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6 months. What a journey so far.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been six months since my surgery.  It’s been quite a journey so far.  Since I live alone, the first weeks on crutches were the most difficult.  I was at least fortunate that I injured my left AT, so I could drive right away but going to the grocery store on the second day after surgery, hobbling around with a bag in my hand trying to shop was not fun.  But I managed it and was amazed at how kind strangers could be when I was on crutches. When I went into the boot and was FWB, it was great to be able to hold the door for others.  For those of you who are not yet FWB, believe me, when you go FWB, you will not only be able to move about easily again, it will boost your spirits immeasurably.  For me, becoming FWB was the biggest milestone and the most exciting.

I also consider myself to be fortunate in that I never had any pain after my surgery.  Some discomfort from swelling while in the cast but not pain like many here have had.

Enough of the past.  I’m writing to hopefully encourage those of you just starting this journey that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.  I know that’s a tired cliche but it’s true.  I’m been going to the gym regularly for quite some time and doing the elliptical walker, treadmill, stationary bike and the stairmaster to get in shape for ski season.  I can hardly wait!  BTW, the stairmaster with just your toes on the platform is a great strengthening exercise for the AT.  I’m still also doing a lot of barefoot heel raises and my one leg heel raise is much better.  Not as good as the right leg but getting there.  I rarely even think of my achilles tendon any more except when I’m doing my heel raises.  Yes, there will come a day when you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about ISN’T your AT!

When I told my surgeon early in my recovery that I was planning on skiing this year, he was not a fan of the idea.  When I last saw him at my 12 week follow up, he was really pleased with my progress and skiing no longer seemed to be an issue, though he told me to stay out of the bumps - yeah right, like that’s going to happen.  :-)  I intend to be doing all of the activities that I did before my ATR, and although it’s a personal decision, I believe that everyone on this site can do the same if you want.

Having been on this site for six months and seeing everyone’s progress over time, it seems clear to me that whether you go the op or non-op route, if you are diligent in your PT and, as NOTN says, Watch Your Step, at four months you’ll be amazed at where you are and at six months, you’ll be almost as good as new.  Maybe better, especially if you had tendonitis or tendonosis prior to your ATR.

I also think that one thing my ATR gave me was perspective.  For those of you who are on crutches and NWB, this perspective is more likely to come when you’re FWB.  Many others who are further down the road to complete recovery have also said this.  And that perspective is that this injury, as bad as it is, is temporary and that we will walk, run, and be back to our favorite activities in a matter of months.  And as I remember, that seemed like forever at the beginning of this journey when I was NWB and on crutches but it’s not.  Your ATR can be painful, frustrating and downright demoralizing at times but rest assured, you will walk, run, play sports, dance (I won’t do this because I’m a terrible dancer), and be your old self, or likely, an even better self in no time!

That’s it for now.  Keep healing!

20 weeks and all is well

Although I haven’t posted or commented for a while, I always read the new blogs and comments on the site.  As I read, I am often reminded of where I was physically and how I felt at the beginning of this journey.  I’m constantly reminded of how important this site has been for me, especially early on and am very thankful to Dennis for creating it and to my fellow achillesblog members for the information, advice, support and inspiration.  As I see new people come to the site, I continue to see a level of support for others that is amazing.  For those of you who are new, this site can be an invaluable part of your recovery.

Yesterday, was my 20 week post-op anniversary.  I had a great and caring surgeon and my PT was amazing.  I’m happy to say that I virtually never think about my AT anymore except when doing my exercises.  My calf strength has come back very well and I’ve been doing single leg heel raises for a little over two weeks.  They are not as high as the good leg but getting better.  However, I really only do them as a test to see where I stand in terms of strength as I feel that doing two leg heel raises with most of my weight shifted to the bad leg gives me full range of motion and proper form throughout the exercise.  I’ve been running for a few weeks and hopped on my mountain bike and hit some trails last weekend.  No drops or big challenges, just nice single track.  It felt great.  I get winded very quickly but that will come back in time.  I’m really excited about ski season and will be ready to go when the snow begins to fall. :-)  I even see myself playing softball again next summer.  (For those of you who don’t know, I did my ATR playing softball.)

