a New Year–looking back, looking forward

I would say it all started in 2001.  I fell playing volleyball, and dislocated my right leg at the knee.  My foot was pointing 90 degrees to the right.  I tore 4 ligaments, 2 tendons & the IT band.  There was also damage to 1 meniscus, and an avulsion fracture, where tissue was torn from bone.

I had surgery 10 days later, after some of the swelling had subsided.  I had another surgery 10 months later, ‘cos there was still laxity in the joint.  (I could bend my knee backwards about 30 degrees–it was my party trick that Christmas, made nurses & physical therapists close their eyes, wince & turn away.)

After each surgery, of course, there were months of rehab…  I went through knee braces each time, and did end up walking without a limp.  I was pretty proud of that–I worked hard on my gait.

I ended up with decreased range of motion in my knee, and couldn’t go as far or as fast as before, except when swimming.  I was in my mid-40’s, though, and accepted that my life had changed.

My gait must not have been quite right, though, because in 2007 I started to develop pain in my right Achilles’ tendon.  I started PT again, my therapist did mobilizations, manipulations, ultrasound, ice, heat etc.  I did the exercises.  She made me a night splint to keep the foot at 90 degrees (my joints are naturally loose, and when I sleep, my toes point downward), and after 4 months of hard work, the pain subsided…

It came back, though, in 2009, and this time the therapy and night splint didn’t do much to relieve the pain.  I tried steroids, and they worked only briefly.  I got orthotics, and took Alleve & ibuprofen, and all in all the pain was controlled, but never went away.  Finally, at the end of the year, I started acupuncture.

Acupuncture helped, but it took 4 months to really see results that lasted more than a day or two.   After 5 months, the acupuncturist felt he had done all he could.  A few months later, the pain was back, and I was taking Alleve & ibuprofen daily again.  In July, I won a free acupuncture sesison with a different therapist, and again, in time, those treatments helped…

I was on my way to an acupuncture session on October 18th, when I tripped and fell on the sidewalk….I thought I had a very bad sprain.  My purse had flown about 10 feet away from me, my right shoe about half that far.  I had just gotten up and was holding onto a tree for balance when a man picked them up & handed them to me, asking if I was OK.  I assured him I was “fine, just a sprain”, and went into the clinic (up 2 flights of stairs) and told the acupuncturist I had fallen & hurt my ankle.  She did an emergency treatment to reduce pain & swelling, I lay there and cried, then drove myself home.

I spent the evening with ice on my ankle & my foot up.  In bed that night, I had a painful spasm then cramping in my calf, and thought, “I can’t deal with leg cramps AND a sprained ankle, it’s too much!”

I called in sick the next day (I work at a hospital, with people who are mentally ill), and went to see my doctor.  He palpated my Achilles’ tendon area and said he didn’t think it was torn, he couldn’t feel a break in it, but suggested I get an X-ray.  I did, it showed no bone breakage.  My doctor was going out of town for the next 5 days, but said that if the swelling persisted beyond Friday (2 days later) I should call the clinic and speak to the on-call doc.  I did, but he just said to continue to rest it & see my doctor the next week…

My doctor said I should see an orthopedist–I did, 2 days later.  He asked if I could stand on my toes, and I found that I could not…he said that was consistent with an Achilles’ tendon rupture, gave me a boot and scheduled an MRI for the next day.  I saw him again the Monday after, he confirmed that my tendon had ruptured and he suggested surgery on Wednesday, November 2nd.

When I saw him after surgery, he said that my tendon had retracted 3 inches into my calf muscle, and that was likely the cramping I had felt the night of my injury.  That was also why my primary care doctor did not feel any gap…  (And it was also why, after my fall, the tendon itself wasn’t causing pain any more…)

5 Responses to “a New Year–looking back, looking forward”

  1. doryt Says:

    Hi Kathy,
    I was reading about acupunture today as my health insurance is renewing and it is now an option I can add. I have been dealing with tendonitis on my right for a few years now. I have had little to no pain on my left ATR and since the rupture my right is killing me. Of course it is bearing all the weight as I recover. When I see my surgeon tomorrow I will talk to him about acupunture and see if he will order it for my right now or soon after my left ATR is fully recovered. Aside from the acupunture did you try any herbs or vitamins. If the acupunture took 4 months for you to see results, and you had insurance to cover it would you continue long term with it?

  2. kathyw Says:

    Hi Dory,

    I would continue with acupuncture…I have seen 2 different practitioners, each with a different approach. Both of them significantly reduced my Achilles’ tendon pain in about 4 months (both of them also said it was a pretty recalcitrant problem).

    The first acupuncturist was all business, only treating the Achilles’. The second was more holistic–she did some body work too, and if I told her “my shoulder aches today” she would treat that as well–I would encourage you to find someone like that, just because it’s nice to feel like you can have anything that doesn’t feel good made better.

    Sadly, my insurance does not cover acupuncture, but as I can afford more acupuncture, I will have it, because I do feel it makes a difference in pain levels.

    I did not try any particular vitamin therapy for my Achilles’s, I do take a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. I did take arnica tablets and rubbed an arnica salve on my Achilles’ area. I think both helped, but when the surgeon spoke with me after the surgery, he said that there was “significant degeneration” in the tendon that had been going on for some time before it ruptured, and that had been the cause of the ongoing pain I had experienced…I think by the time I began taking the arnica, it was too late for it to do anything other than reduce pain.

  3. doryt Says:

    Hello Kathy,
    I had not been around for a few days. Busy getting ready for family coming over to house sit while Ted and I leave for Arizona in the morning. About time I sit down and ice, my ankle is very swollen. So happy to be in shoes and out of the boot. Not a real fluid motion yet but expect it will come within a few days. I may bring the boot with me to Arizona in case I have alot of walking.

    Thanks so much for the acupunture comment. I have a really great massage therapist I see once in a while that is on the holistic approach & bet she could recommend an acupunturist. Dr Serynek, my surgeon said he would order acupuncture for me, since Kaiser now offers it. It’s under $7.00 a month to add to my plan and visits are $15.00 copay. I do not know much about TCM and the little bit I read up on I think acupunture could help. It is amazing that my left ATR has caused me no pain. I have been diligent about my foam rolling and streching etc on the right since my injury.

    I also take glucosamine chondroitin. do not know what arnica is? My aunt is a equestrian nut and she was telling me aboiut ligament and tendon ointments and vitamins she uses on her horses. If all else fails I may see the horse doctor. LOL The pain does not stop me but it is really annoying. Just hope I do not rupture it next.

    I’ll be gone about a week and hope to have some more progress to report. Best to you and thanks again!

  4. kathyw Says:

    Hi Dory,

    Hope you have a good time in AZ…taking the boot is probably a good idea.

    Thinking about acupuncture when responding to your comment encouraged me to get in touch with the woman I had been working with before my ATR–I am hoping to see her one day next week for some acupuncture and tissue massage work on my plantar fascia and AT area.

    Safe travels!

  5. Doryt Says:

    Thanks for the good thoughts Kathy! How is your PT going? Just from the 4 PT’s I had end of Dec until Jan 11, I was really swollen. After only the 4 I loosened up pretty good. Hope when I get back out of the cast again after this skin graft ordeal and start PT again that it won’t be too bad. Take care and good thought to you too! Got your msg right away but I have had lots of family company so I feel guilty getting on the computer so much.

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