Hi - an update to make you smile

It has been a while since I’ve been on this site and even longer since  I posted anything.  It’s good to re-read my blog to remind myself where I was with my injury and how far I’ve come in the 26 months since.  As an update I had a full rupture of the right achilles and being an active oldie was as frustrated as the next man at not being active and the prospect of not doing the sports I had previously done.  I was conservatively treated and did not have surgery.  I questioned how this gap in my leg would heal and carry the 95 kilo lump standing on it.  The miracle of the human body - it has healed like a dream and I have been very active.

It took me 7 months after injury to start jogging again, 9 months before I was back on my mountain bike but eventually, with patience, I got there.  I am still nervous of doing some sports.  Even a knock around tennis game with my kids I don’t run too hard after the ball as the injury is still in the back of my mind.  But I have been hard on the gym circuits this past 15 months which hits the legs pretty hard.  I’ve recently just completed my biggest achievement post injury - a 216 mile Coast to Coast mountain bike ride for charity from St Bees Head in the English Lake District to Robin Hood Bay on the Yorkshire Moors.  Over 6 days it involved over 25,000 feet of climbing uphill, was mainly off-road up and over mountains, dales & moors, involved carrying my bike and lots of stretching of the achilles pushing or carrying my bike up the hills.  Riding up some of the hills was pretty brutal at times and the hard pedal strokes puts a lot of pressure on the achilles.  Well I’m happy to report - not even an ache or niggle from my naturally-repaired achilles.

Hopefully my post will give hope to those who think they will be less active once the achilles is repaired.  Much of it is in the mind. I was very active with my protective boot on and would walk for miles just months after injury safe in the knowledge my bad foot could not move and was protected.  My right calf is still slightly smaller than the left one on my good leg - do your calf raises folks as I didn’t do enough of them when I should have.  My injured achilles has repaired with twice the thickness of my good one.  I’m assuming that’s good and giving me a leg twice as strong! I get no pain from my once bad leg.

In short, the conservative non-surgical treatment is fantastic - amazing how the achilles repairs itself.  Be active as early s possible once your protective boot is on.  Don’t skimp on your calf raises once your physio tells you that you are good to go with them.  Lastly keep smiling as things do change around and you will be active again and back doing the activities you love to do.

One Year On

Hi.  It’s my one year anniversary so thought I’d drop everyone a quick note.  Doing most things I did before the injury, although still nervous kicking a ball around. I have really ramped up the running these past couple of months and 5 miles not a problem for the leg (it’s only a problem for my lungs!) with no after effects.  My ankle still swells slightly after returning from long-distance flights through business trips but aside from that everything is good.

I’m still amazed how the body heals itself. When the injury first occurred I did not believe the doctor who advised everything will heal fine without surgery.  The severity of the injury made me question his sanity.  Well 12 months on I’ve had a reasonably trouble-free ride and the doc was spot on.  I’ll repeat my previous posts; if non-surgery is an option for you then take it.  Non-surgery plus sticking to the recovery protocol will give you a solid repair job and less complications than surgery.

To all those going through the turmoil of this injury, keep smiling as things will get better and your life will get back on track.  Exercise (walk) in the boot, do your heal lifts (I didn’t do enough!) and don’t overdo it once you’re in 2 shoes.  Patience remains the key word.  Thanks for all the advice on this site - it has been invaluable.

Back on the Mountain Bike

I haven’t posted for a while so my apologies.  I’m now at 43 weeks and life seems 95% normal.  The other 5% is the mental scar of not wanting to re-rupture which still remains in the back of my mind.  To recap I opted for the non-operative method of recovery.  Conservative no, as I was quite aggressive in the AirCast boot in terms of discarding the crutches after a couple of weeks and walking round in the boot.  Sometimes this was for a few miles walking the dogs.  In my view, it didn’t really hurt walking therefore couldn’t be doing any damage.

Yesterday I arrived back from 3 days mountain bike riding in Devon.  I was really apprehensive before I went as although I had ridden my road bike for miles these past 2 months, riding up and down hills applies different pressures to the Achilles. Day 1 was 22 miles and 8 hours in the saddle, day 2 was 20 miles and 7 hours riding and the final day of 5 hours involved 16 miles.  The last day included an over the handle bars fall, complete with superman dive, and ended up with my feet in a stream  I think you get the picture; thousands of feet of uphill covered and lots of punishing ‘granny’ ring pedaling up steep inclines.  At the end of it all, sore thighs, stiff back, and a jarred neck, but not a peep out of my calf or achilles.  Yippeee!