This lengthy post is partially an update on my current recovery status but more importantly, it’s intended to let those of you who are beginning your recovery that returning to your normal activities as well as beginning new, exciting challenges is not as far away as you may feel right now.  I know that the first few weeks can be very difficult but hang in there, listen to your AT and be diligent in your physical therapy.  Once you start physical therapy, you’ll literally feel better every day.

And don’t forget to give support and advice to others on this site.  We all have a unique experience and valuable insight when it comes to ATRs, and I can tell you from experience that sometimes, even the smallest bit of advice or encouragement can make someone’s day.  It did for me — many times.

That’s it for now.  Keep healing!

16 weeks

Well, it’s been 16 weeks since my surgery and I haven’t posted for a while so here’s an update.  ROM is generally very good but my dorsiflexion in my bad leg has a ways to go to match the good leg.  I must admit that I’ve worked very hard on strength and proprioception but have taken it easy with dorsiflexion to minimize the chance of healing too long.  I’m past that point now so I’ll will be ramping up the stretching.

As I said, I’ve worked hard on strength and it’s coming along very well.  I’m doing lots of exercises up on my toes now in addition to lots of heel raises and various other exercises.  I’m very close to a single leg heel raise but not quite there.  When I’m doing two legged heel raises, I transfer my weight as much as possible to my bad leg to make it work harder.  It seems to be helping.  I’ve  been going on long walks as well and my gait is pretty much normal.  For the past few days, I’ve also added short stints of jogging to the walks.  It feels really good even though it’s slow.  For those of you just starting this adventure, hang in there.  The beginning is the hardest part.

That’s it for now.  Keep healing.


My PT and I have worked hard on calf strength and proprioception.  Like most of you, I spend time on the speed ladder at every session.  Today, for the first time, I did every pass up and down the speed ladder on my toes.  With the different exercises, this was nine passes both directions on the speed ladder.  Although I’ve been getting stronger each day, this for me is a milestone and very exciting.  Hang in there.  Each of us is getting better every day.

That’s it for now.

Keep healing.

12 Weeks – 2 shoes full time!

This week I went to my 12 weeks post-op visit with the surgeon. (Six weeks in casts and six weeks in a boot) He wanted me to wear my boot whenever I was outside for 12 weeks but I could wear shoes inside. I walked into his office in two shoes as there was no way I wanted to walk into the appointment in my boot. Seems silly but it was important to me. It was an uneventful, short visit and the surgeon seemed pleased with my recovery. He said that the fact that I am highly motivated to get back to “normal” was very important and had clearly speeded up my recovery, especially from the calf atrophy.

I’ve been wearing 2 shoes indoors for about five weeks now and have been doing PT for 4 weeks. My physical therapist is great and I’m so much stronger now than when I first started. He really makes me work and I also do the exercises at home as well. Calf strength and coordination are improving quickly and I’m feeling very positive.

The first six weeks in the casts were the hardest. Once I got into the boot and became FWB, everything was so much easier and better. Now that I’ve been in two shoes for a few days, it’s better yet. It sounds funny but as much as I hated the first six weeks in casts and on crutches, they are but a distant memory now.

Not much to report really, just steady improvement. I’m headed out for a nice long (careful) walk.

That’s it for now.

Keep healing.

2 shoes! (in the house)

I began PT and wearing two shoes in the house last week. (I’m still wearing the boot when I go outside) The therapist did the evaluation and said I am doing very well and am ahead of schedule. He knows me well since he worked with me after my rotator cuff surgery as well. (Complete rupture there as well) It’s great to work with someone who knows me and knows that I’m highly motivated to get back to normal. I’m sure that’s why he warned me about overdoing it.

