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Treating Traumatic Injuries with Chinese Medicine

This 2018 post was migrated from an old site, Axis Mundi Healing Arts.


Americans often associate acupuncture with chronic pain treatment, while many other patients come in for hard-to-pin-down ailments that fall through the cracks of Western diagnosis. It comes as a surprise to many to learn that Chinese medicine (including acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and herbal treatment) is highly effective for treating acute injuries and physical trauma. 


I learned this firsthand while a studying for my oriental medicine degree at NUNM in Portland, Oregon. One day I was hurrying off to my very first clinic shift, and I stubbed my toe--hard. By the time I got to look at it, the toe was blue-black and swollen: my first ever fracture, albeit a small one. I headed to a community clinic where the practitioner was known for his skill with traumatic injuries. He worked on me for maybe 20 minutes, first pulling the toe to relieve the jam and straighten the bones, then applying an external liniment, and doing some acupuncture. He sent me home with some herbal pills and let me borrow a cane. I expected to be hobbling around for weeks. But five days later, I was walking with barely a limp, and within ten days I was back to normal. I admit that I, even as a believer in the potency of traditional East Asian medicine, was quite amazed at these results. I imagine if I'd gone to urgent care or the ER, they'd have had nothing for me but some ibuprofen. 


While I don't claim to possess the skills of an old-school Chinese bonesetter (something of an endangered clinical specialty these days), I've had occasion to treat plenty of contusions and sprains, and find these cases satisfying for the quick, obvious results that can be achieved. Of particular interest to me recently are the many different external-use liniments that can be applied to good effect in case of injuries like these. (I make several different liniment recipes for use at different stages and in different types of trauma). 


Rule number one in trauma treatment: avoid ice! As the Chinese saying bluntly puts it, "ice is for dead people." It causes tissue to contract, inhibiting circulation and, with it, the body's healing response. External-use herbal liniments make an effective, pain-relieving alternative that will work with, not against, your bodily intelligence. 


Another pointer: always treat a bruise. Blood pooling and congealing outside the vessels is a form of stagnation that can lead to other problems when left untreated. A simple Dit Da Jow or blood-moving liniment is effective and painless; in a pinch I've had folks make up their own version from kitchen spices and vodka to good effect. 


I hope this brief post will encourage folks to seek a traditional herbalist or Chinese medicine practitioner first when dealing with minor to moderate injuries, as well as for long-term recovery from serious ones. 

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