Practical Bodywork Blog

Touchy Topic Tuesday: How To Hobble Your Ankle Without Falling Down

Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Pain | Comments Off on Touchy Topic Tuesday: How To Hobble Your Ankle Without Falling Down

Update on the crippled ankle: last weekend I used a foam roller on the spot where my hamstrings attach to my ischial tuberosity–the butt bone–and my ankle joint cracked. It’s been getting gradually better ever since. The first thing I do every day is foam-roller that same spot, because it seizes up overnight.

So, how does that work?

anatomytrains-the-spiral-line-thomas-myers

The Spiral Line. Note stirrup under ankle and butt bone attachments.

This diagram shows the Spiral Line, the specific fascial continuity that I believe has been hobbling my ankle. As you can see, the Spiral Line crisscrosses the body, swinging down the side of the leg, looping under the ankle like a stirrup, and running up the back of the leg where it attaches to the butt bone. Bingo!

A fascial train, (or anatomy train, as Thomas Myers calls them) is a distinct, dissectable pathway where all the fascial fibers run continuously in the same direction, whether they are involved with muscle, tendon, ligament or bone. One of the singular things about fascia is that it does not stretch; it enables movement by continually reconfiguring its fibers. Thus, when your fascia becomes restricted in one place or another, it will tug on everything else connected to it. Ergo, a crippled ankle with no visible ankle-related trauma.

The fact that fascia does not stretch is possibly why, even with a regular yoga practice, my ankle got increasingly worse over time. Stretching your muscles will not necessarily affect restrictions in your fascia. I was able to figure out where to use the foam roller, however, by noting the fact that Triangle Pose with my right leg in front was both satisfying and excruciating.

trianglepose

Yow.

But how, you may ask, did my Spiral Line get so messed up in the first place?

In a word, stress. Nobody has yet determined exactly how or why your fascia gets gummed up when there is a lot of cortisol running through your nervous system, but so it does. This happens regardless of what your conscious mind is doing. It is so much a product of the obscure obsessions of the subconscious, that stress-related fascial restrictions are worse after a good night’s sleep. At least, mine are.

As you may imagine, this is an incredibly frustrating feedback loop. You rest, you do your yoga, and the pain only gets worse.

Fortunately, there are foam rollers, Rolfers, and bodyworkers who specialize in structural myofascial work. 🙂 Once you get to the root of your problem (in both a physiological and psychological sense, which may take some time), you can start working to break that feedback loop.

This is why the clients of mine who get the best results are the ones who come most regularly. We are re-educating both their fascia and their nervous system. Many clients report that they start to relax as soon as they approach my front door. Which, for me, is a wonderful thing to hear.