Chinese medicine’s perspective on healing bones, by Marie Regis, L.Ac.

Accidents  are jarring events  for the mind and body. We often think of them as wake-up calls, and for good reason. They remind  us that we are vulnerable. That the illusion of control we have is just that: an illusion. They remind us to be grateful for being alive, and for the people in our lives who are supportive. These events can also help us seek out help we normally would not reach out for. Chinese medicine and the teachers and mentors from that community have been a God-send at times when I felt particularly vulnerable.

The Martial Arts tradition is rich in knowledge about how to treat injuries. Martial arts teachers in China were expected to be able to heal the students who were injured under their watch.  Over the centuries many traditional herbal remedies were developed and refined, along with acupuncture and massage protocols for healing bone and tendon injuries. Here are some of their principles and keys to success:

  • When the body suffers a blow, it has particular repercussions which must be addressed:
    • Wind: the word describes the shock waves that the body absorbs when it is hit. This can result in inflammation, pain that travels, disorientation, dizziness or neuropathy. Some acupuncture points, particularly on the hands and feet, head and nape of the neck can address this very well if treated soon after the accident.
    • Qi and Blood stagnation: Poor circulation of the life force, and blood stagnation are typical after a blow. This is made worse by overuse of ice in the days following an injury or during rehab. It is vital that normal circulation be restored to allow the injured tissues to be nourished and heal.  This is done easily with acupuncture when the bone is still healing, and with the application of Chinese herbal liniments (Dit Dat Jiao). Some herbal formulas can be taken internally to support this process. Today these can be taken in the form of teas brewed from the raw herbs, in granule form, or in small pills (Chinese patented remedies).
      1. Zheng gu shui is a famous traditional liniment which can reduce pain and support bone and tendon healing. It is very strong and should be diluted for people with sensitive skin.
      2. Five photo brand first aid antiseptic: another commercially available massage liniment which can be used instead of ice to reduce inflammation and swelling, and eliminate bruising. This one is milder than the first and can be left on overnight. I’d recommend wetting a gauze pad with it and wrapping it around the injured area (do not use if there is an open wound), placing plastic over that, and then a loose ace bandage to keep it in place. The gauze should still be wet in the morning.
  • If you decide to take herbal medicine, seek out the help of an well trained, experienced herbalist.  Chinese herbal medicine far surpasses Western herbalism in its sophistication and precision in treating a wide variety of health problems. A Chinese herbalist will examine you and prescribe an herbal combination that addresses your particular set of symptoms. Two patients with apparently similar injuries may be given very different herbal formulas to address underlying conditions in addition to healing the injured area.
  • It is normal to feel quite tired during the weeks when the bone is healing. It takes a lot of energy to heal bone, a physiologically deep part of the body. Best to rest and avoid stimulants such as caffeine, which promote urination and tend to deplete Calcium from the bones
  • Keeping the digestive system strong is central to healing bones: this allows for effective nutrient absorption by the stomach and intestines, thereby providing nutrients to the bones via the blood. Here are key points in strengthening digestion:
    • Eat lightly cooked foods and avoid raw foods. Salads and other raw vegetables tend to lower metabolism and nutrient absorption in general. They deplete the “Yang”/ Warming energy and make the system cold.
    • Sugar weakens digestion and promotes the overgrowth of yeasts and harmful bacteria, thereby weakening digestion. It must be reduced or avoided
    • Eat at regular intervals and avoid periods of “starvation” – long periods between meals
    • Eat plenty of vegetables: vegetable fiber is what nourishes the healthy gut flora, which play a key role in nutrient assimilation and gut health
  • Avoid excess sexual activity: chances are if you have a broken bone your libido will temporarily decrease naturally. Reducing sexual activity helps you conserve “Essence”, which is the basis of building healthy bones.
  • Be patient: use this opportunity to slow down and step out of the “rat race” . As challenging as this has been for you, ask yourself “what is the gift” in it?