Beach volleyball. Too many people on the court. Player 1 bumps into the person behind and steps on the edge of the foot of player 2. An audible three pops are heard. “POP, POP, POP!” and player 1 goes down into a crumpled pile. Player 1 has felt this before, and though it had been 18 years since having such a bad injury, Player 1 goes into immediate shock. The leg begins to shake and the ankle starts swelling. Player 1 is emotionally devastated. The only difference from all the previous ankle ligament tears is that this time she was with a group of acupuncturists, one of whom happened to have some needles with her and was able to give Player 1 immediate treatment--once she was carried off of the volleyball court. The swelling, which had started so quickly, halted almost as soon as the needles were inserted. After a few minutes with points placed both distally and locally to the injury, the shaking also stopped. The physical trauma was severe but the acupuncture had already started controlling the damage so it did not continue to escalate.
Within two hours of the injury, Player 1 was given internal herbs for acute trauma and had the ankle wrapped in a plaster of San Huang San (Three Yellows Powder), an herbal alternative to an ice pack. Addressing the inflammation and pain internally and externally at the same time are part of a “Die Da” protocol (injury treatment from a long lineage of Martial Arts practices). The plaster was kept on over night and re-applied for the next few days to reduce swelling, prevent blood clotting, help clear out stagnant blood, and promote fresh blood coming to the area instead of ice, which temporarily helps reduce swelling but ultimately prolongs recovery time because of restricting blood flow to the injured tissues. The visible bruising that generally takes about a week to appear with this kind of injury had expressed by day 2 and was already starting to clear by day 4!
The deviation from previous ankle injury experiences, seeing the visible signs of more rapid recovery and feeling less pain and restriction than any prior torn ligaments, also helped Player 1 with the emotional component of chronic injury. She was much more positive and hopeful about her recovery.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are useful in addressing minor to severe injuries. This is a case of a severe acute ankle sprain on a person with a long history of chronic ankle injuries. When there is repeat trauma to an area, our body “remembers” this injury pattern and damage can be much more severe and slower to repair than expected. A sort of “PTSD” of the body, if you will. When left untreated, or using the classic RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) protocol, the injured area does not repair as quickly as desired or as completely as necessary for full recovery. Fortunately, using the ancient wisdom of Chinese Medicine, there are alternatives and ways to overcome the vicious cycle of chronic injury.
Acupuncture Specialists at Integrative Medicine Center