My Healing Regimen for Injuries and Surgery
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My Healing Regimen for Injuries and Surgery

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I recently took my daughter Sylvie on a ski trip to Utah. I was looking forward to some father-daughter time (my wife was on a meditation retreat), introducing Sylvie to skiing, and doing some snowboarding myself. However, things didn’t go quite as planned. I had a bad fall on the slopes and ended up with a broken rib. Read on to learn the steps I took to recover from my injuries as fast as possible.

How you heal after surgery is just as important as the surgery itself.
When you get injured or need to have surgery, your long-term healing regimen is just as important to your overall health as the surgery itself.

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). After extensive research on CBD products available today, Ojai Energetics Hemp Elixir is my top choice. It’s what I use myself and with my family, and what I recommend to most of my patients, because it’s effective, safe, and made from 100% organic ingredients.
  • 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.

  1. Would appreciate hearing about CBD oil and skin pre-cancers. Rick simpson oil has many anectodal reports. I am confused by the practice in dermatology of slash and burn of the skin for many situations. I appreciate your work and research.

  2. Hey Chris, I broke some ribs falling hard on the asphalt once and used super blue stuff ointment (bluestuff.com) on the ribs and it took the edge off the pain so I could sleep at night. It is a great product to have around for pain. If you haven’t tried it before give it a go, you wouldn’t be disappointed, Fred

  3. I took my kids for ski lessons too and ended up falling and fracturing my humoral head on my dominant arm 5 weeks ago! Thank you for this post. My regimen matched yours except I didn’t know about the boswellia. And my curcumin was too low. CBD definitely helps with sleep but I still seem to have to take a Norco on PT days:(
    Good news is I WENT SKIING!!! With CIRS and Lyme and Hashimotos, I had started LDN 3 weeks prior to the accident and I think THAT is why I felt ready to get out there! Of course I haven’t taken any LDN since Norco so I appreciate that I can adjust my doses of curcumin, add boswellia and that may work. You’ve helped me immeasurably Chris. Thank you!

  4. When I broke my ribs, I started taking arnica (can’t remember the dose) and at the six week mark, went from bad pain turning over at night to no pain at all. Have never had any further pain which I’ve heard can linger for years.

  5. Homeopathic Arnica is wonderful to help heal most injuries and it helps against inflammation. To help bones heal Sympythum Officinalle in homeopathic presentation, too. Both have given me great support. Hope you heal well!

  6. Hey Chris,
    I’ve been following you for years. Wishing you a speedy recovery. I am a health coach and now CEO of a company that produces the finest Marine Collagen. SHORE MAGIC is the name. People have healed bones in 2 weeks on my product when 6 weeks was the expected time frame. I would love to send you some!!

  7. Chris,
    I know you are a big fan of Stephen Buhner’s work.
    One of his less publicised recommendations is Elder (bark, stems, leaves or root ) to speed healing bones after a fall.
    Note. The herb must be boiled prior to consumption or can be strongly emetic.
    Check out his Facebook page for details. There is a story there about his partner falling off a ladder.

  8. A question. Given that inflammation is a key stage in healing – the painful movement of one rib part on another stimulates the formation of soft callus – it suggests that anti-inflammatory interventions/meds should be used sparingly, It should be just enough to aid mobility and recuperative sleep. Am I being too hard on my patients…?

    Many thanks,
    Peter

    • Exactly! Healing is an inflammatory process, so I’m wondering the same thing. My Husband had cervical spinal fusion 10 days ago. He would Love to take an anti-inflammatory for the relief it would offer, but doesn’t want to interfere w/ the healing. Any thoughts/ ideas are welcome!!!

    • I hate to keep sounding like I’m pushing my own products but My Shore Magic Premium Marine Collagen definitely helps inflammation AND aids the healing process. I do what I do because more people need to understand the HEALING POWER in this one pure substance. It’s my passion and I have seen crazy stuff happen in my four years of working with clients and this powder. People heal in 1/3 the time.

