20 Weeks and the healing value of sloth, er … I mean rest

I’m 20 weeks post-op and seem to be recovering at about the same rate as most, with the frustrating consistency of inconsistent improvement.  But those of us 5 months into recovery know all about that.

Mind you I’m not complaining; I can walk without a limp (most of the time), laugh at stairs (bounding up and down) and rarely need to cool down my repaired bits at night. Do miss the routine of ice and bourbon though.

No rehab for a week, gasp!

Was forced to do no rehab for 7 days (except for elastic bands and wall stretching) due to a nasty intestinal malady. While I suppose other folks made of stronger stuff would have been more active, I’m not one of those people. A diet of rice, apples and countless trips to the comode is my excuse.

Now here’s the cool part, I’m walking and moving around much better than I was a week ago. The forced “recovery rest” apparently allowed my body to catch up to the work I’ve so diligently done since starting post-op rehab and exercise.

Athletes know rest is key to long term success, duh!

To any athlete this is an obvious phenomenon, rest is an essential element to an intelligent workout regime. Maybe not a forced whole body timeout for a week but certainly any weightlifter will tell you that muscle mass is built up in the rest/recovery phase of an effective workout plan.

And as a reasonably fit and active person I know all about this.  A good ATR recovery plan is not a 24/7 activity, most exercises are performed at most every other day whether it’s under the guidance of a physical therapist or self directed.

Given what I experienced then, should complete and periodic “stops” not be part of a long term ATR rehab plan? I have not seen anyone bring this issue up in our active little ATR clubhouse. I think the reason is we’re intensely focused to recover and the thought of not doing something active for a whole week is an anathema to “serious” recovery.

So follow recovery junkies, am I onto something or just rationalizing a week of sloth, the circumstances notwithstanding?

12 comments  Tagged:  , , , , February 9, 2012

Progress Plateau Progress …

It’s been 17 weeks since my achilles tendon was repaired (Complete tear of tendon and significant calf muscle involvement).

I’m walk’in with no or barely noticeable limp (when I try to walk too fast) and can comfortably do normal daily activities. Driving can be a little painful (and cause a lot of swelling) if it’s for too long, it is in effect a strenuous rehab to keep the foot on the accelerator.

Net, I”m learning that recovery is non a linear path. Damn frustrating at times.  Here is a brief history of my recovery.

Had conservative recovery protocol after surgery, non-weight bearing for 9 weeks in hard cast and boot then transitioned from PWB to FWB in boot over 3 weeks. Finally began 2 shoes (with .25″ heel lift) in mid December, starting at an hour a day indoors.  Took about 3 weeks before I was able to be in 2 shoes full time (well 99%) including outdoors.

Now the boot is a memory although not tempting fate by tossing it!

Started structured PT after 12 weeks although did as much walking as pain would allow as soon as doc gave me the OK to PWB.

See physical therapist 2x per week for 1.5 hours per session plus 20 minutes of stretching every day and the gym 2-3x per week.  Do a lot of walking everyday and take care to do it the right way, driving off the ball of my repaired foot with every step.  I pay for that at night with swelling, my evening ice pack and bourbon have become a sacred ritual :)

Followed a modified rynab diet and supplement regime for the first 14 weeks, surprisingly still like jello although not 4 packs per week!

So why the blog post title Progress Plateau Progress…?  Because that is exactly what I’m experiencing now. Not complaining, was told this would happen, sort of like the retail 80/20 rule.  In 4 months I’ve come a long way, but that last bit (like running and jumping) will take another 4 - 8 months.

So to all you recovering ATR’s remember everyone’s recovery is different. But be forewarned that it’s a long slog, just like we were told it would be.

3 comments  Tagged:  , , , January 19, 2012

14 Weeks, and the rest of my life to go

3 months since the start of recovery seems to be an important milestone for many of us. We’re mobile again (yeah!) with the use of both our hands (no more crutches) but walking remains an effort (boo!).

We can wear 2 shoes but finding the right ones is problematical since our injured leg changes shape throughout the day (swelling!). We can walk but to do so without a limp means walking more slowly than we’d like.

