What is a complex injury?

A complex injury affects multiple domains of a person’s life including the physical, spiritual, social, psychological, moral, and religious domains.  Examples include trauma, migraine headaches, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, addiction, abuse, PTSD and mental illness.  Even simple-appearing injuries, like a sprained ankle, can readily become complex if they affect a person’s job and livelihood.  Treating complex injuries requires comprehensive treatment plan that crosses these many domains to restore wholeness and wellbeing.  There are no miracle cures or quick fixes for these problems.  Instead, healing requires listening, understanding, and hard work.

What is healing?

Many of our assumptions about healing are wrong.  Much of what we think produces healing actually does not.  This is not meant to diminish the remarkable discoveries and accomplishments of science and modern medicine, but rather to see them in an appropriate context.  Modern medicine has done much to address physical issues like treating infectious diseases.  However, we often neglect the nonphysical domains of healing.  Most healing is not the result of a pill or a surgery.  When someone heals from a complex injury, modern treatments deserve only a small part of the credit.

“[Healing] has been obscured by modern medicine’s obsession with small parts, and the technologies, techniques, and the chemicals that manipulate them.  While many of these technologies are extremely valuable, this hyper focus an the economic rewards driving them has largely squeezed out the essence of what medicine is all about—how to guide a person to healing, wholeness, and well-being” – Wayne Jonas, MD How Healing Works

Inherent healing capacity

People have their own inherent ability to heal from complex injuries.  The trick is unlocking that ability.  Healing is a journey which requires risk, support, and curiosity.  There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.  We will use Circular Healing as a model to explain how healing works.  This model fits well within Whole Systems Science, the emerging science of integrative and complementary medicine.  Circular Healing is a model that weaves together these different domains of healing into an interconnected framework.  In Circular Healing, we will demonstrate the importance of values, behavior, and choices on healing.  We will also show that for complex injuries, the injury did not start on the date the physical injury occurred.  Nor has healing concluded on the date that physical healing has concluded.  Wholeness and wellbeing requires effort long after.

In this model, we can see that the a person’s ability to heal is affected by their state of health prior to the injury—their pre-injured state.  Compared to a person in good health, a person in poor health will struggle to heal after an injury.  They will be far more likely to not fully recover and be left with chronic wounds.  This is especially likely to occur if the person focuses primarily on physical aspects of healing.  The body is remarkably resilient and best suited for healing itself.  It is the nonphysical domains of injury that require the most energy.  To heal, we must dedicate the majority of our conscious effort to treating these nonphysical domains: mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and moral.

In this website, we will explore how relationships, support, trust, beliefs, and other aspects of wellbeing shape our ability to heal following injury.  We see how physical injury tests our prior wellbeing.  If our support systems hold up, the response to injury will lead to wholeness and restoration of wellbeing.  If the systems fail to respond appropriately, we will be left with chronic injury.  We then see how chronic injury is a type of nonhealing wound that distorts wellbeing and impacts our ability to respond to future injury.

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