  9. Thank you Chris! This is so timely, I’m having a hysterectomy in 6 days. How long do you recommend taking the supplements listed after surgery?
    Jen Wood

  10. It would also benefit people to add homeopathic remedies prescribed by a knowledgeable practitioner to the list of holistic treatments. I am an orthomolecular practitioner in Toronto, CA, who has used Chinese medicine, Western herbal medicine, accupuncture, homeopathics, and chiropractic for injuries and various health issues alongside the nutrition and functional medicine standard. By far, I see fastest and most profound results with homeopathy. Read more here: https://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/sports-medicine/

  11. – You can do some electrical grounding for your body in general and put EKG patches on injured areas to speed up the healing process 2 times. That is also a great way to reduce pain and inflammation. More on that is in the book “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever! ” of Clinton Ober.
    – Use an extract of the Maral Root to speed up the natural anabolic recovery processes in your muscles.

  12. Hey Chris I live in Melbourne Australia and would love to see a Functional Medicine Doctor. Are there any FM Doctors that have undergone your training in the Melbourne region?

    Also, I am interested in getting acupuncture and read your acupuncture articles and would like to know how I can ensure I am seeing an acupuncturist how views acupuncture according to real Chinese Medicine (as discussed in your articles)?

    • There is one in Sydney, Kate Norris. You could go up and see her once in person and the rest on Skype but you wont get medicare rebates for the skype. If you do hear of someone in Melbourne I would love to know so I can refer people.

    • Hi Renee,

      We will be launching our own directory featuring practitioners who have completed our ADAPT Framework Level One course in about a month or so. Stay tuned!

  13. Ageless Herbs has a line of dozens of external salves, liniments, etc. for various issues, including injuries and pain. This is an American company run by an acupuncturist/herbalist, and the remedies are made here. I have no financial interest in the selling of these products.

    https://agelessherbs.com/tcm-topical-remedies/

  14. Thanks Chris for sharing your injury journey. I broke my left wrist in late January ice-skating and am now better with intensive physical therapy (3x week). I also was put on hefty doses of painkillers (oxycodone) and weaned myself off daytime use very quickly after experiencing almost hallucinogenic side-effects not to mention drowsiness. I have done OK on 1/4 or less of pill at night to help with pain and sleep. However, still concerned that it’s an opioid so may try alternatives mentioned here assuming non-addictive. With the opioid epidemic, one has to careful to not get hooked on painkillers. I also take 1000mg of Vitamin C daily for wound healing since required surgery with titatinium implant and meditate with deep breathing to combat pain when doing PT exercises during the day. I talk about lessons learned from a broken wrist and mindfulness on recent episodes of my Real World Wellness podcast.

  15. I’m mystified that you still choose to be a carnivore when all the evidence points to the fact that our bodies are designed to be herbivores…

    • I’m mystified that you would post this when all evidence points to the fact that Chris is an omnivore which is the way humans are designed to eat.

    • Dr. Sayer, Like Penelope said, Chris eats an omnivorous diet and he has shared a lot of positive information about plant foods in his articles. Chris has reported extensively that it’s working well for him and also provided plenty of supportive science, so there’s no mystery as to why he does it. Please “seek first to understand…”

  16. Oh no! That’s such a painful injury, even when you breathe. When you return to the slopes next year, it will take a lot more courage than usual. Thanks for the pain and healing tips.

  17. Curious what other’s experiences have been with CBD oil and chronic osteoarthritic joint issues, including particular brands used. Thanks so much in advance

      • I know in homeopathy each person is individual. Having said this, are there any particular remedies you might suggest I can read up on? Thank you

  18. You can try NR nicotinamide riboside to release your pain and heal faster. They are many anecdotal reference that point to NR speed up recovery and reduces inflammation and pain.

    • no not yet but something I have been recently considering. One of my friends did try it. She got treated at the New York AcuHealth and it worked perfectly well for her.