Instrument-Assisted Cross-Fiber Massage Accelerates Knee Ligament Healing.

Loghmani MT, Warden SJ

The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of instrument-assisted cross-fiber massage (IACFM) on tissue-level healing of knee medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries.  Bilateral knee MCL injuries were created in 51 rodents, while 7 rodents were maintained as ligament-intact, control animals. IACFM was commenced 1 week following injury and introduced 3 sessions per week for 1 minute per session. IACFM was introduced unilaterally (IACFM-treated), with the contralateral, injured MCL serving as an internal control (nontreated). Thirty-one injured animals received 9 ACFM treatments, while the remaining 20 injured animals received 30 treatments. Ligament biomechanical properties and morphology were assessed at either 4 or 12 weeks postinjury. IACFM-treated ligaments stronger, stiffer and could absorb more energy before failure than contralateral, injured, nontreated ligaments at 4 weeks postinjury. On histological and scanning electron microscopy assessment, IACFM-treated ligaments appeared to have improved collagen fiber bundle formation and orientation within the scar region than nontreated ligaments. There were minimal differences between IACFM-treated and contralateral, nontreated ligaments at 12 weeks postinjury.

IACFM-accelerated ligament healing, possibly via favorable effects on collagen formation and organization, but had minimal effect on the final outcome of healing. These findings are clinically interesting, as there are few established interventions for ligament injuries, and IACFM is a simple and practical therapy technique.

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009;39(7):506-514

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