Tuesday, 3 September 2013

On natural healing?

I tutored for an Open University course about perspectives on complementary medicine for many years.  I always found it interesting what polarised responses it could receive.  On the one hand, there were orthodox folk (eg Ernst in newspaper, Colquohoun) who thought it was over-embracing the positives of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and on the other there were more radical folk who thought it was over-critical of CAM.  I had a tutor colleague with a nursing background, who lay in the former camp, and I remember she cited some fractures as an example of where orthodox medicine worked ‘naturally’ by just putting the injured limb, for example, in a sling to heal up on its own.

Round about that time I fractured my wrist, and experienced this form of health care – I went to A&E, where I was X-rayed and given a wrist support to help give it support in healing.  At the end of the ?six weeks, I returned to the hospital to the OT section, where they told me to do some very uncomfortable exercises, bending my hand at the wrist in different directions.  These exercises somehow felt inappropriate to me so I didn’t do them.  By a happy chance, I had met and been impressed by a chiropractor at a conference on CAM, and ended up consulting him.  He reckoned that the scaphoid bone had got stuck, and over several sessions unjammed it, with the result that my hand would flex another 45 degrees to the approximately 80-90 degrees that the other one did naturally.

So, in this case, I reflect that ‘natural’ in the sense of ‘not doing anything’ was insufficient.  I also happened to chat to various people such as participants in my Japanese Yoga class who said they’d fractured a wrist in the past, and it had set in the wrong place, so they had ended up having an operation where it was re-broken and set in the right place.  I’m not sure if they lost any mobility or sensation long-term as a result of this, but no doubt it was painful going through the operation and post-operative healing again.

Recently, I broke another bone! – I did at one point have a check a few years ago for osteoporosis, since a herbalist colleague had wondered if my bones might be getting brittle with my age.  It was in fact low-ish, and perhaps I should do more to build that bit up, I don’t know.  Again, it being the clavicle I was essentially given a sling and told to go home and get better.  There was in fact talk of putting a pin in to the clavicle to ? hold it together.  Consultation at the local fracture clinic didn’t show up any further problem, though to my eyes the two ends of the broken clavicle looked ‘miles apart’.  However, I was told they would seek each other out and all would be well.  My physio told me I would regain full movement so I would be as good as pre fracture.

Imagine my concern when I returned for my discharge appointment at 10 weeks to be told no re-join had occurred.  There was talk of having the pin/plate process at this stage – which would now include a bone graft, since the bone doesn’t heal so well so long after injury.  Thankfully, I happened to consult a physio who suggested more of a wait and see approach, and in that time I re-connected with an osteopath-trained practitioner who seems to have readjusted the two ends of the clavicle back into place – still not quite sure exactly what he did, but there was a definite alarming clicky/crunch which seeme d to please him, and seemed to end up with my clavicle in a much better place, and me able to move it much better.

So, what is my point?  My concern is that orthodox medicine is missing important possibilities for facilitating healing in a more natural way with regard to fractures by supporting healers who know what to do to (? in this case, certain osteopaths? - ? traditional bonesetters? – as an aside, I think osteopathy did stem from an American bone-setting tradition) to get fractured bones into place so they can heal up most effectively.  I know my experience is over just a couple of breaks, but I was struck by the comments of people I knew who had sustained wrist fractures, and when I googled about clavicle fractures, there seems a lot of problems there too.

Anyone else any perceptions or thoughts?
References (still need a bit of working up)
Colquohoun, D (c2005)
Ernst, E (c2005)
Heller et al (2005) Perspectives in Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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