Some of us can even walk at a normal stride without a limp. But must concentrate to do so since the repaired leg does not have the fluidity of movement that the other one does. And there is a price to pay for walking for any length of time (RICE).

Nevertheless we’re happy to be doing all those things again after weeks of accommodation and inactivity but a brutal realization begins to take hold. No matter how positive we may be about recovery or assiduous about physical therapy, we’ll be recovering and rehabbing all of our lives.

I’m confident I’ll play tennis again, hike with a pack and do all those things I did pre ATR but there will always be a greater physical cost than before my injury.

I’m at the phase of recovery where I see progress everyday, especially after a strenuous PT session.  It continues to amaze me that every morning I can focus a little less on my repaired tendon.

I’m aware though that the rate of recovery will plateau and progress will happen more slowly. Then I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

2 comments  Tagged:  , , , January 2, 2012

Ice, Bourbon and Clogs

It’s been 3 months since my achilles tendon rupture and now I’m finally walking in regular shoes, well clogs anyway.  It’s slow and if I do it for more than 30 minutes it’ll hurt but I’m not complaining.  Evening ice pack has become a ritual, probably for a very long time. I’ve come to enjoy it though, especially with a little extra ice for the bourbon.

Would appreciate some feedback on shoes. I’m using .25″ heel lifts with shoes/sneakers that have good arch support and heel height. On a recommendation I tried Dansko Professional shoes (closed heel clogs) today; they are often recommended by ortho’s and podiatrists for achilles tendonitis and tears.

Have never worn clogs before but they are very comfortable, accomodate late day foot swelling and have a high enough heel to toe ratio (about 2″ to .75″) that I don’t feel the need for a heel lift.  Also, the rocker bottom design (not as pronounced as Sketchers or MBT) allows for good push off, useful given the pathetic state of my calf. Pricey though.

Any comments or advice?

4 comments  Tagged:  , , December 21, 2011

The day after the first PT session

Three days in 2 shoes, been adapting pretty well; Walking very slowly to insure best form possible. Starting to lose the silly walk, but that’s another blog post.

Had my first PT session yesterday, went through all the stuff other achillesblog members told me I would. Was not pushed much or so I thought. In fact I was walking better and with no discomfort in the hours following the session.

Thought this PT stuff would be a piece of cake. Hah!

Woke up this morning with muy sore calfs, both legs. Repaired tendon very sore, had I not been warned about this would have been freaked. Right foot felt like I had walked 10 miles barefoot through sand. Which in retrospect makes perfect sense, barely used it for nearly 3 months.

Once again entangled by hubris.

Now it’s off to my home PT exercises, humbled but not bowed!

Add comment  Tagged:  , , December 15, 2011

2 Shoes, Ministry of Silly Walks

Finally got the OK for 2 shoes at 11 weeks post surgery. My recovery path has been conservative; NWB till week 8, was full bearing a few days after that. Start PT later this week and was told by the surgeon to walk without a limp, no mater how slow I go.

And slow am I walking. With time and PT it will get better but right now I feel like I’m in the Ministry of Silly Walks (If you don’t know what it is, check out Monty Python on YouTube). At a pace Tim Conway’s old man character would like.

2 comments  Tagged:  , , December 13, 2011

Mama said there’d be days like this

Am finally FWB in a boot, no crutches. Had a very active day yesterday climbing stairs, lots of walking inside and out. By 6PM had significant swelling and pain at repaired tendon with tendonitus on my “good” leg. Spent the evening following RICE and it’s much better today. Expect this to be a pattern for a while, need to add a finger of bourbon to the treatment.

No pain no gain. Since I’m still in a boot there is not much of a chance of injury so will just keep clumping along. Using a .5″ lift in my other shoe to compensate for the height difference with the boot. Am taking care to walk normally without cheating so my gait is slow but don’t want to be limping 6 months from now.

I’m on a slow recovery path (9 weeks since surgery) but that’s OK since I can walk now, go to the gym and mostly be a biped again.