The 3 day adventure has started to dilute the mental side of the recovery.  No surgery doesn’t necessarily mean a weak achilles repair, well not in my mind after my bike trip.  I honestly didn’t think I’d get on a road bike again never mind my mountain bike in less than 12 months from my ATR.  I went through those same days/months of despair that everyone goes through.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I can only offer advice on my own experience of recovery.  My main points would be;

  • Think carefully about surgery/non-surgery.  I haven’t gone through half the problems I read on this BLOG from other ATR sufferers especially those choosing surgery.  If it’s an option for you then have faith non-surgery does work.
  • Be aggressive as early as possible in the Aircast boot  It helps the recovery process.  Walk everywhere in the boot and once comfortable discard the crutches.
  • Once in 2 shoes get on the static bike even with little/no resistance.  Every bit helps towards the end goal.
  • Keep doing those heel raises (I didn’t do enough - lazy!!)
  • Get to the gym and do sessions such as ‘Body Pump’ - I did even with the Boot on.  Looks daft but fine to build core strength - don’t overdo it though.
  • Use a road bike - make sure you don’t damage the leg when dismounting.
  • Gentle jogging is fine - I started at about 28 weeks.
  • Above all remember the key word - Patience.

I hope this post cheers up those in the same predicament.  I am still amazed how the body heals itself. I didn’t think I would be in this position all those weeks ago. Not out of the woods yet but definitely on the way.  Happy days


Mud, Sweat & Tears

Happy New Year to all on the Blog.  2012 will be a great year for all of us as we will be further down the line to full recovery.  Yesterday I decided to get my mountain bike out for a spin.  Now before some of you question where the mountains are in Warwickshire, it’s pretty flat but there are lots of bridleways and plenty of mud.  To remove some of the Xmas excess I decided this wasn’t going to be a leisurely ride around the leafy lanes but a ‘ride as hard as possible’ ride.  Well 2 hours later I returned home, looking like I’d done a shift down a coal mine, covered from head to foot in grime, well thick mud actually.  And you know what, it felt great!!

I’m now just past the 27 week mark and although I have to see the physio in a couple of weeks time to see how my calf is progressing, I’m back to normal and don’t even think about my achilles injury anymore.  When I had my ATR I remember sitting on the sofa feeling sorry for myself, mainly from not knowing what the next 12 months would hold, and being told at the hospital to forget any exercise for a year and it would be a long haul to recovery.  Well that is partially true, it’s a long haul to recovery.  The Achillesblog website has been a huge help. But no exercise, forget that!

Opting for the non-surgical method I believe was a huge positive.  I had my doubts as I couldn’t work out how this big, thick bit of elastic would heal without joining it together surgically. It does, have no doubts, and more to the point if you get given a choice of surgery or not, opt for non-surgical.  Clearly I can only go on my experience but also from what I’ve read on this Blog about surgery and post-surgery issues.  The Aircast boot is a fantastic invention.  I was in mine 5 days after rupture.  Because I was so useless on my crutches I was weight-bearing a few weeks later.  To add to this I have experienced no pain since the first 2 weeks following my ATR.  It’s not that I’m pain tolerant, it’s because I was lucky and it was never really there.

I’ve continued to exercise since the first couple of weeks.  I’d go to the gym and go on the weight machines, sitting there with my Aircast boot on.  I’d go to some of the classes, but more importantly any opportunity to walk with my Boot on I took it.  On holiday I’d just walk up and down the beach.  I might have looked odd, and it didn’t do much for the suntan, but I felt better about myself and I’m sure helped in the healing process. Last week I took the dogs out through the local woods and jogged 3 lots of about 400 meters.  Happy face!

The muddy bike ride pushed me hard, but more importantly convinced me my achilles was strong.  So it’s onwards and upwards for 2012.  For all those just starting the recovery marathon, the light at the end of the tunnel may be small but it will get a lot bigger one day.  My advice is do as much as you can in the Aircast boot as early as you can.  It won’t hurt you, so get out and feel better about yourself and help in your recovery.  Non-surgery may not be an option for all but where it is an option, take it.  My ATR was 3cms.  The body heals, and touch wood everything is looking good.  So for me life back to normal, more exercise and lots more mud please!  Be positive, happy healing, and a Happy New Year to you all.

It’s Been Awhile!

Hi to all fellow ATRs.  It’s been awhile since I last posted - nearly seven weeks.  A lot has happened and all to the good.  In short, I’ve been working progressively harder in the gym cycling away on the static bike increasing the resistance week by week.  My confidence in my Achilles has grown to the point 10 days ago that I decided it was time to get my bike out and cycle into work.  It’s a 8 mile round trip with a few testing hills along the way. The first day I did this I had a big grin on my face when I got back home.  Simple things like riding my bike seemed a million miles away in June when my Achilles ruptured.  I rode into work for 3 successive days then gave myself 2 days off.  I’m going to build this routine up to the full 5 days of biking over the next few weeks.

