Quick Recovery IS Possible
I am writing this post because I want people to know that it is possible to recover quickly from an Achilles Tendon Rupture. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pain free, but it is possible if you find a doctor who allows you to be aggressive in your recovery and you stay in shape during your non-weight-bearing time.
I ruptured my Right Achilles tendon during a flag football game on October 25, 2012. I saw a Doctor the next morning and was in Open Surgery for a full repair October 30th, 2012; prior to surgery I told the doctor to keep the incision as small as possible, and he lived up to his promise. During my recovery I started reading posts about folks with similar injuries being on crutches 8 months post recovery. I knew immediately this would not be acceptable, so here is my story. Let it be noted I am a 31 year old female, living in alone in Chicago on the 3rd floor of a 3 floor walk-up, who has worked out regularly for 18 years, and was off crutches in under 6 weeks.
I let myself recover for 5 days after surgery, stayed with a friend for the first 3 nights, and then transferred myself home to sleep, lie on the couch, read and watch bad TV. I took my last pain med November 3rd, 5 days after surgery. November 5th, I got my splint off and my first cast on; from my doctor office, I took a cab downtown and started a new job on November 5, 2012. It is a desk job, so I propped my leg up on a trash can under my desk and went to work taking ibuprofen as necessary. The first week I worked 5 – 7 hours/day and took Wednesday off. If I were to do this again, I would have waited until Wednesday to start and given myself an entire week post surgery. Hindsight is 20/20. My nights and weekends were spent resting. Living up 3 flights of stairs without an elevator, or 42 stairs to be exact, I was lucky to have a large support system of friends as well as live in a city where I could have my groceries delivered and cabs take me to work. I would suggest to anyone going through this recovery to purchase a bench for your shower so you can sit down; it will make your life much easier.
The usual happened for the next few weeks, I got 2 more casts as they stretched out my Achilles, pumped myself up enough to go to 2 happy hours – folks are really nice to the lady on crutches – and spent a lot of time resting, elevating my leg and doing daily activities. However, and I feel this made a world of difference, I didn’t lie around for 4 weeks. I came up with 2 – 15 minute exercise routines and did them both twice a week. Mondays and Thursdays I did leg lifts – front, side, back, and core strengthening; Tuesdays and Saturdays I did arm and back strengthening (your posture on crutches is terrible!). I also kept close track of what I ate and dropped 6 pounds to make the upcoming weight bearing easier.
4 weeks post surgery I got my final cast off and my walking boot on. I started Physical Therapy, 3 times a week, immediately. Having someone touch my leg after 4 weeks in a cast was not enjoyable but necessary. The scar massage was uncomfortable for the first 2 weeks, but my 1” scar is barely noticeable (Kudos to my doctor for such a small incision). 5 weeks post surgery I was down to 1 crutch, in my walking boot. Less than 6 weeks post surgery I was off crutches completely and started doing daily activities around the house without my boot for 1 hour each morning and 1 hour each evening. 7.5 weeks post surgery, I was released from my boot and had nearly all movement back in my ankle. I’m at 8.5 weeks post surgery and have no pain and minimal swelling after a long day. I am able to walk (correctly) at 1.5 miles/hr in gym shoes and only wear the boot when I am walking to/from the train – I’m still cautious because there is ice on the ground and I don’t want to reinjure. Per my request, I do twice as many exercises as those with similar injuries in my Physical Therapy practice and started full weight bearing 6 weeks post surgery. I do my Range of Motion exercises every morning and evening from the moment the hard cast was off. I do squats while I brush my teeth, leg lifts while I watch TV and stretches if I’m lying down. If I sound crazy, just ask yourself if you too want to be back to normal as soon as possible, because I do.
That’s my story. I can’t run or jump, but I can walk around, boot and crutch free, and got there quickly. I stayed in shape during my recovery, I asked friends for help, and I stayed positive. I am sure I will have setbacks over the next few months, but if you are going through this recovery, you have control over your healing process. Keep a positive attitude, get a silly bench for your shower, allow yourself to recover but push yourself and don’t lie on the couch for weeks on end. Good luck!
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