You will be in an altered state for many moons...

If your Achilles tendon is ruptured, torn, or even simply inflamed with tendonitis, your life is about to change. Mine sure has - so I decided to chronicle these events, and create a place for others to share their experiences, advice, resources and emotions during our journey toward recovery.

Nothing in this blog is meant to take the place of the medical advice of your physician. Follow the instructions of your medical professionals, not me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

26. And you thought torture was against the Geneva Convention...

Take a look at what fun I've been having in physical therapy. Imagine that you have a large, bumpy, tender scar on the largest tendon in your body. Now - imagine someone forcefully scraping a stainless steel instrument the size of a butcher knife up and down that scar, with the sole purpose of "breaking down scar tissue." Good times...

Welcome to the world of physical therapy - and the Graston Technique.

I'm slapping my jaws about it, but the reality is...I think it works.  It's a bit too early to tell for certain, but I think I can see some improvement after two of about ten sessions I'm scheduled for.

I started PT this past week and have been twice.  The first time was basically an evaluation.  Good news on that front - I'm healing very well.  In fact, my range of motion is EXCELLENT - so - that shows that all that gentle stretching I've been doing has paid off.  One less thing to worry about.

Apparently my marked limping is not due so much to the tendon as it is to my weakened calf and ankle muscles.  I can buy that.  I wore some form of a boot or a cast for nearly 8 months - that right there will weaken your leg significantly, even without surgery.

So - the great news is that the tendon itself is completely healed.  YAY!  Now - two problems still exist.

1.  The scar is very raised and bumpy, which is not good if I ever want to wear cute shoes again.  Which I do.  So - we've got to minimize that scar.  Even if it wasn't for cosmetic reasons, a scar that is swollen and uneven can cause undue stiffness, so it's gotta go.

2.  My entire left leg is very weak.  This creates balance issues, as well as all sorts of aches and pains that come with favoring my right leg.  So - gotta strengthen that leg up.

The leg strengthening thing is easy - though tiring.  Basically, it's just a lot of different exercises meant to strengthen my calf and ankle muscles.  They actually feel good and even after just two sessions, I can tell a difference.  Of course, I'm doing some of them at home as well.

That scar stuff?  DIFFERENT STORY.  The Graston Technique is, quite simply, very painful.  This is coming from a woman who had four kids without anesthesia!  When I say something is painful, I mean it.

It does make sense though.  If you've ever had therapeutic massage, you know that the therapist often uncovers sore knots in your muscles.  This is part of what is worked on in the Graston technique, and though it's tender and can be painful, you know it's doing some good.

The sucky part is when the therapist starts scraping, rubbing and bearing down on that Achilles tendon and scar.  OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH.  She kept saying to me, "You doing ok?  I need you to talk to me.  You ok up there?"

Finally I gasped, "Stop.  Listen.  I can't carry on a conversation with you going to town on me like that."  She said, "I can stop, or ease up if you like."  I twisted around and looked at her and said, "Let me ask you something.  Will this be over sooner, in fewer sessions, if you just have at it and I suffer through it?"  "Yes," she said ruefully.  I sighed.  "Then tear the roof off the sucker.  I want to see light at the end of the tunnel!"

So off we went into Agony Land. 


25. January update - three months out from surgery!

Well, it's been awhile, so I figured I better update this blog and give out a little more sunshine and light for all you Achilles Tendon Injury Sufferers.

To summarize - things have gone very well for me.  October 15, 2010 was the surgery.  My cast was removed in just a few weeks and replaced with the biggest boot in the history of mankind - an instrument of torture that I grew to hate with every fiber of my being.

But right before Christmas, I was liberated from DAS BOOT, as we called it around my house.  At that point, my doctor told me that I was not to do ANY sort of exercising other than gentle stretching, and walking carefully in flat shoes, resting whenever I felt pain or had swelling (which I did through the first few weeks of January).

I've noticed a couple of things.  First of all, though the scar has healed nicely, my tendon is still significantly swollen, so wearing any sort of shoe that puts pressure on the back of the ankle is impossible.  I didn't realize that even most athletic shoes put a lot of pressure on that area.  So - I've invested in several pairs of clogs, which are fine in the American South - just throw on some cute woolly socks and you're stylin'.  I have also found that I can wear loose, soft boots - but no heels, and no shoes with any sort of stiff material around the back of the ankle.

I've also noticed that once I get up and walking, my ankle doesn't hurt much - but notice that word "much."  One dissappointing thing is that three months out of surgery, I still have constant, albeit dull, pain in that pesky tendon.

The biggest frustration for me right now though is that I still have a limp.  It's lessening, but still definitely there - and if you've ever walked for long with a limp (and I'm sure most of you have at this point!), you know that this eventually causes all sorts of other aches and pains - tricky knees, an ankle prone to twisting, and even a stiff back and neck.  So yes, I've got all that going on!

So where's the sweetness and light?  Here it is - I AM OUT OF A CAST, OUT OF A BOOT, AND WEARING TWO MATCHING SHOES AND WALKING.  Considering that some of these recovery times for this injury and surgery can drag on for up to a year, three months out I'm feeling pretty dang good about everything!  Next post - physical therapy, because that's what's now a big part of my final stretch of recovery.