We’ve done three days of PT so far with all of the exercises that I’m sure all of you who are doing PT are already familiar with. We’re doing two 10-minute sessions on the “bike” each day with the balls of my feet on the pedals as well. It feels great.

I feel very fortunate that I’ve had no pain or stiffness since my surgery. I am pain free after PT as well. (Unlike rotator cuff PT, which can be extremely painful) I was most surprised at the first PT session by the “clunkiness” of my foot. I was prepared for the weak calf muscle but every muscle in the foot seemed to have forgotten how to walk. But I was also surprised that after only two days of PT, how quickly the foot responds. By the end of the third day, my foot seemed to be remembering what it needed to do and my gait has greatly improved. This past week, my longest time at balancing on my bad foot has gone from 5 seconds to 50 seconds, though it’s inconsistent. I still have a long way to go but it is all very encouraging.

Although I’m only wearing two shoes inside for now, it feels great to be out of the boot whenever possible.

Any advice on this stage from those of you who are well past this stage of recovery?

That’s it for now.

Keep healing.

Walking in cam walker made easier by fixing other shoe

Hi all, I recently had the following discussion with duncmck and Norm on the Site-Wide Recent Comments about balancing out our hips while in the cam walker to make walking easier, more comfortable and less likely to cause hip, back or knee problems.

— “I put insoles in my good foot’s shoe but that isn’t quite enough to balance me as much as I’d like. It doesn’t make up for the thickness of the sole of the cam walker. So I took my right shoe (good foot) to a shoe repair shop and he put sole material under my shoe until I felt balanced. After these measurements, the shoe repairman is going to add a 3/4″ sole to the bottom of the shoe to even me out. It should make walking more natural. Keeping my fingers crossed.” —

Well, I picked up the shoe today and walking is so much easier, more comfortable and , the added bonus, I can walk faster. I have an almost normal gait in the cam walker now. I wanted to pass this information along, as I know that there are quite a few discussions about how to make walking easier in our cam walkers. I thought I’d add this solution that is working great for me to the list of solutions others have shared.

I used an old pair (well one shoe really) of running shoes that was pretty much worn out since I won’t be using the shoe again after I’m on two shoes full time. (Unless I want to do the other shoe as well and have the Herman Munster look.) The shoe repair shop simply added the additional ¾” sole to the bottom of my shoe. Because it’s a running shoe, the sole conforms to the bottom of the running shoe and is rounded like the bottom of my cam walker. The result is easy, comfortable walking in my cam walker.

I know there are other solutions on this great web site but I hadn’t seen this one yet, so I thought I’d share it.

That’s it for now.

Keep healing.

7 weeks post-op and finally FWB

Last week, at just under six weeks post-op, I got my second cast off and was fitted for an air walker with two centimeters of heal lifts. I was PWB for about 5 days but have been FWB now for a couple of days. I was so glad to be rid of the crutches and able to walk! Thankfully, heal pain has been minimal. Mainly discomfort. I sleep with the boot off.

I removed one of the heal lifts today so I have one centimeter of lift. Even removing one lift has made it easier to walk. In one more week, I’ll remove the last heal lift.

I’ve been doing ROM exercises at home as well as seated heal raises. I begin physical therapy next week and am looking forward to it. If there are other exercises I should be doing right now before I start PT, please let me know. I’m following the UWO protocol posted by Norm. My doctor said I could take the boot off and walk in shoes at home as long as the heal lift is in but I’m not ready for that yet.

That’s it for now.

Keep Healing.

PWB and ahead of schedule!

It’s been six weeks since I had surgery on my ruptured left AT. This Monday, I went to the surgeon to have my second cast removed and am now in a boot and PWB. What a great feeling!

The surgeon was impressed with my ROM as well as lack of severe calf atrophy. Yes, it’s atrophied but not a toothpick. My plantar flexion and dorsiflexion are almost identical to my other ankle and I have no pain or stiffness. The surgeon told me that I am ahead of where most of his patients are at this point and he was very encouraging. He did, however, tell not to use this information as an excuse to go do something stupid that could cause a set back.