I’ve also taken in a 2 week business trip to the States & Canada involving numerous flights.  My flight socks were my best friend.  Note to self: must get another pair as the pair I have are being over-worked!  I did get some swelling in the calf but it soon returned to normal between each section of travel.  I also drive for hours some days during the trip.  No problems at all.  Happy days.

I saw my consultant on Monday and the end result - discharged!  Yippee! I am still being seen by the physio and until I can get those darned heel lifts sorted I’m sure it’s going to take a little while yet.  But life is starting to return to normal.  I find myself fast walking down sets of stairs before my brain engages and says ‘hold on not so fast, I’m recovering from an ATR’.  The only thing I haven’t really considered yet is going out running again and the main reason is the key word on this Achillesblog site - Patience!  I checked my Marathon map the other day and I’m miles from the finish still.  So I’ve decided to wait, keep strengthening my leg, and build up to a future day of running and getting out on the trails on my mountain bike.  Perhaps after Xmas.

So there we have it in a nutshell. Things do turn around.  I was a non-surgical sceptic wondering how I’d ever get to the front door quick enough in my AirCast boot to greet whoever was there before they decided no one was at home!  All those difficult things like showering, dressing, getting up and down stairs, not driving, lack of exercise, the uncertainty of recovery, all seem a distance memory.  I’m 21 weeks since that dreaded day.  There is still some way to go and patience is still key to recovery.  But the way I’m viewing things now I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the non-surgical route, to get in the AirCast boot within days, then be aggressive on your feet once FWB and walk everywhere.  I’m sure the exercise helps the repair process and speeds recovery.

Happy healing.

The Weeks Fly By

Hi all.

The weeks seem to be flying by just recently.  It is a good 3 weeks since I last posted and just over 15 weeks since the dreaded day.  Looking back to those early days every hour seemed to be a drag, yet now weeks roll by so quickly.  The difference is getting back to something resembling normality, although there are many things I still cannot/won’t/too scared to do.  But, I’m certainly noticig a difference in the strength of my leg.

I have seen my PT a couple of times these past 2 weeks and he put me on a couple of machines to test how much weight I put on my weaker ride side, plus the strength exerted by both legs.  Over the course of a week there has been a significant difference.  I’m still not too hot on the heel raises, but I put that down to lack of confidence still.  I can manage 2-legged heel raises no problem. When he asked me to try a single heel raise I just stood there like a ‘turkey’ wanting to lift my weight on my bad leg.  There was barely a twitch.  More strengthening work needed me thinks!

In the gym I have been building up on the static bike and graduating slowly over a number of days it is now a breeze to cycle for 45 minutes on Level 8.  Last weekend was a beautiful Autumn day in England (the hottest October day on record (29 degrees! - for England! - no I’m not lying).  I decided time for a bike ride.  Out came the mountain bike, sorted the saddle height to not put too much strain on my AT, donned some kit, put the bike in 3rd gear and gently peddled round the rounds in my district.  I rode so slow pedestrians were starting to pass my on the footpaths.  But the main thing I was out on my bike in the hot sunshine, and my good and bad legs were working as one.  I did start getting a pain as the ride progressed, but no fear it wasn’t from the AT but from the ‘happy tomatoes’ - I’d forgotten to wear some cycling shorts!  Damn that saddle was hard!

I guess the message to all those in the early stages is to keep smiling, things will get better.  I was non-surgical, and things take a time to heal.  One of the biggest scars remains between the ears.  Patience remains the priority. I don’t want to push things too much.  My calf and AT still swell up after exercise so ice and elevation become the norm. I’m still a mile away from jogging, mountain biking, in fact most activities that involve risk to the legs.  Although the limp when I walk is sometimes there, I can say without doubt my AT is healing.  So it’s more of the same - long walks, static bike sessions, those damn heal raises, and let’s see what the next few months bring. Keep smiling!

On your bike!

Hi Fellow Sufferers,

Saw my consultant again today - 12 weeks since I started treatment - and I have a green light to begin some exercise!!  I’m sure all those that suffer an ATR watch as their weight slowly increases, clothes get tighter, and walking upstairs is the most ‘out of breath’ you get!  Well the road to recovery has now got some street lamps on because my consultant told me my AT is healing fine, my calf is no longer swollen and not a lot smaller than my good one.  The words ‘try some heal raises’ sent a bit of a chill down me.  I’d not attempted one yet, now I was being told to heel raise right there in the consulting room.  Five good ones later, no discomfort = big smile.

