Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tumble Troubles

Children and inevitable part of growing up for them; sometimes a hair-graying experience for us!  Whether insignificant or serious, falls require immediate attention and the physical aftermath can be greatly helped by prompt and proper treatment.

This topic moved to the top of my list after my toddler took a spill down the stairs this week.  While such an incident is not an uncommon childhood happenstance, it certainly was stressful.  Thankfully, having a well-rounded regimen backed by experience made the situation less traumatic and accelerated the healing process.  ("Prescription" descriptions follow the story.)

The first thing I assessed, after rushing to my daughter's side, was her level of pain (as determined by her cry) and her mobility.  Because I still nurse her, my first instinct was to offer the breast for comfort.  I wanted immediately to scoop her into my arms, but, not having seen the complete tumble, I wanted to be sure moving her would not cause any damage.  Because she was already attempting to sit up on her own to get to me, I felt there was no danger in setting her in my lap...her neck and upper body seemed normal.  I began to nurse her, which soothed her crying, and I executed a gentle manual exam of her head, neck, trunk and limbs.  If any bones had been fractured, she would most likely have accelerated her crying or shown pain.  She showed no signs of increased pain and I did not discern any breaks, nor were there any large red marks visible on her face, head, abdomen, back or limbs, which would indicate impact wounds/contusions.

About one minute had passed during this initial "exam."  Of course my little one was still upset, but not as greatly as before, and I was also more calm.  I asked my eldest son to run and get the homeopathic arnica; I administered three tablets to my daughter and continued to nurse her until she was finished.  (Had her upset been much greater, I would have also given her some Bach's Rescue Remedy.)  Her crying abated and she became more placid, though desired to be held and comforted.  My next step would be an ice pack, but in this case I was not sure where to apply it.  There was not yet any bruising or swelling that I could see.  I held her for about five minutes, continuing to gently but firmly "massage" along her limbs (all the way to fingertips and toes), manipulating and rotating to see if it would elicit an acute pain response.  As she did not react negatively, and she wanted down from my lap, I put her down and went to get her some water to drink; at that time, I administered a second dose of arnica.

I noticed as she walked across the room that she was limping.  Uh-oh...that's not a good sign.  A limp can indicate a couple different can be a malfunction in the low back, the hip, the knee, the foot, the leg bones, a combination of these things or all of the above.  I knew at that point I needed to apply the full arsenal.  The first thing I wanted to do was get my daughter in to see the chiropractor.  Since the intricate manipulation of the spine is not yet one of my skills, I seek knowledgable and experienced pediatric chiropractic care.  This is one of the only outside sources I use and highly recommend.  To find a pediatric chiropractor in your area, visit and click on the "Find a Chiropractor" link.  Our closest best option is a nearly 4-hour roundtrip drive, but it was worthwhile.

We took our daughter to the pediatric chiropractor who assessed the physical situation and did a manual exam.  We talked through what we both had evaluated and agreed there was likely a slight hip dislocation, as well as sacral spinal impingement.  I was also concerned about a tight swollen spot I had felt in my little one's neck.  The chiropractor did a full spinal adjustment as well as work on the affected hip socket.  As soon as the adjustment was complete, my daughter got up and walked around the room, her limp much less pronounced.  While she previously had been doing the "peg leg" walk, she now was bending her knee.  This was a good sign that the adjustment had an immediate ameliorating affect.  However, she still would not flex her foot while walking, which indicated continued irritation and perhaps a sprain in the foot/ankle.  We scheduled a visit for the next day and went home.

That evening, I put my daughter in an epsom salt bath to soak for 15 minutes, which she enjoyed.  During her bath, while Daddy sat with her, I brewed some herbal tea* that would act as a nervine (relaxant), help repair tissues/ligaments, implement rapid cellular repair, and provide nutritive minerals.  I also prepared a poultice to place over the affected hip and low back, which would increase localized healing.  I got out homeopthic Ruta tablets, which are a follow-on to Arnica...Ruta is excellent for sprains, injured tendons, bone injuries (especially knees, elbows, wrists).

I gave my daughter the herbs to drink before she left the bath; after she was dried, I applied the external herbs and dressed her.  I wanted to apply an ice pack to her back and hip, but she would have none of it. LOL  Because her injury was not so grave, I did not insist upon applying the ice.  I gave her a dose of the homeopathic Ruta and put her to bed with me.  The next morning, she was up and cheery as usual.  The limp seemed pronounced upon her rising, but loosened within 10 minutes of her being up and around.  She walked nearly normally but still would not flex her affected food.  I administered more internal herbs and Ruta, and applied external herbs (now a salve) to her hip, low back and foot.  We then went to our second chiropractic appointment; after the adjustment, my daughter walked better than she had earlier in the day.  Both the chiropractor and I were happy with the rapid improvements.  We scheduled another appointment for early next week if necessary after watching my daughter's improvement over the weekend.

