Broken bones

From the desk of Debra Stark

Who hasn’t broken a bone or doesn’t know someone who has?

Two days before New Year’s I was hurrying into an exercise class called Ageless Grace when I skidded on black ice and took a spectacular fall.  Four cars on Commonwealth Avenue stopped, four kind men leapt out to help me up.  I insisted I would be fine, that it was just a bad sprain. I hobbled around the rest of the day, did cooking for a New Year’s Day party with a darling daughter-in-law, and then the next day while scooting around the store on a utility cart was persuaded that the emergency room was a good idea. Both sides of my left ankle were each the size of large grapefruit. An X-ray said the ankle was fractured.

I’m healing, and have learned a lot. I will never look at an ankle, or any bone or joint, the same way again.

Why am I sharing what I’ve done? Because Dr. John McInnis called me the poster child for recovery. My bones knit ahead of schedule, and I am still ahead of where I was predicted to be.

Who were my experts? The folks in the ER at Emerson Hospital, Dr. McInnis at Orthopedic Affiliates; Clare Mathews from Emerson Home Care; Susan Hirshon, Pilates at the Thoreau Club; and Jose Nieuwenhuizen-Donovan at NovaCare Rehabilitation. Jeffrey Levin and Nancy Ames were able to give me massages. All have been wonderful. I know there are many folks who do great work, and a part of me is sorry I won’t hurt myself again so I could try them all!

For the record, I do not have osteoporosis, and so the break did not happen because my bones were weak. Instead of NSAIDs, my choice was to use ginger and turmeric and the supplements below to help with pain relief and healing. Of course I used ice to reduce acute soft tissue swelling.

Below is the protocol I’ve followed to speed up my recovery.


  1. Arnica – of course! Arnica Montana, a homeopathic remedy, works for symptoms associated with injury, trauma, surgery, pain, bruising and inflammation.

o             I took King Bio’s Advanced Arnica because it is a multi-potency arnica.

o             I alternated this with Newton Homeopathics “Accident-Injury Rescue,” a combination arnica formula that also has remedies specifically for joint injury and for bone knitting.

  1. Symphytum Officinale. Absolutely, I took Boiron’s symphytum. Nicknamed the knit-bone remedy, symphytum is said to stimulate osteoblasts, the bone building cells. (It’s also said to help with osteoporosis. Have any of you tried it for weak bones?)

Dr. Vikas Sharma, an Indian homeopath says, “When a bone fractures, osteoblasts need to go into an overdrive around the fracture site, to lay down more collagen fibers and minerals on top to strengthen them. Symphytum acts as a catalyst in this situation. It increases the activity of new bone forming cells (osteoblasts) in the area of fracture….. Symphytum is indicated in cases where the healing of fracture is delayed e.g. in old people [that’s me! – Debra interrupting Dr. Sharma here], osteoporosis, etc. It is also recommended for pain in old fractures.”

My mother taught me that symphytum should be taken only after the bone has been set, or is in place. This is important!

  1. I took high amounts of omega-3 fats to amplify the effect of the herbs and spices, to help reduce inflammation and to keep the blood thin so blood clots wouldn’t become an issue. Years ago, an MD told me for any “itis,” inflammatory condition (arthritis, for instance), to take 9 capsules of 1,200 mg fish oil a day for 10 days – three capsules with each meal (always take with food), then to back down to 3-4 capsules a day. That’s what I did.
  2. Collagen. Knowing that it is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the substance that holds the body together, I sipped bone broth or used collagen powder to make smoothies. On the subject of smoothies: some days I used whey protein in an additional protein shake because there is evidence that whey protein stimulates bone-building osteoblast cells, too.

Other foods rich in collagen are canned salmon and sardines, as long as they have bones. Don’t forget to eat other foods that help with healing: all the greens like kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy and broccoli. Eat foods such as nuts and seeds, seaweed, and plain yogurt.

  1. Boswellia serrata. Adam gave me this supplement (it’s Indian Frankincense). I knew about it vaguely for joint pain, but now read that boswellia encourages formation of new blood vessels at the site of injury. I noticed the stiffness in my knees went away with it and the extra omega-3s.
  2. BioSil®. Silica aids in the flexibility of bone collagen matrix. According to the BioSil® website, “In clinical trials, BioSil® increased bone collagen formation 15% and increased BMD 2.00% at the critical hip region over and above what calcium and Vitamin D alone could do after 1 year.”
  3. Vitamins K2 and D3. I was already taking these, but doubled my dose. Vitamin D, in conjunction with vitamin K, stimulates the transformation of fracture site stem cells to bone building osteoblasts. Overall, vitamin D is central to fracture healing and vitamin D status has been shown to be an independent predictor of functional recovery after hip fracture.
  4. Vitamin C, bioflavonoids and flavonols such as quercetin soothe the inflammatory process and speed healing. I was already taking vitamin C, but upped the dose. You can eat your vitamin C by emphasizing fruits and vegetables such as citrus, bell peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes.
  5. Adam handed me a formula by Solaray called Deep Vein Support that contains bromelain, horse chestnut and butcher’s broom. I took it because deep vein thrombosis (when blood clots in your veins can break loose and travel through your bloodstream) is a concern when one doesn’t move for a long time, in this case following my accident.
  6. Magnesium. I always take magnesium glycinate, which helps my body absorb calcium from my diet (I haven’t taken calcium supplements for a number of years now). Many of you have heard me say that as long as I take magnesium glycinate, I don’t get leg cramps…. The magnesium helps my vitamin D work as well, and since this is a part of building and maintaining healthy bones, I continued with it, of course!
  7. I ate carefully the first two months. Then I fell off the wagon with dessert. But I used those pH testing strips on my tongue to make sure I was mostly alkaline, around 7, to provide a healing environment for bones and bod. That means I ate lots of steamed greens dressed with good fat over whole grains or lentils. I fell in love with eggs all over again.

o             Acidic foods/drinks and sugar can cause bones to break down over time if not buffered by foods that are more alkaline such as greens, green juice, avocados, sweet potatoes, or bananas.

o             Avoid highly acidic drinks like colas, diet sodas, coffee, black tea, cranberry juice, and alcohol. Potassium is your new best friend. Green tea is less acidic than coffee.

  1. Zinc. Normally, I take a zinc picolinate capsule every day. When I broke my ankle, I increased the daily amount of zinc to 60 mg. The chemical reactions necessary to rebuild the bone require zinc. Try nibbling pumpkin seeds which are especially rich in zinc and have protein and good fats.

My plan is not to fall on black ice, ever again. But I thank my lucky stars that there are so many resources in our community. May you never break a bone, but if you do, may you recover quickly.