If you've injured your ankle you've probably read or heard about ankle scar tissue and how it may affect your recovering time. Why is ankle scar tissue formed and how can we use this knowledge to shorten our recovery time?
When you sprain your ankle, damage is caused to the ligaments and surrounding tissue which causes internal bleeding and a rush of excess fluids to the area. These fluids and blood is exactly what will cause ankle scar tissue in the future. This tissue is neither as strong nor as flexible as ligaments. When ankle scar tissue replaces the injured ligament, you are opening yourself up to re-injury. This is one of the top reasons sprained ankles are one of the top recurring sports injury.
To reduce the amount of ankle scar tissue formed, it is important act fast. Icing should start immediately. This will close blood vessels in the injured are, preventing them from filling with blood and fluids. Ice for twenty minutes every few hours, but do not overdo it. Icing too frequently or using direct application can cause ice burns and tissue damage. Use a damp towel to wrap the ice. Stay off the injured area for 48 hours, and take it easy. Resting will slow blood flow and can be combined with elevating the ankle which is also aimed at reducing swelling. Gravity is stronger than you think, and can draw excess fluids into the injured area. Keeping your ankle elevated will make sure that anything that's not supposed to be there will be drained out and later flushed out of your body. Compression is also recommended for ankle support and reducing the flow of fluids to you injured ankle.
Even if you're a black-belt in RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), you're bound to have some ankle scar tissue, so after the first 48 hours, you aim turns to getting rid of scar tissue and gaining back normal strength and flexibility – aka rehabilitation.
So the ankle scar tissue has formed but it's still in its early stages and can broken down more easily. The longer you wait, the harder it will become to break down. The basics areas of getting rid of ankle scar tissue are massage, stretching, and strength exercises. First, let's focus on massage and stretching. Though it can be uncomfortable at first, massage is necessary to get fresh blood to the area. Yes, now we've turned form wanting the blood to stay out, to trying to get it back in (and back out again). Fresh blood will carry away bits of broken down scar tissue, bruising, and blood clots. Do not massage to the point of pain! Begin by lightly massaging the area and see what you can work yourself up to. As swelling decreases, pressure on nerves and surrounding tissues will be reduced, thus alleviating tenderness and allowing you to use more pressure. You can use massage oils or creams (not the romantic kind) designed for sports injuries to help promote blood flow. I use tiger-balm and some crazy Chinese musk-deer rub but I do not know if these things are available in the USA or other countries.
Following massage as you build up strength, you can begin stretching the area. Again, start small with drawing circles with your big toe, moving the joint back and forth or other simple exercises which you can do lying down and work your way up to standing stretches and eventually strength training exercises.