alanrq’s recovery

AT Injury and Recovery
January 19, 2009, 1:15 pm
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I lost about 35 pounds in 2007, and wanting to keep the weight off, I began walking about four days per week.  Gradually getting in shape, I was up to jogging/running 2-3 miles 3-4 days each week by February 2008.

That month is when the Achilles pain and knots began to show, but I decided it was relatively normal to hurt–after all I was approaching my fiftieth birthday, and things like running are supposed to hurt, right?

I continued to run several times each week and found that although the tendon hurt badly at the start of a run, after stretching, warming up, and running about fifteen minutes, it no longer hurt until after the run.  I continued.

In June 2008, my wife and I took our son to Orlando for a HS graduation gift, and spent a week walking the parks.  Upon returning home I could hardly walk and noticed two large knots in my right Achilles–one close to the heel and another about an inch higher toward my calf.

In July I was training for my first 5K run, and the AT became so painful I finally made an appointment with my son’s orthopedic surgeon (my son was a HS basketball player and had several ankle incidents over the years), and was told I had a ruptured Achilles tendon.  The knots, he said, were lumps of scar tissue where the AT was attempting to heal itself, but could not because I continued to injure it.  The doctor told me the tendon was almost completely separated, but was still hanging on by “a thread,”  and prescribed an orthopedic boot.  He said I could continue walking as normal, but always wear the boot unless I was in bed or bathtub.

At my next visit three weeks later there was no improvement and the doctor prescribed another three weeks in the boot–with an added one inch wedge in the boot to decrease the length of the AT and allow healing.

Three weeks later, still no improvement, but the doctor was determined not to do surgery to repair the tendon, wanting to let it heal on its own.  He added crutches and no weight on the foot/boot to the prescription and said to come back in six weeks.  He told me to reduce my movement to the bare necessities.  I serve as a staff minister at a local church, and our office staff was very helpful in this reduced activity phase.  A fellow church member also loaned me an electric four-wheeled scooter for use around our facility, enabling my mobility and healing.  My scooter and I became an instant hit with the kids at church.

Six weeks later there was some improvement, but I was told to continue the scooter, crutches, boot, wedge, and no weight on the foot for three more weeks.

Finally in December I was able to leave the crutches behind, reduce the wedge by 1/2 inch (sounds like NASCAR), and begin physical therapy.  After ten visits to the therapist I was released.  Soon thereafter the doctor released me as well and told me to “wean myself” from the boot, each week decreasing the time I was wearing it by one hour per day.  He said don’t return unless I re-injure the AT, and no recreational walking for two more months.  Christmas was good–no boot for half a day!  I’m still wearing the boot, but am down to a few hours daily.

I recently began walking for fitness again: one mile (20 minutes or so) two times each week.  I wear the boot on the walking days, but only after the walk is over.  The AT is far less swelled and painful than it was.  The main sensation I get from it now is a rawness and burning  that doesn’t seem to be connected with activity–it just comes and goes.

My next goal is to walk one mile per day, three-four days per week, increasing to 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, etc., over time.  Hopefully in the summer I’ll be ready for that 5K again.

Total time hurt: eleven months.  Total time in boot: twenty weeks.  Total time on crutches: nine weeks.  Total time on scooter: twelve weeks.