And so it begins… Weeks 0-4

Hello Achilles World. I’m currently 4 weeks post op and found the stories here inspiring and immensely helpful. I’ve been keeping track of my own recovery and sharing in the hope its helpful to others. Will keep this updated as often as I can.

About Me

38 yr old female living in NYC. Very active but had taken the past year off running/high impact due to bruised cartilage at ball of foot and mild plantar fasciitis. At time of injury was working out about 2-3x week either yoga, spin, elliptical, beach volleyball.

Medical Background:

I had a compound fracture (mid interior calf) while skiing as a kid and my right leg never fully progressed to the same strength as the left (I’m a righty). Some permanent nerve damage on the interior lower leg with high sensitivity mid-calf, no feeling mid ankle, limited foot/ankle mobility compared to the left. Due to the extreme sensitivity of the mid calf I wouldn’t massage it or stretch it properly. This is the area where the Achilles connects to the calf and I have to think its all related. I asked my doc who said maybe yes, maybe its just bad luck. My PT says absolutely.

Injury to Operation 11/20/19– 11/27/19

The classic story. Playing indoor volleyball going for a shot at the net…could have sworn my teammate fell on my right calf with a loud echoey pop. I turned around but he wasn’t there…. So then looked to see what from the ceiling must have fallen to make me fall/make that sound. The idea that it came from me was baffling. Was more in shock than in pain. It felt like the heel of my sneaker blew up since my heel was 3 inches higher than it should be. After about 2 min of googling knew exactly what it was. Skipped the ER and went right to an ortho 2 days later.

Timing was extra unfortunate since my insurance coverage had unintentionally lapsed a few months prior. I found a great doc who worked with me to keep costs low. He did the Thompsons test to confirm the full tear and had another doc examine me for a second opinion which saved me the MRI fees. He also explained surgical vs non surgical options and the reasons not to postpone treatment until Jan when I have insurance. I assumed surgery would be cost prohibitive but it was surprisingly affordable… $7,500. It would need to be done at the surgical center vs hospital which was fine by me. By this time I had done a ton of research and knew I preferred the surgical route. We scheduled it for the first available slot which was 7 days from injury.

During this time I was not in much pain. Just some throbbing from the swelling and had absolutely no ability to move my foot (only the toes). Doc put me in a cam walker boot with 3 heel lifts and said I could walk around with it. I found my swelling was way worse if I walked so spent most of my time w my legs elevated.

WEEK 0 – Surgery 11/27

Open surgery. Said the tendon tissue looked healthy and he had strong grabs while stitching it back together which is what I wanted to hear. I was put in a soft splint/cast to allow for swelling. Didn’t feel any pain for 24hrs and when the nerve block wore of it felt like a giant papercut. Stinging/burning. Not ideal but definitely a manageable level of pain. I was expecting way worse so I took the Percocet’s at first but stopped after a few days with OTC stuff.

One mistake I made was not straightening my leg ever the first few days. This caused the incision to heal tight so when I did straighten it was like pulling a scab…. Would try to do this a few times a day. Tried my best for a healthy diet with lots of fruits/veggies but it was Thanksgiving week/weekend and was only mildly successful.


Overall felt “fine” but a few things came up and I’d freak myself out. I knew there was a risk of infection and everything would make me question it. Including my “papercut” wound which would flare up from time to time (especially nighttime). Noticed a bright Cheeto colored orange residue on my toes which was alarming. Finally cleaned my feet w nail polish remover and that worked (must have been some surgical sterilization). Also would have weird spasms in my lower heel or calf muscle and I’d often doubt that my tendon was still connected.

WEEK 2 – First Post-Op

Doc confirmed the Achilles is attached and there is no infection J Wound looked pleasantly thin with some bruising around the ankle. Already seeing some calf atrophy. He used absorbable stitches so nothing to remove although he did have to trim some stitches that were exposed. There’s a purple film covering the wound which I was told not to wash off. He wrapped up my ankle in an ace bandage to keep it covered. Moved into the boot with 3 heel lifts and told 4 more weeks NWB. I knew that was his protocol and also knew there are other ones that allow weight bearing earlier out there so I pushed for him for PT approval. He agreed for mobility but said absolutely NWB for 6 weeks post-op (booo!!)

