Sticks, Stones & Broken Bones: Healthy Bones at Any Age
First appeared in Homeopathy Today in May 2003
This article is for those who are concerned about the health of their own bones should they break or injure them especially as they advance in age and wisdom, but maybe not in strength.
Two weeks ago today, my partner’s mother, Maria, fell and broke her foot. She is 91 years old and has a touch of osteoporosis so this isn’t an unusual story. It is remarkable that Maria has had virtually no pain since the third day after the injury, and today, on day 14, she has been able to walk with the aid of a walker. There’s some residual bruising and a little swelling at the end of the day and that’s about all. The rate at which she is healing almost defies the laws of gravity.
confused, frightened, and in a lot of pain
By the time I saw Maria on the day of her accident, it was a full 10 hours after the fall itself. She had fallen outside a restaurant trying to navigate a steep and uneven curb. After a day at the ER getting a diagnosis, she was sent home and told to go to bed and stay there, that it would be 6-8 weeks before she was mobile, and that she should contact her primary care doctor. Her foot was wrapped securely in an ace bandage and she was instructed to elevate it and use an ice pack for the first 24 hours.
She was confused, frightened, and in a lot of pain. She was also hungry, thirsty, and completely exhausted. Luckily, she had some Arnica 30C which she’d been taking sporadically throughout the day, but her foot hurt her tremendously and was very swollen. X-rays showed hairline fractures of two of the metatarsals of her left foot-bones more or less in the middle of the foot (above the arch).
The swelling was not as impressive as it could have been, thanks to the Arnica. It was the pain that was bothering her most. For those of you who have not had a broken bone, it can be an excruciatingly deep pain. Maria was taking Extra-strength Tyleno,l but it wasn’t helping the pain at all. I gave her Symphytum 1M and also something soothing to eat. We iced her foot and tucked her into bed, then repeated the Symphytum and she fell into a deep and unhappy sleep.
The next morning she woke a little surprised. Her foot was sore, but not painful. At this point the swelling was what concerned me the most. I gave her Arnica 1M once in the morning and again at bedtime.
physical comfort and nice ice baths
We worked on her physical comfort together, finding positions that were the most comfortable. She realized that wrapping her foot with the ace bandage made it hot and sore so we discontinued that and replaced it with a comforting sock. We discovered that a 15-minute ice bath (a big pot full of cold water and lots of fresh ice cubes!) gave her a tremendous amount of relief from the discomfort any time it surfaced, and so we used it once or twice a day for the first week and once a day thereafter. We found a cream containing Arnica, Ruta, and Symphytum, and we rubbed it in two or three times daily.
The bruising appeared on the surface of her foot on the third and fourth days after the accident. Her foot was black and blue in patches and it hurt intermittently. That, plus the ice baths helping so much (and the aggravation from heat), led me to give Ledum for a couple of days in a row.
Around the fifth day after the accident she sank into an apathetic depression…just staring off into space and barely able to finish her sentences. She was not interested in drinking and completely lost her appetite. At this point she was convinced that her lack of mobility was the end of the end, and she started not caring. That was the day I gave her a single dose of Phosphoric acid. She fell into a deep and peaceful sleep this time and woke in an easier reality where the depression had melted away and she felt more like her old spunky self.
I gave her Symphytum intermittently when she felt like her foot began to hurt. It was clear that it was the only remedy that gave relief from the discomfort of the fracture any time it become painful. She has only taken half a dozen doses of Tylenol, finding the Symphytum so much more helpful.
fun exercises from the bed or sofa
It’s been two and a half weeks now and the swelling is minimal and the bruising mostly yellow. She was bed or wheelchair bound for these two weeks but thanks to the exercises she did from her sick bed or the sofa while she watched TV, read, or listened to the radio, she has been able to maintain her strength and flexibility. It’s common for the muscles in elderly people who are bed-bound to lose their strength – to atrophy – and for the recovery period to be that much more difficult and extended as a result. She’s getting pretty slick at whizzing around the apartment in the wheelchair, which gives her arms a good work out.
The physical therapist taught her how to use the walker to transition from the wheelchair to learning to walk again. Miracle of miracles, only 17 days after the accident she is walking, carefully and slowly of course, without pain.
Some days are good and full of achievement and healing. Others are slow days with some pain and feelings of discouragement and misery at being trapped, dependent and insecure. On one of those days, Maria became so very anxious she ended up with diarrhea and started talking about how it would be better to die than live like this. All she would take were sips of water, and her previously warm body was now fully covered with the quilt. She asked for a heating pad for her sore rheumatic shoulder. That was the day I gave her a dose of Arsenicum and she bounced back from her pit of despair and started seeing some of the rosier sides to her life.
so many remedies
So many remedies I hear some of you muttering to yourselves. Was it wise to give so many remedies so quickly? That’s a good question. You have to remember that in a first-aid situation, more remedies may be needed more often. The more serious the situation, the more you may have to repeat and change the remedies as the symptoms change and need changes of course.
Maria hasn’t needed anything for a few days now. Sure her foot is sore from time to time, but we’ve both noticed that if she rests it or ices it (those baths are still comforting) the soreness eases up. She’s doing much more for herself, and now that she is beginning to walk about (with the walker of course) she is feeling less trapped and dependent on others for every little thing.
The acute phase of the situation has passed. Healing is well under way. If the pains in her foot return or the soreness doesn’t respond to rest and ice, then a repeat of the Symphytum will be in order.
It’s been fun to look at her foot a few times a day to see how much better it’s doing only a few hours after the last time we took a peek! It’s been fun to joke about how she’ll be doing the tango any minute now and how we’d better watch out. It’s been touching to witness her fear and despair turn to hope and finally victory.
