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Scheduled for surgery? Homeopathy can help

Last summer one of my patients, a 76-year-old woman, came in to see me. She reported that she had finally had hip replacement surgery about six weeks before. Her hip felt great, but now she was seeking help for a terrible case of insomnia that had been plaguing her ever since the surgery.
     The conventional medical approach to insomnia is to prescribe sleep aids, medicines which force the body into a sleep-like state thereby relieving, to some extent, the terrible fatigue which the patient feels. In recent years, a more natural over-the-counter sleep aid, melatonin, has become available. There are also some herbal and homeopathic combination sleep aids which are sometimes helpful. However, I much prefer to use individually prescribed homeopathic remedies which give relief by curing the underlying problem.
     On talking more to this patient, I found that the reason she was unable to sleep was that she was having to rise five to seven times nightly to urinate. By the time she fell asleep it was time to go again! One night, she measured her urine and counted seven cups for the night. She had no burning or urgency (which might indicate an infection); it just seemed as though at night she had much more urine to pass than was usual.
     Normally when we sleep our pituitary gland secretes a hormone called ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) which inhibits the formation of urine in the kidneys. It appeared that this mechanism was failing in this patient. She had tried restricting fluids late in the day and at night without help.
     In addition to this urination problem, she was having "nasty nightmares" of "horrifying repulsive images" exemplified by one dream she related of a stew made with rabbit and mice. Her other symptoms which helped to indicate a useful homeopathic remedy were: desires salt, soup, and flavorful foods; thirsty for cold drinks; and suffering from "silly fears."
     I theorize that it was the anesthetic that affected her nervous/glandular system causing this nighttime urination problem. Such side effects from anesthesia are also an indication for the remedy that I gave her: Phosphorus 200C taken once daily for three days.
     Six weeks later she reported her progress. The urination problem was alleviated immediately, the nightmares were gone, and her sleeping had been "idyllic" starting from the very first week. She was doing so well that she was planning to go folk dancing in a few days.

The many effects of surgery
Sometimes people need surgery and there is no alternative. In such situations our approach in homeopathy is to use remedies to help the person deal with the trauma, shock, and stress of the experience. Sometimes a remedy specific to that patient's response to the surgery is needed (such as described above); other times more "generic" remedies are routinely used. Here are a few of the common remedies and some of their indications.
     Arnica montana. The main thing to remember is that surgery is a controlled injury to the body. The most well known homeopathic remedy for injuries is Arnica montana. There are other remedies that might be indicated for injuries, but Arnica will usually suffice. Arnica can help the body deal with pain, help the body resolve bruising, and facilitate faster healing.
     Staphysagria. This remedy is indicated for lacerated tissues (as occurs in surgery) especially if the tissues are sensitive to the slightest touch. Patients who respond to this remedy are often over-sensitive emotionally, peevish, or irritable. This remedy is also indicated for lacerated or over-stretched sphincters.
     Hypericum. This remedy is homeopathically prepared St. Johns wort. It is indicated homeopathically for injuries to nerves and nerve-rich tissues. Such nerve-rich tissues include the lips, fingers, rectum, and genitals, hence it is well indicated for any surgery to these areas. Remember it anytime there is excessive painfulness in any location after surgery or where there are shooting pains.
     It is also indicated in puncture wounds, hence it should be considered after some fiberoptic surgeries or injections.
     Ledum palustre. Ledum is an often overlooked remedy after trauma. It is the leading remedy for puncture wounds especially if the injured parts are cold. Anytime an injured part is cold, consider this remedy. In such situations it will relieve pain, reduce bruising, and encourage healing.
     Phosphorus. As described in the story above, Phosphorus is indicated in many cases of reactions to anesthetics, especially if vomiting is a problem. This is true with the older anesthetics such as ether and chloroform, but can also apply to more modern anesthetics. A thirst for cold drinks, a desire for company, and a sense of fearfulness often accompanies many complaints.
     Chloralum. This is a homeopathic form of Chloral Hydrate, an anesthetic substance. I mention it because it was the other main remedy I was considering for the patient discussed above. The dream state she described was characteristic for this substance, especially occurring after surgery. Patients needing Chloralum often have hives as an accompanying symptom.
     There are many other possible remedies for symptoms that occur after surgery. It depends on the individual patient and their individual response to the overall trauma of the surgical process. For best results, always take the case of the patient, paying close attention to their unique symptoms.

A common surgical program
Patients often ask me what they should take to be prepared for surgery. To make things simple, I usually recommend they take Arnica 30C once daily and Phosphorus 30C once daily for three days prior to the surgery. Then I tell them to take the Arnica frequently (at least four times daily) after surgery to aid in pain control and encourage healing. Even if they are using other medications, they should still take the Arnica. It won't hurt and it often does quite a bit of good. As the pain decreases and healing progresses they should gradually decrease the frequency of the Arnica until they stop taking it. I usually have them take the Phosphorus once daily after the surgery for two or three days and then stop.
     Taking Arnica and Phosphorus before the surgery seems to prepare the body to best deal with the shock of surgery and anesthesia. I don't have any proof of this, other than the frequent spontaneous report from patients that their surgeons told them they got well in record time. Perhaps the patient described above would never have developed her disturbing urinary and sleep problems had she contacted me before her surgery and taken the Arnica and Phosphorus prior to the procedure. We'll never know.

Dosing
After an injury, such as surgery, the body is struggling to regain homeostasis, the state of healthy balance in the body. During such a time, patients respond well to homeopathic remedies and it is safe to repeat them frequently, change them frequently, and give them in an alternating fashion (first one, then another) without fear.
     The sixth and thirtieth potencies are readily available in health stores and will work well. Placing three or four pellets under the tongue or melting the pellets in water and having the patient sip on the glass usually gives good results.
     Remember to watch the patient, and change the remedies according to the patient's changing symptoms, consulting other homeopathic references or the homeopathic practitioner as needed. In my experience, the homeopathic remedies will not interact adversely with conventional medications which the patient
may need.

About the author:
Dr. Timothy R. Dooley is a graduate of National College of Naturopathic Medicine as well as Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine. He practices homeopathy in San Diego, California, and teaches at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences. He is the author of the easy-to-read introductory book, Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine. The complete text can be read on-line at http://www.beyondflatearth.com. For more information, visit http://www.drdooley.net. He can be reached at (619) 297-8641 or drdooley@drdooley.net.