First days in the boot – takes some adjustment. Muuuch harder to sleep and more swelling than ever before. Noticed bruising around foot / ankle. The boot is heavy and a too big for my tiny legs. Felt like I was bouncing around in there. Figured out if I wrap my leg in a sweater and place it in the boot before bed it helps me sleep better. Also remove the top plate from the boot.

I felt way too tender to start any PT so put it off for a week. Here’s what I did instead:

Leg Extensions – laying on the ground raised my leg (w boot on) on back, sides, stomach

Ankle Flexes - up and down a few times (boot off, ace bandage on)

Toe Wiggles – a few times a day

All followed by ice and elevation. Constant elevation.

First shower was nice but scary! My foot was soooo shakey without the ace bandage. I started “shower baths” which I put about 3 inches of water in the tub and that gives my heel some cushion when I sit down. Then turn on the shower to wash up. Its actually nice!

Also finally went back to the office for work. Would need to lay down to ice/elevate a few times while there. I also got a knee scooter which was a bit too cumbersome to use w crutches so I’m keeping that at the office for when I’m PWB. Wishing I got the iWalk instead. In general every day is better but its like 2 days progress, 1 day setback and those setbacks are a bit of a mind fuck.


First PT apt! Went really well and I was grateful to have someone look at me and confirm things are progressing properly. She said overall swelling was quite minimal which is good – but I should expect it to come once I start moving around a bit. There is bruising in my lower ankles which is apparently normal. I have about 10 degrees ROM now. She confirmed the leg extensions and to do the ankle ROM stuff as often as I can 3-5x a day. She saw I was using 3 heel lifts and removed 1 right away. Also massaged the area for adhesion. It doesn’t hurt but I find this is the hardest for me to do bc of the old trauma to that area.

Throughout the week kept up the exercises. Leg extensions w boot on, ankle movements with ace bandage on. Muscle twinges esp in the lower calf would come and go. Especially noticeable in dark, rainy winter days or post holiday parties after drinking a few too many. Also after doing any ankle ROM. Taking NSAIDs as needed for that.


Had planned on weaning myself from 2 heel lifts to 1 (starting w a few hours a day) but I found that I was already comfortable with 1 lift. I guess the ROM stuff is working! Also trying to remove the ace bandage during my exercises to get more strength in the foot as it still shakes when its not wrapped up.

Its Christmas this week and I’m happy to be at my parents with my whole family around. The only negative is that its impossible to eat healthy – I really love food and wine so much - and the lack of cardio is making me feel icky. I’ve been adding some planks / sit ups to my leg exercises which helps. Am also staying more diligent with a few Kundalini Yoga breathwork poses which I (try to) practice for 10 min each morning. Always helps but its like any meditation impossible to get yourself to start doing.

That’s all for now. And if anyone’s actually read this far down I do have a few questions:

- What have you found successful for minimizing scaring ?

- Any cardio ideas you can do from home?

- I have a ski trip planned at 9 weeks post op. Obviously not skiing but I thought it would be nice to breathe mountain air w friends. Not so much worried about flying but if I slip on ice. If I’m wearing a boot it should be ok?

Thanks for reading!


7 Responses to “And so it begins… Weeks 0-4”

  1. Hi, this is a comment.
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  2. HI. I think getting away to the mountains and seeing some fresh scenery would be a good thing and you should be fine so long as you stay in the boot. You do want to take it easy though. I’ve read a few posts where people took the boot off indoors to get around and then slipped and re-injured so don’t give in to that temptation and you’ll be fine. I slept with the boot off, but anytime I got up in the night, I’d put it back on again. It’s a pain, but you’ll be happy you did it right the first time. I lost a lot of cardio fitness in the beginning, but you’ll get it back in time. Best advice I can give is to be patient and listen to your body. My doc specifically told me NOT to put anything on the scars and let it heal on its own. 6 months later, i can barely see any scar. Good luck!

  3. Lauren, great to hear about your journey so far since we ruptured on the same day. Our experiences sound very similar so far. The timing of this injury has been nice with the holidays providing some extra time off from work, but it sure is hard to eat healthy haha.

  4. External scaring is great, you can show it off some day. For internal scaring, its best to use some skin lotion and massage the area, for many months. However, I dont know when you can start this, ask your PT.

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  6. Hi! I really enjoyed reading about your progress. I’m 8 days post surgery and have my first follow up visit in 4 days. Hopefully I can enjoy the improvement you seem to have. At 63, I’m sure it will be challenging. This is my second go round. I ruptured my other Achilles 30 years ago. Good times. Lol.

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