Our ankles are amazingly tough and fairly complex joints, supporting us through a multitude of activities like running, dancing, climbing stairs and rock climbing.
Despite the ankle's strength, it is common for pro athletes and recreational athletes alike to sprain their ankle ligaments, or even tear them.
The most common injury is the Lateral Ankle Ligament sprain. It happens when the ankle rolls inward as in stepping over an unexpected rock when hiking. These supporting lateral ligaments are stretched beyond their length. Often, this is a mild injury that requires little intervention and heals on its own within a few days. However, sometimes the ligaments are stretched so much that they tear off their attachments or rupture completely.
Massage therapy is very effective at treating and rehabilitating ankle sprains and other ankle ligament injuries.
In the Acute Phase
Right after the injury, light circulatory massage is used to reduce any swelling and help move the blood flow and other fluids needed for rapid healing. It's important for your therapist to address the foot muscles, the calves and the shin muscles, to keep them loose and avoid locking up. This acute phase can last as long as one day or a full week depending on the severity of injury.
Deeper massage work can be performed as pain subsides. This deeper work helps maintain the range of motion in the ankle.
In Post-Acute Recovery Phase
After the acute phase, cross-fiber friction massage directly to the ligament can help prevent scar tissue formation. 'Cross-fibering' can be commenced from around 7 days after injury, or as pain allows.
Ideally, your massage therapist would apply the cross friction techniques with the ligament in the stretched position. It is important to have very good knowledge of the anatomy involved and where the ligaments attaches.