@ryanb Am following some of your advice regarding supplements, especially jello. Do about 5 packs a week, do you actually cook yours or drink it as a liquid?  Some people drink it straight but I’m not that good. Luckily I actually like the stuff although not a big fan of sugar-free but for now that’s what I use. I add 4 oz of fruit juice per pack to give it body and kill the taste of the artificial sweetener. You mentioned it has helped your hair, here’s hoping it will facilitate growth :)

1 comment  Tagged:  , , December 2, 2011

Another great thing about sleep

I’ve discovered another great thing about sleep.  Every morning I’m walking better than the day before.  Is that cool or what!  Yeah I’m stating the obvious but it was not to me when I started walking in my boot 3 days ago.

I got the OK to start PWB  on Thanksgiving day and progress to FWB at a pace I’m comfortable with.  It’s been 8 weeks since surgery so my leg has been inactive for quite a while. After a few days I’m able to walk slowly without a crutch although do use it when outside.  I suppose waiting 8+ weeks before starting weight bearing does have some benefits.  Ankle flexibility is surprisingly good, it’s at zero degrees pretty easily.

I have no idea if this is appropriate progress or not but to me it’s wonderful having the use of my arms again.

During my NWB period I slept in the boot, which I hated.  Who’s comfortable sleeping with a high tech moon boot on a bunch of pillows?  I certainly was not.  Waking up in the morning was my own personal Ground Hog Day and like Bill Murray, I dreaded the the alarm knowing that today would be the same as yesterday, boot still attached.

Now waking up is great, no boot and walking better every day.  Of course the pace of recovery will soon become maddeningly slow but today I’m relishing the progression to becoming a fully functioning biped again.

Only things I’m not happy about are the popping sounds emanating from my cranky ankle and chronic knee soreness. But having not used the ankle or knee for 2 months that’s to be expected. Just have to remind myself that there is a lot of scar tissue to be broken up.  I’ve been through that before when rehabbing my knee 20 years ago. Ah the memories …

2 comments  Tagged:  , , , November 25, 2011

A shoutout to our partners

It’s easy to forget that our partners (wives, husbands, whatever) suffer from this injury in big ways too.  The list is endless, especially in the early stages of post injury recovery.

Suddenly the time we don’t spend doing stuff like picking up the kids after swim practice or any activity that requires a functioning achilles tendon falls on them.  Not to mention the increased stress level that the whole family shares in spite of our best efforts to contribute to household activities.  Which in the first few weeks of recovery is mostly well intentioned, not particularly helpful and often counter productive.

I do not suggest walking your 75 pound energetic golden retriever 2 weeks after surgery while on crutches, trust me on this.

So, I try to thank my wife every day for all the extra stuff she has to do. Try is the operative word because I don’t manage to do so as often as I should but I’m aware how fortunate I am, even if I don’t always articulate it.

For sharing this experience our partners deserve a medal and buckets of gold, which of course they won’t get.  But acknowledgement and appreciation for what they do for us, let’s make sure they always know that.

Of course my wife does remind me at times, especially on those days when all the extra stuff really piles up that the moment will come when I will be a fully functioning human again able to pick up my share of the family schlepping. And I will do so, gratefully and with good cheer.

I suspect payback will be a bitch but fair is fair :)

4 comments  Tagged:  , , , November 21, 2011

8 Weeks Post Surgery Update

Have not been here for a while, the support and advice found in so many posts contributes to recovery, thank you everyone!

The good news is I’m healing well, my surgeon is more conservative than many at 8 weeks, so I’m just starting PWB but I should be transitioning to FWB within a week or two, Yippe!  The bad news is I lunged for that shot on the tennis court back in September which caused this mess but there is nothing for that now.  Lost the point too, damn.

My doc does not want me to start PT until I’m FWB and not using crutches at all, probably around 12 - 14 weeks.  Is that typical of many recovery timelines?  I’m comfortable with how things are going albeit with the usual frustrating moments so not going to change anything, just curious.

5 comments  Tagged:  , , , November 21, 2011

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