Later that day, I began to gently manipulate the affected foot...flex the toes, rotate the ankle, flex the foot.  Sometimes when a child experiences physical pain in a limb, such as that resulting from a sprain, the child will not bear weight on the limb.  This can continue even beyond the injury, becoming a habitual incorrect "muscle memory" that can cause long-lasting errors in gait.  To avoid this, we can do physical therapy to send the proper nerve signals from the limb to the brain.  It is as if we are telling the brain, "It's OK to move this limb...these parts work well."  My daughter did not show any signs of pain when I manipulated her foot or hip, so I conducted these exercises throughout the rest of the day.  I continued to administer the homeopathy and herbs, gave another epsom salt bath and applied herbal salve to the necessary areas.

The result is a speedy recovery and a happy little girl who is eager to once again run headlong down the stairs...oh, how soon they forget!  But we do not, so the gate is firmly latched (and brothers are reminded to close it after they go through).

In summary, dealing with falls and the potential resulting injuries is far less stressful when we are prepared and knowledgable.  My first recommendation is that you gain a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology, as well as massage/physical manipulation techniques.  These skills can be immeasurably helpful in assessing and treating injuries.  Secondly, find a good pediatric chiropractor in your area...chiro care for kids is great not only for the normal accidents that accompany childhood (which can cause long-term spinal and postural complications), but also for a healthy and well-functioning immune system.

Rx Review
*Many herbs are excellent for sprains, ligament/tendon injuries, fractures, etc.  If you cannot make your own herbal tea/tincture, Dr. Christopher's Herbal Formulas of BF&C and Kid-e-Calc are good choices for these occasions.

My preferred herbs for injuries of this nature in children are:

  • Comfrey = cell proliferant (causes rapid cellular regeneration)
  • Marshmallow Root = anti-inflammatory; excellent in poultices (very soothing to inflamed tissues)
  • Lobelia = anti-spasmodic, strengthens vessel walls
  • Horsetail = collagen production; excellent source of silicon (tissue/bone builder)
  • Oatstraw = nerve relaxant, calcium/magnesium source
  • Nettles = high nutritive value: iron, silicon, potassium, calcium, vitamin k; increases circulation, shrinks inflamed tissues

These herbs (in "whole herb" form...look for a forthcoming post on that topic) can be used both internally and externally.  If you have a prepared tincture, give up to 15 drops in water a few times daily. To make a tea, use equal parts of each herb, combining to form approx. 2 Tb. for a pint of boiling water.  Steep the herbs for at least 15 minutes (the longer you brew, the stronger the infusion).  You can administer this tea warm or cold; store it in the refrigerator and use within a couple days.

To make a poultice, grind the herbs as fine as you can (if you have powdered herbs, use those); I find it helpful to add ground flax seed to any herbal poultice mixture, as the flax binds the herbs together well.  Depending on the size of areas to be covered, you may need more or less herb mixture.  For small children, make about 1/4 cup of herbs.  Add warm water until the herbal mixture is paste-like.  Make more if necessary.  Apply directly to skin and wrap with a cotton cloth (flour sack towels or strips of old t-shirts work well).

An easier way to apply herbs externally to small children is to soak a cotton cloth (or flannel) in a warm preparation of a strong herbal brew.  Wring out the cloth and lay it on the affected area overnight.

The easiest way to apply herbs externally is a salve (or ointment).  My Super Salve (soon coming to the store section of this website) contains bone/tissue/ligament building, cell regenerating, nutritive herbs that provide therapeutic healing for injuries and many more complaints.  Salves are a convenient way to quickly (and more cleanly) apply herbs to acute injuries.

Using ice on injured areas is an excellent part of the healing regimen.  If possible, it is quite helpful to alternate ice and heat in 20 minute intervals a few times daily.  This protocol, however, seems to work better for adults than for perpetually squirmy children.

Don't forget to use epsom salt baths for your injured children.  Soaking in the magnesium reduces inflammation and pain, and aids muscle and nerve repair.  Check out the epsom salt council web site for more information.

Finally, a brief primer on helpful injury homeopathic remedies:

  • Arnica = trauma, bruising, strains/sprains, shock; use first and immediately
  • Ruta = injuries to bone covering (periosteum), particularly useful for wrists, knees, elbows, teeth; sprains/strains, injured ligaments/tendons; alternate with Arnica, every other hour during acute injury
  • (Rhus Tox is also useful for sprains, but is more applicable to general muscle stiffness with aggravation upon initial movement; this remedy is not indicated as strongly for bone and ligament injuries)

Depending on your child's injury, you may need additional or varying treatment protocols; use your best judgment.  Remember, no one knows your child as well as you do...listen to your instincts and do what you believe is best for your child.  See my Library for recommended reading resources.

Be well, and become your own expert!