Dealing with a Traumatic Injury
I went to surf and visit with an old friend on the North Shore of Oahu this past March and the second to last day of the trip I suffered a commuted femur fracture close to the head of the femur (not in picture). I had surgery on the island and came back to heal 5 days later.
You could say the healing process started on the island. That part was more emotional. Coming to terms with my circumstances, denial, blame, pity, anger to some extent came out pretty quickly. Reality forces you to look down the road a ways and visualize where you want to be in the next year. It is a very cold feeling not being able to just wake up or walk off a bruised hip.
My injury required a titanium rod be inserted the length of my femur and another the length of my greater trocanter to the ball joint. The doctor did a great job on the surgery and prognosis is so far so good. I am taking a personal look at what I can do as an herbalist to enhance the healing process though. Dealing with the reality of the injury by being proactive in the healing process may also help give a sense of having control over my outcome.
The first stage of healing is inflammation at the site of the injury. According to herbalist Matthew Wood, the purpose of inflammation is to send blood to the area to feed and strengthen wounded, distressed tissue as well as to send white blood cells to fight off bacteria and consume waste products resulting from tissue breakdown. There are 3 major components of inflammation.
1) Changes in caliber of blood vessels & rate of blood flowing through them. 2) Increased capillary permeability. 3) Leukocytic exudation(neutralizing foreign particles by phagocytosis.
The endocrine system has a system of balancing the inflammatory response and where so the body can maximize the healing process. Taking into consideration will help not get in the way of the body's natural responses. I am looking at three prolonged areas for rehabilitating this injury. First with herbs, second with diet, and thirdly with exercise. For the purpose of this blog I am going to look at a few herbs I have chosen to use both internally and topically.
After leaving the hospital my friend and I went to the natural store and bought Arnica (Arnica montana) a homeopath and Comfrey Root (Symphytum officianalis).
Recommended by Dr. William A. Mitchell Jr. ND. Arnica is recommended for recent bruising, sprains, and strains, where the color of the contusion is red & blue with no broken skin. In my case my whole thigh was red and blue from the placement of the rod in my femur bone.
Arnica is a homeopathic medicine and is somewhat toxic so not to be taken internally or over broken skin. Perfect for muscle injuries, skeletal injuries, reduce swelling, and speed recovery.
The next herb I chose to take topically was Comfrey Root. Comfrey is an effective anti-inflammatory, wound healer, and vulnerary (promotes healing of wounds, soothes irritated tissues). Used to treat wounds and decrease the inflammation that occurs with ligament sprains, muscle strains, and broken bones. Comfrey is nicknamed knitbone or boneset and is known to start mending broken bones immediately so care needs to be taken that everything is in place before using comfrey root. I will only use this for a week after the injury.
The next two herbs I have started taking internally. the first of which is Horsetail (Equisetum arvense).
Horsetail contains silica (connective tissue), is an astringent (tightens tissue), styptic (stops bleeding), and vulnerary (promotes wound healing). Horsetail increases connective tissue tone & resistance. Bone is a special type of connective tissue, Dr. Sharon Tilgner, ND says horsetail has been used in healing osteoporosis related bone fractures.
Yarrow (Acchillea millefolium) aster family. Herbalist Matthew Wood M.Sc. has written on the properties and uses of Yarrow. Known as being "Master of the Blood", Yarrow's uses include clotting, un clotting. Yarrow works by regulating the flow of blood to and from the surface, in and out of capillaries & venules, thickening and thinning." After surgery on a long bone fracture there is a lot of blood loss and a risk of blood clots. These properties make Yarrow perfect with all manner of wounds, bruises, hemorrhaging, and clotting. Yarrow can be useful in almost any kind of acute inflammation with congestion of blood. Though it is best used with hemorrhaging that exhibits bright red bleeding than passive dark coagulated flow.
Other herbs I used were Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) to boost my white blood cell count and fight infection, and Chickweed (Stellaria media) to repair tissue damaged in accident and during the surgery.
This process will take me three weeks into my recovery process and although I have started the dietary plan immediately, I will modify and go over what I did in the next blog notes.