The first few days after the surgery was probably harder than the subsequent recovery days.
Under no circumstances was I allowed to bear any weight on my surgically repaired heel for 2 weeks. No weight bearing, leg elevation, and rest was the mantra.
The most important thing that I learned is the difference between elevating the leg and elevating the leg above the level of my heart. I was reminded again and again that I needed to have my leg elevated above the level of my heart.
When I failed to do this, my foot/ankle swelled up, and it became quite uncomfortable in my cast. Getting back on track with the elevation helped alleviate the problem. I couldn’t ice my leg as effectively since I was in a cast, so leg elevation was the only thing that I could do.
Warning signs to watch out for were discoloration, excessive swelling, and numbness/coldness in my toes. Also, any other pain is a good indication that there is something wrong (like calf muscle hurting to the touch). Luckily I had none of those symptoms.
I eventually bought a shower chair through my insurance so that I can shower on my own.
Shower Chair with back support:
(I have this one.)
I recommend getting the one with the back support since it’s much more comfortable. You can sit back and rest while showering. The shower chair really is a necessity, and it has rubber feet so that it won’t scrape up your tub. (A lawn chair might work too if it fits in the bath tub.)
But I’ve settled on a kitchen garbage bag as you can see, since I didn’t find out about them until a week later. And the garbage bag is a bit of a pain. I first used packing tape to make it nice and tight. However, when taking it off, it rips the garbage bag a bit as well as pulling some of my leg hairs out. ouch! I’ve resorted to just tucking the top part of the bag sort of into the cast and doing a shower towel like tuck.. It worked out somewhat, but the top part of my cast got wet a little. Cast cover would have been nice.
I also did my best to stay in bed. I had my laptop with me so it wasn’t terribly difficult. I’ve been reading that the first 2-3 weeks is a crucial time for proper healing of the incision as well as the repaired tendon. I’ve decided to stay in bed as much as possible.
However, I still had a few slip-ups. I accidentally put weight on my injured heel while moving around in the kitchen, as well as the accidental twitches of the foot during sleep which results in a slight strain on my achilles tendon. I am wide awake after that, and the pain lingers for a few seconds. One hell of an alarm clock.
I was mildly worried whether I’ve done any permanent damage, but I can’t do much about it anyway, and I just had to be more careful.
I regret that the surgeon didn’t put me in a CAM Walker (boot) instead of the cast. The cast is lighter, but the toes are more exposed so there is more of a chance for me to strain the achilles tendon. Also, I can’t exactly adjust the cast to take account for the swelling. However, from the doctors’ perspective, they can be sure that I won’t be hopping around without the boot, and they don’t want to operate on a re-rupture. The nurse told me that the cast is also more close-fitting, so it’s better for immobility.
It’s actually difficult to keep the heel elevated at all times. Every time I get up to go use the bathroom, I feel the blood rushing down to the foot, my toes turn slightly purple, and it feels like it’s going to explode.
I slept with two pillows under my cast, and I took the prescribed Lortab 7.5 500mg, one to two in the morning and at night when I was feeling some discomfort. I stopped taking the painkillers about 3 days after the surgery, as I don’t like to take medication unnecessarily. I was also told that pain-killers can cause constipation, and I don’t need that either. I only felt minor discomfort in the incision area afterwards.
I’ve been reading that it’s not good to put direct pressure on the incision wound, which is what happens when you lie on your back and elevate your heel with pillows. An article from the American Journal of Orthopedics (which I cannot find on their site anymore) recommends that you lie on your stomach or on your side while elevating the cast. The important part is not putting any pressure on the stitched area. It’s tricky to do, but not impossible.
Also, after being bedridden for so long my back was stressed, and it became more and more uncomfortable. Periodically moving around, elevating the leg in different “poses”, and stretching helped alleviate the problem.
Keeping myself occupied while resting has been the key to enduring the boredom of being bedridden and immobile. I was amazed to find so many trivial things that I could not easily do, but I adjusted (accepted?), after a week.
If possible, you really need to accept help and have someone take care of you. My girlfriend has been a trooper, and she’s brought me food, drinks, mail, etc. for me for most of the first two weeks, when she was home. As I was more mobile towards the end of the two weeks, I have been able to help out with small chores around the house.
When I am alone, I manage to make myself breakfast, lunch, etc. It really is exhausting to do these things, and the leg really needs to be elevated. So I only get on crutches for things that are absolutely necessary. I also steadily spent more time at the desk with my leg elevated (above the level of my heart).
To sign up for your own AchillesBlog, go to: Sign up
For more information on Achilles Tendon Rupture, go to: http://achillesblog.com
My Achillesblog is: http://achillesblog.com/dennis