26.2.13

Achilles Tendon - One Year On

Just over a year ago I ruptured the Achilles Tendon in my right foot. If you don't know already, this is a proper injury.

My treatment approach was non-surgical and very conservative. I had 10 weeks in a cast and a further 4 weeks in a orthotic boot to limit range of motion. That's around 3 months of not being able to put any weight on my right foot. Once I was out of the boot, I was able to start putting very small amounts of weight on my foot and slowly begin some form of rehabilitation.

It was around about 4 months before I was allowed to drive again. And I was walking without crutches. Even though I had quite a serious limp.

After about 6 months I was allowed to ride a bike. I managed to do this to and from work a bit to get a bit of exercise.

I was signed-off from the Physio and allowed to start running again in November. This was around 9 months after the injury.

I remember lots of different things about the stages of rehabilitation.
In the early days, easily the hardest thing to cope with was not being able to shower properly. Even after I discovered the LimbO (if you ever have an injury like this, I can't recommend them highly enough), it was awkward. Fortunately, our shower cubicle is big enough to house a plastic patio chair.

Once I was out of my boot, I remember the shock of seeing how much muscle had wasted away on my right calf. It felt like my leg was about half the size. Oh, yes, and there is the slightly grim sight of dried, wasted, flaky skin when you first remove the cast. That goes after a week or two though, so isn't too bad.

After about three months on crutches, I started to develop something a bit like trigger finger. I would wake up in the mornings and find that my fingers would "pop" out of the curled up position. This was probably a result of charging around on my crutches rather than just sitting down.

Considering that I didn't do any "normal" exercise during the main phase of my injury I only gained about 5 kilos in weight. I think that's quite a result.

Where am I now? Essentially I'm back to full health. I can walk comfortably. There is no pain at all. I can run and cycle. I'm running for 40 minutes plus with no problems or pain.

I am not quite back to full "fitness". I'm probably about 30 seconds a mile away from my previous best running pace. My right calf still doesn't have quite the same strength as my left. I can't quite stand fully on tip-toes on my right leg. But, I am running a consistent mileage every week without problems and I currently weigh around 71 kilos. This is the lightest I've been for nearly 4 years.

My right Achilles Tendon is still about twice the size of the left one and there is a bit of a lump at the back of my ankle. It doesn't cause any problem and I'm sure that over time this will reduce.

I was pretty good with my rehabilitation exercises, although I'm sure I could have tried to fit more regular calf  raises in once I'd been signed off from the physio. If you ever get injured like this and you are a keen sportsman, my main advice would be to be patient and also be as disciplined as possible about rehabilitation exercises. They make all the difference to your recovery time. Doing 10 calf raises doesn't feel like much. But doing it three times a day (assuming that's what you are assigned) will be huge. I only ever managed twice a day 4 or 5 times a week. That's probably why my strength isn't quite fully back yet.