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How to Heal Your Old Sprains and Strains

Ross McCormack Ankle InjuryDo you have an old sprain (over stretched ligament) or an old strain (torn muscle, tendon or ligament)? Or a bad ankle that you injured with a wrong turn?

With the traditional R.I.C.E. treatment (rest, ice, compress and elevate), your immediate pain and swelling eventually leaves, then you slowly start reusing your injured joint-knowing it could happen all over again with the wrong move. But that’s just managing the pain; it’s not healing an injury.

The Problem

So what do you do with that bad ankle you keep spraining? You probably tried stretching and exercise, and it helped for a while. Taking anti-inflammatories, muscles relaxers and pain pills manage your discomfort, but aren’t solving the problem. Your doc tells you surgery is not an option, which is actually a relief. So what IS the solution?

To really fix it, and have it stay fixed, you need to treat the causes. First, you need to “fix” your soft tissue – muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia – the thin connective tissue that hold everything together. At some point, after the first injury and a little more each time, your soft tissue became encased in scar tissue. This is only because  your body did what it  should do: it sent fibroblasts, “the mending cells”, to the injured area to weld together and support the injury. But once the injury healed, the body’s natural cast did not dissolve away as it might have when you were a child. Now you’re stuck with this connective tissue “cast” after you’re well.

Additionally, while you’re limping around and protecting the injury,  other parts of your body tighten up, and you develop bad habits in your movement.  For instance, using the other leg and twisting not to hurt the injured ankle, creates a structural and behavior pattern that, in the end, can be worse than the original injury. Parts of your body are tense and distorted, while other parts are structurally weak and vulnerable. Now you’re an injury waiting to happen.

The Solution

Complete healing must involve releasing the fascial (scar tissue) adhesions. That “cast” that your body didn’t dissolve has to be manually dissolved. Feel the ankle you keep spraining, compare it to the one that is relatively normal. The bad ankle is less moveable and thicker. This thick and hard tissue should be thin, subtle and fluid. The tendons of the foot coming from the muscles in the lower leg should slide through your ankle. Your thick, tight band prevents natural movement.

Rolfing will slowly release this band. It’s  amazing to feel in just a few minutes of work how much movement is possible. It’ll feel like you took off the steel band and oiled the cables running through your ankle. Once it’s released, circulation and elasticity also increase, helping you heal even faster.

The more challenging work is the re-aligning of the body from years of compensating. Once everything is released, we need to re-organize your whole body – that’s where Rolfing goes beyond other therapies.

Often, a secondary problem-indirectly caused by the original injury–are what brings a client to me. You might come in complaining of a worsening back problem. As I watch you walk and ask you questions, we may figure out that your back problems started after you sprained your ankle. Your normal walk now has a subtle limp that gradually caused other problems. Others could see it, but it felt normal to you because you adapted.  You’ll need to unlearn that limp. You can fix the ankle, you can align the body, but you still need to re-educate the body.

After the re-alignment,  your ankle will be less susceptible to injury, and so will your entire body. While operating my clinic in Scottsdale I treated many world-class runners who continued to sprain ankles. It was amazing to hear these runners talk about how accustomed they became to the slow process of tightening. When their ankle and its related problems healed, their performance went to a new level. Every time. With every client.

I have a 37-year-old client right now, who is training for a half-marathon. She had sprained knees, sprained ankles, and terrible movement habits. But after a few Rolfing sessions, she tells me, “I run better and faster than I did when I was 18!” Every body performs better from releasing the old scar tissue. We often don’t know what we lost until we get it back.

The Daily Bee wrote this addendum to the article:

Rolf pain away with Rolfing treatments.

What is Rolfing and why would anybody want to be Rolfed? Bee publisher David Keyes thought about these questions and many more last week when he visited Owen Marcus, who is a Certified Advance Rolfer.

Keyes said he had heard of Rolfing but didn’t know what it meant before deciding to try a session with Marcus who has Rolfed more than 30 years. Through the years, he has treated accident victims, weekend warriors, professional athletes and average individuals who walk around with too much stress, which tightens their muscles and causes all sorts of problems.

For the rest of this blog, go on-line to and check it out, as well as the rest of the Bee’s blogs.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advance Rolfer,, 208.265.8440.

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