Kicking my (boot) habit - 13 weeks

August 4th, 2011

For the past three months it has seemed all I can think about is getting back in shoes, and doing the work I need to get strong and “normal” again. Well, here I am. My physical therapist seemed unimpressed with my plan to use the boot for excursions and uneven terrain. “You’re ready to ditch it,” she said. “It’s time to get that leg moving.” It is just as challenging as I imagined it would be, but I’m not complaining. I said to my husband last night: if my injury happened yesterday, and the result was exactly this stage I’m at now, walking in shoes but with several months of work ahead to get back my strength and flexibility, I would likely be depressed. But after three months in a cast/boot, the work ahead feels welcome. And I’m happy that when it comes right down to it, I haven’t wallowed in my misery. I may not be the cheeriest ray of sunshine, but I’ve gotten on with things and I try not to whine.

Here’s where I’m at.

First up: my flexibility. My surgeon’s protocol was early into a boot and weight-bearing (10 days!), but not officially into two-shoes until 12 weeks, when the risk of re-rupture starts to drop. The upside: a very solid tendon. The downside: a very solid tendon . . . my ankle is not moving much at all, which means my walking gait is pretty screwy. My PT, who I like, says we will first work on flexibility with daily warming and stretching, plus practice on a rocker board. Once we have flexibility back on track, we’ll work on strength. Don’t think my eyebrows have shot into my hairline as many times in 45 minutes as they did at my last PT appointment, when she demonstrated the stretches I am to do. All of them are activities/exercises that would leave me feeling nauseous even to think about over the past few months. Now here I am stretching it out daily. Amazing! I also pedaled away on the exercise bike at the gym yesterday for 45 minutes, which left my ankle feeling much looser, so I plan to do more of that.

Other than tightness in the morning and after periods of inactivity, I am able to get around without too much of a limp, even in bare feet. But my foot, heel, ankle and tendon all start to throb after 20 minutes of walking/being on my feet, and after an hour the swelling gets painful, so long walks are still dicey. I’ve tried several different running shoes, slip-on Sketchers, Birkenstock-style sandals; none have really solved it. Until, I finally caved and went to check out Crocs. I have never been a fan of the original style, but they do have others. I bought some simple black slip-ons with that signature spongy sole and aaahhh, relief! As an aside, they do make men’s versions that are reasonably stylish as well.

I was still driving left-footed until last week. I didn’t trust the strength in my repaired right tendon to work the pedals, especially if I had to brake suddenly. After some encouragement here (thanks Stuart!) I decided to give it a shot on quiet streets nearby, and found it is much less an issue than I expected it to be. It’s true: modern cars don’t really require that much strength for the pedals and though I find I need to lift my foot a bit to switch from gas to brake, it’s fine. So I’m back to driving “regular foot” instead of goofy (snowboard lingo), and that’s a relief. I suspect it’s even good exercise for the ankle and tendon.

My fear
This might be my biggest issue at the moment! My boys are at bike camp right now and I hate picking them up. Small children and bicycles send the red flags and warning signals into overdrive, as does the grocery story and all those negligent shoppers just waiting to drive their carts into the back of my leg. Clearly, I’m going to have to get over this — but my mind is constantly spinning over all the potential landmines and hazards that lie ahead of, and more importantly, behind me.

Pain relief?
After weeks of being relatively pain-free I am finding that all the extra movement, exercise and PT is leaving me pretty sore by the end of the day -­ which I’m happy about! My PT assures me that my repair is good and strong now and I’m unlikely to rerupture; these twinges I feel are NOT the same as the slight twinges I felt right before the injury. And this soreness will lead to improvements. But to make the rehab easier I’ve been taking a (regular strength) Tylenol when the swelling and pain get to be too much (as well as elevating and icing, of course). Any thoughts on this? Is Advil still a no-no for an almost healed tendon? Just wondering what my best option might be.

Thanks for any feedback. Happy healing everyone.

3 Responses to “Kicking my (boot) habit - 13 weeks”

  1. Stuart on August 6, 2011 5:39 pm

    I suspect you are right about driving being good for the tendon to some extent. Having just returned from a trip up north which involved a 9 hour drive each way I can say that it does to a point. Unfortunately my partner is not a very good long distance driver so I had to do the lion’s share. After 3 hours my right leg started to get sore but more in the muscles. Thank goodness for cruise control for long trips but on this stretch I couldn’t use it much. After a couple of hours in the passenger seat we stopped for food and I could barely walk. I drove from there for a couple of hours and we stopped for the night at Newcastle. When I got out I could walk fine. I think my ankle locked up by overdoing it and I should have stopped when I first started feeling the pain in my muscles but there has been no real damage.

  2. mtbrider on August 6, 2011 9:47 pm

    Wow, ditching the boot - congratulations! I have been keeping up with your progress as you are a month ahead and it is great to see what to expect, although I am a conservative healer. In 4 more days I go back to hospital to take my last boot wedge out. It must be so nice to be able to do some activity/stretches to help your progress. Can’t wait to be given the go ahead to hit my $20 exercycle I bought recently!

    Well done on your progress, but remember to take it easy still!

  3. polly on August 8, 2011 11:44 am

    I bought some simple black slip-ons with that signature spongy sole and aaahhh, relief!

    Yep! that’s what I’ve got on right now! The spongy sole is so nice compared to a sneaker which is far more rigid and hard on the ankle where the scar meets the back of the shoe upper. (at least that is my two cents). My ankle was extremely tight and I had zero flexibility at first. I think it has been walking around with shoes and bare feet that has loosened my scar tissue. I also had a couple of scares with a ripping sound/feel when the scar tisse was breaking up in PT. But, that actually made my ankle feel looser and more flexible, so dont let that scare you too much if it happens. If you trust your PT– follow her instructions to the letter and push yourself as much as she encourages you to do. My PT has been instrumental in getting me to a point of flexibility where I can walk at mid-day, after stretching- almost without a limp. (short gait). The swelling sux, no way to alter that, I’ve got swelling every evening and it is uncomfortable. But, you’ve been really disciplined about your recovery, and now, you’ll do it again geting into shoes. Good luck and happy shuffling!

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