Mud love

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.

LilacsI 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.

backyard grassBut 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?

mud packI 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!


10 Responses to Mud love

  1. Mandy says:May 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Sorry to read about your sprain. Interesting that your body told you what it needed. Well done for listening.

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:May 19, 2010 at 11:28 pm

      Mandy, was it my body telling me what it needed or the soil telling me what it could do? (Are they different?)

  2. Katharine says:May 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Ouch! I hope you heal quickly.
    I’ve used mud on bee stings, but not sprains. And many is the time I’ve stretched out face down on the earth – whether on pine needles, grass, or leaves – to ground myself, to rest in and soak up the earth’s energy, especially if I’m feeling ill or out of balance.
    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:May 19, 2010 at 11:32 pm

      Katharine, does the mud draw the toxins out of the bee sting? I had the feeling it was drawing the inflammation out of the sprain. But mud must be such a rich soup of microorganisms–hard to know what all of them are doing. Lying in the cool grass was a good reminder to do it more often, not just when I’m in pain. I’m in a hotel tonight and don’t have access to good mud, so I used ice. It felt okay, but nowhere near as soothing and restorative as the mud.

  3. Rosemary Carstens says:May 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    This is really an informative experience, well worth trying when there’s swelling but not a break in the skin (not sure about if there is, because of risk of infection or something). I’m glad you found something soothing to help you through this–including your sweetie’s attention!

  4. Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:May 25, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Rosemary, thanks for your good wishes. Yes, having a sweetie nearby was invaluable–soothing like the mud.

  5. Gail Storey says:May 30, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    This is exquisite, Priscilla, you and the earth are so tuned in to each other, and you remind us of the earth’s wisdom speaking directly to our own. Hope your sprain heals soon, I sense that it will.

  6. Laurel Kallenbach says:June 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Well, the good part of the accident was that it acquainted you with the healing power of earth. Since I was a kid in Kentucky, I’ve used mud for insect bites and stings–the mud just sucks the poison out of your system. So, it makes sense that the mud would also draw the extra fluids out of your ankle.
    Heal well!

  7. Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:June 4, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Gail, thanks for the good wishes!

  8. Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:June 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Laurel, I’m glad to hear about mud for bee stings and bites–and glad to know someone who has been using it for years! You have to think that people were treating their bites and sprains before electricity and ice. What floored me was how much better the mud felt than the ice. It’s sure a whole lot more sustainable.