I sprained my ankle last night—pretty bad, as the history of sprains in my life goes. I was minutes away from leaving for my ceramics class when I took the spill. And the fall led to an evening with mud, but not in the way I had intended.
I had headed out the back door to look at lilac buds on the cusp of bursting into full bloom. But we just moved into this house ten days ago, so I wasn’t expecting the extra step down to the deck. My weight landed on the side of the step, my foot rolled under, and I crumpled to the deck in a lurch of pain.
The deck is tiny, and so fresh green grass beckoned just a few feet away from where I lay feeling a wave of nausea begin to rise. I crawled off the deck and collapsed into the dirt. Instantly the nausea ebbed. The thick, tall grass smelled cool and fresh, and I sucked in the fragrance as the pain slowly ebbed. The sharp scent of the grass cleared my head, giving me more resources for dealing with pain; the cool damp earth felt soft and welcoming.
But what to do now for the ankle? Ice, of course, Arnica too, then Ibuprofen. But the image that rose first in my mind was that of a mud poultice.
Now I have never used a mud poultice, have never been taught to use one, and have never seen one used. I was aware that American Indian cultures often advised direct contact with the earth to heal many kinds of ailments, but I had no memory of reading about poultices. But the mental picture was insistent—fresh mud on the injured tissue, it suggested.
My sweetie helped me hobble inside to the sofa, then he grabbed a shovel and headed to the side of the house. He gathered some damp earth into a container, added a few drops of water until the mud was a thick paste, and then, with a spoon, applied it to my ankle. An old dampened towel went over the mud, and we wrapped foot and mud together in more dry towels.
Instantly the ankle felt better. I don’t know how to describe it—a freshness that felt almost minty on the skin; a cool, soothing weight across the wound that was softer and more even than an athletic bandage, like being hugged just right. “It feels like love,” I told my sweetie. “Mud love.” Who knew soil holds compassion?
I am sitting on the sofa today with another mud pack on the ankle, and it feels just as fresh and soothing as last night. A Google search tells me that mud packs are good for keeping swelling down in sprains. In fact, for the extent of damage, the ankle is only slightly swollen.
The doctor who looked at the ankle this morning was surprised to find that the wound was not hot to the touch. She thinks nothing is broken—thank goodness—but I will need to keep weight off it for a few days. So it’s onto crutches for a while.
I would love to hear others’ experiences with mud packs or poultices, including what you know about the medicinal value of mud. I highly recommend the mud pack for a sprain. Be ready, though, when you’re done for the whole to look like a “soiled” diaper!