How many times does a broken bone in an elderly person spell the beginning of their end in that it weakens them and causes them to lose their confidence in their body – to the point where they just give up trying? I’m afraid it happens too often. Unnecessarily often. Thank goodness for homeopathy’s sweet healing ability to help Maria get back on her feet and back into her life so quickly and easily.
As we go to press, it is four weeks after Maria’s accident and there’s barely any bruising or swelling at all. Maria is walking with a little help, and feeling better and better each day. In the early stages of her recuperation, she wanted a “magic pill” every night. About ten days ago, she stopped asking for one. From that day forward, she has been proud and pleased to acknowledge how well she and her body are healing.
In the next week or two, I shall give her the Tissue Salt regimen (see “Homeopathic first aid for fractures”). I know it will give her comfort to take something that actively supports her body’s healing process in the final stages of mending her broken bone.
homeopathic first aid in broken bones
immediately after the injury
Arnica: First stage of a fracture with swelling and bruising. Give as soon after the injury as possible to reduce the usual bruising and swelling. Give it 2-4 times daily for the first week or two after the fracture-alternating it with other remedies as needed and stopping it once the swelling has gone down.
Ledum: For bruising with black and blue discoloration-and pain that is much better for cold (and worse for warmth).
healing the physical pain
Symphytum: The #1 remedy for broken bones. Symphytum eases the pain and speeds up the healing of all fractures. Give in any potency and give it 2-4 times daily repeating it as often as needed if it gives relief from pain. I have seen it work well in potencies from 6X to 10M.
Bryonia: Some fractures are incredibly painful with stitching pains that are worse in the evenings as well as worse for the very slightest movement. The person may be extremely irritable and doesn’t want to be disturbed at all.
Ruta graveolens: This remedy is for pains that feel sore or bruised. With a fracture on or near a joint, there may have been a sprain (with injury to tendons) or inflammation to the covering of the bone (the periosteum) for which Ruta is the main remedy. The person may be weak and weary, lame mentally and physically.
healing the emotional pain
Conium: The shock of the injury causes weakness, dizziness and confusion.
Phosphoric acid: Apathetic and depressed after the shock of the injury. Just lies there and says very little. Confused and forgetful. Isn’t thirsty or hungry.
Staphysagria: Angry and resentful for what happened. Indignant and blaming-usually towards somebody who is perceived as having caused the injury. Goes over and over what happened in their head, especially at night when they are trying to sleep.
other obvious remedies along the way
Give other well-indicated remedies that demand to be given at any time, like the Arsenicum I gave to Maria. A remedy for people with diarrhea and a thirst for sips – as well as despair and chilliness!
Hypericum: For fractures to nerve-rich parts of the body (fingers and toes) with a great deal of pain in the nerves (typically shooting pains).
Alternate it with Arnica if there is swelling as well-especially in the first week or so after the injury.
Repeated fractures always need the support and advice of a professional homeopath.
It has been fun to look at her foot a few times a day to see how much better it’s doing only a few hours after the last time we took a peek! It has been fun to joke about how she’ll be doing the tango any minute now and how we had better watch out. It has been touching to witness her fear and despair turn to hope and finally victory.
healing bones that are slow to heal
Once the acute pain and swelling and bruising have cleared, Calcarea phosphorica and Silica (in 6x potencies according to the Schuessler Tissue Salt theory) will help the bones to complete their mending process. You can alternate them, one week on Calcarea phosphorica (3-4 times daily) and one week on Silica (3-4 times daily) for up to 8 weeks during the final healing period.
There are many other homeopathic remedies for people whose bones are slow to heal after a fracture, but their selection depends on the skill of a professional homeopath who can take a person’s whole symptom picture into account and especially any other health concerns that may be troublesome at the time.
first-aid prescribing guidelines
Use your instincts to guide you-you may know more than you think you do-especially when it comes to first-aid situations.
Prescribe based on what is obvious and clear and most bothersome at any given moment in time.
Don’t be afraid to prescribe hard and fast.
Change the remedy:
As the symptom picture changes
If a clear symptom picture or strong keynote symptoms for a particular remedy surface at any time
If the remedy you have given doesn’t help.
Don’t be afraid of high potencies in a first-aid situation: 200C and 1M are both great potencies for serious accidents.
Repeat the remedies as needed-always stopping on improvement:
Every 5-30 minutes for very serious accidents/injuries or a lot of pain
Every 1-2 hours for less serious complaints
Every 4-8 hours for moderately serious complaints
Once or twice a day for mild complaints.
Do not repeat a high potency too often-unless it is needed often.
If a remedy helps, stop giving it routinely and wait for the symptoms to guide you as to when (or if) to repeat it.
caring for bedbound, elderly folk
A serious fracture means that a person can do very little for themselves for weeks or sometimes months. It can be upsetting to have to ask for every little thing. Try to anticipate as many of those needs as possible so as to alleviate feelings of insecurity, anxiety, or even humiliation.
Make it easy for them to attend to their personal hygiene…washing, brushing teeth, combing hair. Get a bedside commode. Get some nursing tips from your doctor’s office if you are having problems in any area.
Don’t overfeed a bedbound, bored person: frequent nutritious snacks rather than great big meals are much better. Make sure you give fruit and/or vegetables at every meal to keep their bowels regular. Monitor their fluid intake and make sure they drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
If you are nursing that person in your home, bring as many of their own bedside “things” as possible to make them feel at home and less disoriented. Organize a TV, radio, books, the telephone so everything is within reach and working at all times!
The days are much longer for the person who is bedbound. Anything you can do to alleviate the boredom and the anxiety will be noticed and appreciated, even if it isn’t remarked upon! Daily treats help: a little bouquet of flowers, a card, a favorite dessert. A little touch goes a very long way… massage, hand-holding, stroking the forehead.
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