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Connie’s Broken Bone Solution

Cast on a Leg and Crutches
October 8, 2012 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

A patient I’ll call Connie came to me after breaking her foot in a skiing accident. The break was bad enough to require surgery. After the operation, Connie developed a condition known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Symptoms include pain, obviously, along with redness, warmth, and swelling, which indicate inflammation. “A couple of my friends told me that you help people who don’t get anywhere with other doctors,” Connie told me. “And I hope you can help me because I’m at the end of my rope.” Connie wasn’t exaggerating. On a common pain-measurement test, she scored very close to maximum pain.

CRPS, which usually affects extremities like arms or legs, is difficult to treat. It appears to be caused by damage to a nerve, but the actual cause remains elusive. So far, Connie had been managing the pain with over-the-counter pain relievers, mostly aspirin. But she was concerned about the increasing number of aspirin required to do the job. “The surgeon suggested prescription painkillers,” Connie told me. “But my sister-in-law took those for a bad disc in her back and ended up addicted. I can’t live that way, so I hope you have a better solution.”

Although CRPS is not clearly understood, we do know that inflammation is involved. So I suggested Connie follow the anti-inflammatory advice that I give many patients. I also recommended she start taking supplements that fight inflammation, including curcumin, an extract of the spice turmeric.

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In addition, I discovered that taking just 500 mg of vitamin C following foot or ankle surgery can relieve CRPS. Ideally, the vitamin C should be started immediately after surgery. In Connie’s case, that wasn’t possible, since she’d had the operation two weeks earlier. But we tried it anyway, figuring that at least it wouldn’t hurt anything.

Lucky Connie! She returned to my office three weeks after the first visit and reported considerable success. “My foot still feels a little touchy, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was. And I haven’t taken an aspirin for more than a week.” The next month, Connie called and left word with my nurse that she was back to 100 percent pain-free. Now that’s the kind of patient message I love to get!

 

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