The magic words from this morning were ‘get on your bike’.  Static bike that is and no resistance yet.  Yippee!  I’m going to get on it tonight - easy does it but at least the wheels will start turning again.  Today the static bike, tomorrow the world!  So, the next few weeks are set.  Walking the dogs over the fields, lots of gently static biking, loads of swimming (must find my armbands!), and a few heel raises.  I see my PT on Thursday and that’s exciting too.  After nearly 3 months of inactivity I can now start a bit of activity.  Key word remains - PATIENCE!  Where’s my gym pass?

Coventry or Madrid - no competition!

Hi fellow ATR sufferers.  A brief update from ’sunny’ England!  My work took me out to a Conference in Madrid last week - it was certainly no holiday for lots of reasons.  It has been only 2 weeks since going in 2 shoes and I was wary of the flights to Madrid. Yes flights!  My admin team booked the cheapest route which was 90 minutes East then a connecting flight of 2 and a half hours South!  The slightly more expensive direct flight 2 hours!  The result was more time wearing my flight socks for the journey, more time for my ankle to swell up, and more steep aircraft steps to negotiate and worry about stretching my AT.

The flight socks worked a treat - but at £15 a pair I was determined to get ‘bang for my buck’ and wore them out a couple of evenings in Madrid, plus the return flight home.  Needless to say the socks walked themselves to the washing machine when I returned home.  Anyway, to the point.  Madrid was 35 degrees.  Coventry more like 15 degrees.  My ankle and calf suffered with the extra heat and swelled up every day and night.  The two pieces of comfort were the ice cold swimming pool and the ice making machine next to my room.  Another issue was the one day I managed to get in the pool and enjoy the icy water, I couldn’t then work out how to get out as the step were narrow and it meant stretching my AT and putting lots of weight through the bad leg.  Ten minutes later my exit was complete - not one of my brighter decisions.  Lesson 1: Before you enter the swimming pool, work out your exit strategy!

The ice machine was a blessing - lots of high elevation, put ice in a plastic bag, wrap round affected areas.  It was so hot in my room some nights I ended up falling asleep , leg raised, wrapped in ice, with the TV on, only to wake up in the early hours, ice bag melted and sleeping in a soggy bed!  Lesson 2: If you’re going to wrap your leg in ice and fall asleep, make sure the bag is securely tied.

Anyways, back in Coventry the leg is still swollen but considerably less than in the warmer climes of Madrid. Question?  Those who have an ATR and live in warmer parts of the world, do you suffer more with swelling around the ankle and calf than perhaps others might in the milder, cooler areas?  By the way, still waiting for my 2nd PT session.  Hospital admin not good.  NHS savings - no surgery (saving), delayed PT session (more saving).  Happy recovery!

2 Shoes, Day 1, Feeling Sore

A brief update on my first day minus boot and in 2 shoes.  I’ve been back driving today a couple of short journeys.  Walking slower than when I was in the boot.  It’s a confidence thing I’m sure, plus I’m wary about treading on anything that could challenge the strength of my healing achilles. I’ve rested my leg a few times during the day and kept it elevated, but it has still swollen around my calf and on the leg joint.  My PT advised this would happen and assured me it is normal.  It has been a real positive day, without question two steps forward and none backwards.

It’s strange but nice!

8 week appointment this morning post ATR recovery stage.  This is only the 2nd time I’ve seen a PT - the last 1 month ago.  Very impressed with the PT this morning backed my confidence in her knowledge as she is just completing a PHd just on the achilles injury.  So I feel I’m in safe hands. Anyway, she did a Thompson test and the there is clear movement between calf & achilles and the healing process is going well.  My Aircast boot has been discarded and I’m in 2 shoes with no wedge insert - yippee!!  I was given 1 crutch and advised to use it as a precaution for the next week.

She advised that the period between 8 and 12 weeks should be progressed with care.  Stationery bike, light swimming, walking on the flat all good.  Likely the calf will swell from time to time which is normal with the increased movement.  My first steps in 2 months without the boot was strange to say the least.  I felt like I was walking downhill after a couple of beers!  I guess it will take a little time to get used to walking again on 2 even height shoes.  The boot does through your balance and gait off kilter.  So the plan is to start gently cycling on the stationery bike and get in the pool.  The key word remains - patience!  It’s just nice that the non-surgical healing process is progressing as planned.  Two months on from my ATR I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the same protocol.