When getting rid of ankle scar tissue is your aim, not only massage is necessary to break it down and flush it out. Stretching and stretching targeted toward this goal can also be of great assistance. Understanding what scar tissue is important to understanding why we don’t want it to stick around too long.
When your body is injured, it responds by sending fluids to the area (in addition to excess bleeding in the area). These fluids temporarily protect the joint from further injury. Your body then quickly starts repairing the area with ankle scar tissue, aimed at providing a short-term solution to getting you back on your feet. This ankle scar tissue however, is inferior to the original ligament which it replaces. It is weaker, less flexible, and can cause the surrounding tissues to deform, thus making you susceptible to re-injury. Thanks scar tissue for helping us out in the short-term, but get out ASAP.
The longer the ankle scar tissue lingers, the more settled it becomes, making the joint stiff and inflexible. So, as soon as you are on the road to recovery (after your 48 hours of RICE) you should begin stretching the area. Yes, rest is important, but ‘rest’ doesn’t mean you have to completely be a loaf for a couple of months until you have not pain at all. Rehabilitation is not easy, but if you take it slowly, it can make a world of difference in your recovery time and the condition of your ankle down the road.
In the beginning, rehabilitation aimed at breaking down ankle scar tissue can be very simple. Flex your ankle back and forth. Move it around in circles. Draw the ABCs seems to be a favorite one for physical therapists. All of these are simple, yet effective exercises which can test and improve the flexibility of the joint. As you work your way up, and are able to stand on the injured area, isometric exercises can help strengthen the area. Isometric exercises are exercises which you don’t actually need to move. Sitting on a chair with your foot against a wall, push with the ball or heel of you foot. This can help you work up the amount of pressure you are able to place on the joint. As your condition improves, you will be able to push you ankle in more directions.
As ankle scar tissue breaks down and range of motion exercises (drawing pictures in the air I mentioned before) become easier, you’ll be able to combine them with massage, using your hand to stretch your ankle in different directions. When you are able to stand and move around, walking will be an easy way to strengthen and stretch the area. You’ll be able to see noticeable improvement every day as long as you keep walking. Find some stairs and walk up and down them. This exercise will keep you busy for a while! Stairs took me a long time conquer, and for some reason, walking down is more difficult than walking up! The ninety degree ankle on the stair is also good for pushing against and gradually gaining back full flexibility. An old towel or rag can be used to increase ankle flexibility. Grab the towel with two hands and hook it around your injured area. Pull slightly and you’ll be able to feel a stretch in your ankle. Using this method is great because even just sitting on the floor you can stretch your ankle in many directions.
Eventually you can work up to more difficult and complicated strength training exercises such as standing on one foot, lunges, jogging, running, and eventually jumping and weights (if you have them). One of the more difficult things for me to do was jumping and sharp turns. For a long time, even though I could run without a problem, sharp turns in more explosive-running sports such as basketball or tennis caused still caused me pain. Running in figure eights or jumping exercises can help this.
These exercises are just some ideas to get you started on you rehabilitation and getting rid of ankle scar tissue. Remember, that the longer ankle scar tissue hangs around the more difficult it will be to get rid of it in the long run. Some people have surgery three or four times if their ankle scar tissue is bad enough, so start your rehab routine soon!