frank Butler, is a renowned orthopedic acupuncturist and has developed a whole line of herbal trauma medicine. These powerful pills come in easy-to-use chewable pills and recommended at various stages in healing. Like most Chinese Herbs, they aren’t the easiest flavor to swallow, patients will attest that eventually you “just get used to it.” Check out his whole list of Zheng Gui Tui Na products here.
Once you feel able to get in to your acupuncturists office, they can help tremendously to facilitate appropriate healing. Depending on the phase of healing will depend on the treatment. There is a common misconception that acupuncture is best when there is no more trauma and the patient feels better. Internal medicine and trauma treatment alike, acupuncture and herbs are most effective when used in conjunction with Western medical therapy and when begun right away. In the case of traumatic injury, repetitive and regular acupuncture is best. This will ensure the proper healing of the area now- it is a lot more difficult to undue improper healing later. Treatment every day in the acute phase is ideal if feasible, with a reduction in frequency as the healing process continues.
In the case above, the injury is a week old, and we have begun acupuncture surrounding the break site, combined with electrical stimulation. This is easy to do thanks to the removable cast used in modern trauma treatment (as opposed to the plaster ones of my childhood). The electrical stimulation mimics the current in the body as bone fibers begin to mend. This helps facilitate the process so that stabilization of the area can be achieved quicker. Other techniques include distal point prescription and opposite extremity therapy. I am performing acupuncture on the area daily, and the patient is taking the “Bone Knitting” internal herbs mentioned above (Zheng Gu Tui Na). Currently, the level of break is visible in the X Ray above and the exterior condition is as follows:
We shall see how he responds in the long run. Ultimately, his doctors expect the injury to take at least 6 weeks before significant improvement, and about 6-months to 1 year until completely back to hockey-playing strength. With the acupuncture and herbal treatment, we hope there will be no future implications from the trama. I will keep you posted as the healing process continues.
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