Treating Bone Fractures with Chinese Medicine
As I’ve recently been reminded by my own broken big toe, acupuncture and herbal medicine are powerful complementary therapies when recovering from a fracture. If you’ve visited emergency care, had x-rays, and received any necessary treatment from an orthopedic doctor or specialist, don’t delay on the last leg of healing. Come visit our Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic for pain management and faster recovery!
How does treatment work?
Treatment of a broken bone will change depending on where you are in the healing process. The initial stage after a fracture is the inflammatory stage. While inflammation is often demonized, it is a crucial part of the healing process for any injury. After a fracture, the area swells as blood flow increases. Movement may be limited, as the swelling is protecting the site of injury from further damage. Pain is an important sign to your body to not do anything that might make things worse, though it may need to be managed. Keep in mind, we do not recommend applying ice, which tends to suppress inflammation by decreasing circulation and only temporarily relieves pain by numbing the area. In Chinese medicine, cold slows everything down, including one’s progress in relation to healing. Western medicine is slowly accepting this long-held cold theory of Chinese Medicine, but you’ll still find those who recommend icing as a symptom reliever.
In this initial stage, acupuncture can help modulate the pain response and regulate circulation, preventing the accumulation of excessive fluid. Traditionally, pricking distal points at the end of a channel that is affected by the injury, would be done to help the body clear stagnant blood and allow healthy circulation to return, especially if swelling causes numbness. Rather than rely on ice, herbal compresses and soaks can also alleviate pain and regulate inflammation. The inflammatory response also aids in the breakdown of a small amount of bone along the fracture, to prepare for the next stage of healing.
In the reparative stage, the body forms tiny new blood vessels and builds cartilage across the fracture line to rejoin the broken parts of the bone. Internal herbal medicine and moxibustion can be used as well as acupuncture to stimulate tissue growth. We assess your whole health at this stage to make sure there are no other impediments to healing, and treat any underlying deficiencies or blockages that might slow down the process. Pain management is still important for most patients at this stage as well.
When the fracture has been reconnected, the remodeling stage begins, with cartilage turning into bone. While you can carefully return to activity in this stage, acupuncture can help accelerate the rebuilding of bone. Treatments support the rehabilitation of surrounding muscles that may have weakened while immobilized. We can also address any musculoskeletal imbalances that develop from compensating for the injured area.
While recovering from a fracture, regular acupuncture treatments can decrease the time needed for bone healing, reduce pain and return you to full function sooner. It can also reduce the chance of developing chronic pain, weakness and lingering inflammation at the site of a traumatic injury. Unless you want your bones to help you predict the rain, let us help you heal!
To learn more about Erin Kennedy, read more at Acupuncture with Erin: Meet our newest practitioner!