I think I was able to maintain flexibility because I constantly moved my foot and ankle while I was in both casts. I wiggled my toes all lot and rotated my leg and ankle left and right as much as possible. I think the most important thing was the fact that for the past four weeks, I have been doing isometric exercises inside the cast by pushing down with my toes and pushing up with my toes. It seemed to help not only the calf but also all of the muscles in my ankle and foot. I didn’t push super hard but I did each exercise at least 50 times every day.

I showed the surgeon Norm’s rehab protocol (thanks Norm) and he said it looks excellent and he had no problem with me following it. He also told me that I could wear running shoes in the house with heel lifts if I wanted and felt up to it but always wear the boot outside for now. I’m reluctant to try shoes now because I’m concerned about re-injury. It’s still good news and I’ll re-evaluate when I’m feeling more confident. I want to be aggressive in my rehab but I also need to use my head.

All in all, a great week.

Keep Healing!

New to the “club”

I’ve been reading the blogs and information on this website for about 5 weeks. It has been extremely helpful in terms of information but also in terms of support. It’s great to see the interaction of the many people on the site. I finally decided to start my own blog so that I could participate and not just view the site.

I ruptured my left AT on May 16, 2010 sprinting to first base while playing softball. I didn’t know it at the time and decided to use RICE and see if would be better in a week or so. After hobbling around for over three weeks, I finally saw a doctor who looked at my leg, did a Thomson test and told me I had an ATR.

I made an appointment with the surgeon who had fixed a full rupture of the supraspinatus in my rotator cuff a couple of years earlier. He looked at my leg and asked me when I had injured my AT. I told him the date (it was now more than 3 weeks) and he said he would not be able to do the surgery as I had waited way too long. He put me in a cast and then recommended that I go to a different surgeon who was much more specialized in sports injuries for a second opinion.

I went to the new surgeon the next day. He looked at my MRI and told me that he could do the repair despite the delay. It turned out that I did not have a complete rupture. It was near complete but there was a small bit of the tendon that was still attached. I was scheduled for surgery the next day.

The surgery was performed on June 11th. The surgeon told me that it was a very clean tear and that made the repair much easier. I was put in a cast and sent home. At three weeks, I went back for my first post-op appointment. The stitches were removed and I was put it a second cast with my foot at almost neutral.

I was very pleased that the surgeon took the time to talk to me and answer all of my questions during the follow up visit. He suggested that I learn to take it a little slower out of the batter’s box and also recommended not wearing cleats when playing next year (if I decide to play.) Apparently, when it comes to your Achilles tendon, the loss of traction from wearing sneakers is preferable to the solid grip of cleats during acceleration.

I will get my cam walker in less than two weeks and am really looking forward to getting rid of the crutches!

I have been very fortunate in that I have had very little swelling and have had no pain since the surgery. I took a couple of Motrin the first day after surgery to reduce inflammation but nothing since except for low dose aspirin to reduce the chance of blood clots.

I do leg exercises everyday that I found on this site as well as isometric exercises inside the cast pointing my toe down and also raising the toe. I’m hoping this will help lessen the inevitable muscle atrophy.

By far, the hardest part of this injury is the length of the recovery looming over me as well as a summer of softball, mountain biking, fly fishing, hiking and kayaking down the drain.

Being on crutches is also a real drag but that will be over when I get the cam walker. On the other hand, I have come to appreciate that this is temporary and I will be up and walking and running, etc. over time. There are many others in the world who have had injuries or maladies for whom that will never be true. So despite the disappointment of losing a few months of activities, it’s only a few months.

I know this is a long-winded first post but I’ve been reading the site for a while and am writing several weeks of info in a single post. This site is a source of inspiration for me and I’m looking forward to participating.

I’ve been skiing since I was five and continue to be an avid skier. I WILL be skiing this coming winter!