Trauma: Sprains, Strains, & Broken Bones: Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine

Traumatic injury includes bruises, fractures or broken bones, torn ligaments or tendons, sprains, strains, and cartilage damage. Acupuncture, Tui Na, and Herbal Therapy has been used successfully in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years to treat injuries due to trauma. These treatment modalities are most effective when begun shortly after the injury.

Acupuncture and Tui Na are used to speed up the healing process by removing blood stasis, clearing heat, reducing pain and swelling, and invigorating the affected channels. Tui Na powerfully invigorates the flow of new blood, fluids, and Qi to the affected channels, while encouraging the removal of stagnated and congested blood, fluids and Qi. The use of a sub-system of meridians, the tendino-muscular meridians, is quite effective in acupuncture to remove the stasis and relieve the pain. As mentioned, these modalities are most effective when used shortly after the injury.

While acupuncture and tui na are effective on their own, the healing process is greatly enhanced with the use of Herbal Therapy.

Many different schools of Chinese medicine have formulated specific "hit medicines" for injuries originally sustained in martial arts and war. Many of these formulas have remained "secret" and include a variety of externally applicated salves and plasters as well as internal herbal formulas. Golden Flower Chinese Herbs has formulated a complete line of internal and external-use trauma formulas which are proving very effective in addressing the different stages of trauma. We will look at the internal use formulas here.

Traumatic injury can be separated into three stages with a variety of clinical manifestations. In order for the treatment to be truly effective it is important to match the treatment to both the stage and the manifestation of the injury. In general, it is the stage of trauma that is the key to choosing the correct internal formula.

First Stage of Trauma

The first stage of trauma is the most distinct and is marked by the signs of pain, heat, and swelling. Heat usually manifests as redness, but in the absence of redness, heat might also be experienced as the sensation of heat. This stage can last anywhere from a few hours up to two weeks, depending on the type and severity of the injury. The treatment strategy is to clear heat and resolve toxin, dispel stasis and relieve pain. Trauma 1 Formula is the "coldest" formula of the three stage formulas and emphasizes eliminating heat toxin while helping the body move out damaged tissue. Trauma 1 Formula may be taken before injury: before engaging in contact sports that often lead to traumatic injury (martial arts, hockey, football, etc.).

Second Stage Trauma

The second stage of trauma is the phase when initial inflammation first subsides. What remains is blood stagnation combined with congestion of Qi and fluids in the local area, causing stiffness and pain. The damaged tissue weakens the defense against the invasion of external pathogens such as wind and damp. Swelling may be a factor, especially if treatment during the first stage was neglected, insufficient, or if the damage was severe. The treatment strategy for the second stage is similar to the first stage, but clearing heat becomes secondary to moving blood and dispelling stasis. Trauma 2 Formula has herbs added to specifically dispel wind and damp so that these pathogenic factors do not become lodged in the area, becoming a chronic condition.

Third Stage of Trauma

The third stage of trauma is traditionally marked by the need to rebuild tissue and dispel exogenous pathogens that may have been transformed into wind-cold-damp syndromes. There is often some residual blood stasis that is contributing to the lingering pain. As a result there is an inevitable overlap between the second and third stage of trauma formulas. Both Trauma 2 Formula and Bone and Sinew Formula move blood, dispel stasis and relieve pain; but in the second stage of trauma heat may still be a minor factor and the formula is slightly cooling. Bone and Sinew Formula, which treats third stage trauma, is the warmest of the formulas, and contains kidney supplementing herbs to stimulate the regeneration of ligaments, bones, and cartilage. Any lingering heat in the injured area should be cleared before employing this warm-property formula.

If you would like to pursue this form of treatment, contact me at the following telephone number or e-mail address. You will be asked to fill out a detailed intake form before your first appointment. You may pick this up at my office, or I can e-mail it to you.


Calvin Dale Smith, BA, MSc, DOM
Doctor of Oriental Medicine (USA)
Riverside Acupuncture and Wellness Centre
2211 Riverside Dr., Suite 106
Ottawa, ON K1H 7X5