This is the final entry for my ankle injury series. Two weeks ago I was skateboarding down a hill and wiped out resulting in two sprained ankles. Since then I’ve been blogging about my recovery in order to shed light on massage therapy as an option for acute injury recovery and management. You can read up on the previous entries here:
Using the joint
As I’ve explained previously, its very important to continue to use the injured joint once the swelling has gone down and you’ve moved out of the acute stage of healing. The length of time an injury spends in the acute stage depends on the severity of the injury, which is why its important to get your self checked by a professional!
My injury is now two weeks old, and I’m using it regularly, as well as implementing specific stretch and strengthen exercises. Stretching my ankle to the limit of ROM (range of motion) but not pushing through the pain helps to strengthen the damaged fibres. In this case we do NOT follow the “no pain, no gain” motto. Forcing yourself through this pain threshold will likely lead to further injury. I will say this one more time: THE FIBERS THAT HOLD THE JOINT TOGETHER ARE DAMAGED. DO NOT FORCE THROUGH THE PAIN. FORCING THROUGH THE PAIN CAN FURTHER DAMAGE THE FIBERS AT THIS TIME. There will be other times to force yourself through the pain; unfortunately this is not one of those times!
Tape is fun and comes in a multitude of wonderful colors and patterns. Although the debate of taping will be left for another blog another day, my current thought on tape is this:
I’ve been using a tensor bandage to keep everything stable while I’m doing everyday things, and using tape for activities like climbing and diving. A tensor bandage will not fit in my climbing shoes, and will become a sopping mess in my dive boots! At this point, the tape acts as an external support (since the internal support is not 100%) while I’m using it in more challenging ways like climbing.
Again, some will debate over bandaging and taping, however be mindful that a recently injured joint is not stable. Without getting into deep and meaningful debates over tape and bandaging, I will end this portion with some anecdotal evidence. I have gone from being immobile to rock climbing in less than two weeks. Obviously, I know that my injured ankle is definitely weaker than it was before my injury, but giving it some extra support has been and still is benefiting my recovery.
I’m using regular white sport tape (Renfrew Athletics) which gets the job done. I haven’t had issues with it coming off or damaging skin. It’s been used both in my climbing shoes and in my scuba diving boots.
Foam rolling ties in closely to compensation. Muscles compensate when there is an injury, and compensation left untreated leads to knots, tight muscles and referred pain. A week and a half after my injury is when I started feeling referred pain in my knee. The reason is because the quadriceps muscles were compensating for the weak and injured ankle joint. As a result, I would unexpectedly get sharp, severe pains to my knee which became more and more frequent.
A day after having a great foam rolling session, I noticed a complete 180 degree change in my knee pain. Although the muscle still felt a little off, I no longer had the shooting pains that would virtually immobilize me on the spot. Using the foam roller on, not only my quads, but all surrounding muscles, I relieved the built up muscle tension and knots which caused the referred pain in the knee.
Conclusions on massage therapy for acute injury recovery and management:
- RMTs are health care professionals! They are trained in dealing with injuries and can help to improve recovery time
- Getting massage therapy is so important even during the acute stage (within the first few days of injury) to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Swelling and inflammation in excess can slow or reduce recovery time and outcome
- RMTs can give you professional advice on remedial exercise and more importantly why its important to follow remedial exercise plans
- Massage therapy cannot be substituted by a foam roller alone! Massage therapy works to treat each muscle with specificity and accuracy. Foam rollers are excellent self care tools, but cannot distinguish between separate muscles the same way a human RMT can
- Massage therapy overall gives you a professional opinion and realistic perspective on your progression throughout your recovery. It does more than put you into a sleepy daze on the beach!
It has been an interesting experience to go through an injury as a health care professional. The knowledge I’ve gained in school is coming into play, and its actually been fun to read through my textbooks and directly relate to the text.
Although it has been a bit of a setback in terms of my climbing, active lifestyle and profession, its defiantly given me perspective! I’m so thankful that I’m still able to climb, and I am confident that I’ll be back to my fully functional self soon enough- but understanding the physiology of an injury has given me a lot more patience in recovery and remedial exercise.
Being an active person limits my down time considerably. Although getting an injury is not the most ideal way to have ‘downtime’, it has definitely taught me to slow down in more ways than one!
Will I ever skateboard again?
Yes, of course I will!
Maria Obas is a Registered Massage Therapist in Ottawa, Ontario. She is the owner and founder of Peak Massage Therapy, a mobile clinic and rock climbing massage therapist.