I’ve been skiing or snowboarding for 35 years, and I’ve never had a serious injury from either during that period. I guess I was due, because halfway through my first day on the mountain I had a spectacular wipeout. Most of the impact of the fall was focused on my left side, around the 9th and 10th ribs.
For the first five to 10 minutes after the fall I could hardly breathe, so I knew it was serious. Long story short, I ended up being transported by ambulance to the hospital in Salt Lake City (with Sylvie riding in the front; she’s still telling that story!). I had a chest x-ray and ultrasound, was diagnosed with a cracked rib (or ribs) and lung contusion, and was discharged with a prescription for Norco and ibuprofen.
My ski trip had obviously come to an abrupt halt, but we stuck around in Utah for the remainder of our trip (two days) so Sylvie could continue in ski school. She loved it and it made the whole experience worthwhile.
Eight natural remedies to help recover from injuries and surgery
Now that I’m back home, I’ve put myself on an intensive healing protocol. Managing pain and inflammation after injuries and surgery is an important part of the healing process, but I don’t think that pain medication and ibuprofen are the safest way to do that. I’m not opposed to them in the short term; I didn’t refuse the morphine they offered in the ambulance, and I did take Norco and ibuprofen the first couple of days while I was still in Utah and didn’t have access to my stuff. But over the intermediate to longer term, I certainly prefer a more natural approach.
I thought I would share what I’m doing, since I imagine it would be of interest to others who’ve been injured or are recovering from surgery. Just five days after the injury, I had already improved significantly—quite a bit more than is typical for cracked ribs, according to what the doctor told me to expect and the anecdotal reports of others who’ve suffered similar injuries.
Here is my regimen:
- Curcumin (Meriva SR form, which is more bioavailable than standard curcumin preparations), 1,500mg three times a day with food. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory, but it doesn’t have the side effects and risks of ibuprofen. 4.5g (4,500 mg) per day is a relatively high dose, but doses of up to 8g per day have been shown to be safe for short periods, and I believe that higher doses are necessary for short-term therapeutic benefit. (Important note: curcumin is contraindicated if you are taking a blood thinner, which may be prescribed post-surgery.) I like the Thorne Research soy-free brand.
- Boswellia AKBA (this is an extract of Boswellia that is more potent than the whole herb), 100mg three times a day with food. Boswellia is also anti-inflammatory, but it works with a different mechanism than curcumin, which makes them a complementary pair. I like the Pure Encapsulations brand.
- Wobenzym PS, three tablets three times a day on an empty stomach. Wobenzym is a blend of systemic enzymes. There isn’t much research behind it, but anecdotally I’ve found it to be helpful (in my own experience, and with patients) for joint pain and inflammation, and there isn’t much risk, so I decided to include it. Even if it’s a placebo, it’s safer than a lot of the other options!
- CBD oil. CBD is the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, and it is anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It is sold legally over the counter (for now; if the DEA gets its way, it won’t be for much longer) because it does not produce the “high” that THC does. We use it regularly with patients at CCFM, and I’m finding it to be helpful with the pain and with sleep (because of the pain). I like the Ojai Energetics Super CBD product and the dose is 1-2 droppers full once or twice a day as needed.
- Bone broth, one cup twice a day. Bone broth is rich in a variety of nutrients that support soft- and hard-tissue repair. I prefer the Kettle & Fire brand when we’re not making it ourselves.
- Chinese “Fall and Hit Medicine” (Die Da Ke 跌打科). Many of you may know that I was originally trained in Chinese Medicine, and I have studied Chinese internal martial arts like tai chi and Bagua for many years. There is a long history within Chinese martial arts of using “hit medicine”—compresses, plaster, and liniments made from Chinese herbs—to help heal injuries. I’m using products from Spring Wind. For those who are unfamiliar with this type of medicine, the company has a great document explaining how to use it for trauma. I am using one of the dissipating plasters, a compress, and the trauma liniment. Unfortunately, I think the compresses and plasters are only available to practitioners, but the liniment is sold to the general public.
- Acupuncture. I have always found acupuncture to be helpful for pain and trauma. I’m getting treatments three times a week at a community acupuncture clinic, the Berkeley Acupuncture Project. Community acupuncturists are very experienced because they focus exclusively on acupuncture (and don’t use herbs or other treatments, typically). They see a high volume of patients in a large-room setting, which enables them to offer very affordable treatments on a sliding scale of $18 to $40. The secret to using acupuncture to heal trauma (or anything else for that matter) is frequency; two treatments a month, which is what people often go for, isn’t going to cut it. At least two, and preferably three, times a week initially will be much more effective, and then you can titrate down from there.
- Rest. This might go without saying, but rest is perhaps the single most important part of a trauma recovery program.
Okay, that’s it! I’m about three weeks in, and the ribs are healing well at this point. I’ve got a ways to go—broken ribs don’t tend to heal overnight—but I’ve been able to resume many of my daily activities.
If you’re on any narcotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatories, or blood thinners post-injury or post-surgery, please check with your doctor before taking any of these supplements. The bone broth, “hit medicine,” and rest are obviously fine no matter what!
Hope this is helpful.