Lauren’s AchillesBlog

I once was a warrior until an arrow hit my heel

Foot exercises (2.5 weeks post ATR)

Last week I had another appointment (not with the surgeon, but the awesome PA). My cast was bivalved and I was instructed to perform 20 foot raises 4x/day. Specifically, I had to raise my foot until it was perpendicular to my shin, or parallel to the floor. After 2.5 weeks in a cast with my toes pointed downward, my achilles was naturally pretty tight.  I was petrified to accidentally rerupture my tendon by forcing my foot into this position, so I only lifted up my foot as far as it would go until I felt stiffness. I repeated this exercise the required number of times per day.

On Christmas Eve, I returned to the ortho for an evaluation and to get fitted for an aircast/walking boot. At this appointment, I was told that my foot was not where it was supposed to be after a week of foot raises. I was warned that if I didn’t stretch the scar tissue, my foot would heal in such a way that my toes would be permanently pointed. I proceeded to begin fainting as she moved my foot into the correct position - the feeling of my achilles stretching coupled with my extreme fear of rerupture overwhelmed my system. I returned to my car after this appointment feeling defeated.

While I have an extremely high threshold for pain, the anxiety of moving my once unmovable foot had adversely affected my rehabilitation and ultimately, my progress. I wanted to post about this experience because it was the first time I started to feel sorry for myself. Determined not to be beaten by my own psychology, I have since spoken with many family members who have completed various forms of rehabilitation related to cancer, joint replacements, and other tendon ruptures to learn how they dealt with their anxiety and fears throughout the process. A common theme pervades their stories: perseverance in the face of obstacles.

This weekend, I received a prescription for anti-nausea medication so I could fight through my queasiness and perform the necessary exercises needed for me to beat this injury. Throughout the holiday break, I have been able to lift my foot into the correct position in intervals of 20 reps about 6x/day. I feel like I have crossed a major psychological milestone. I am prepared to overcome the next set of hurdles that await me.

I now realize that rehabilitation from this injury may be an arduous and sometimes lonely experience. However, optimism and mental fortitude (however gained) are perhaps prerequisite for a successful recovery.