Returned to the Treadmill: Talus Recovery (7 Months)

I felt very defeated at the end of the year with the fact that my injury still required daily maintenance, I readjusted my expectations, put my big girl pants on, and was determined through the month of January.

I had no idea how quickly I’d be making progress in my physical recovery!

Within a few weeks I surprised myself with a new found gains: running on a trampoline (high knee steps) and running on the ground.

I had done some of my exercises in physical therapy for the morning, and my ankle felt pretty limber, so I decided to try to bend my knee over my ankle against the leg of one of the tables. I was expecting to still be a few inches away, but my knee was able to completely touch with my foot remaining flat on the table. My PT had transitioned towards his next patient because I was about to start cool down. I scanned the room for him, and caught him looking up in my direction, I pointed down at my knee/ankle excitedly and he smiled, thumbs up’d back!

The next few weeks I continued to make similar gains in PT, I was never able to limber my ankle enough to bend it over my knee to touch the wall outside of PT, but each day in PT I was able to maintain this progress.

I returned to dance using dance tennis shoes, so much more supportive for my feet/arches at this point in my recovery. I felt slow most days as the teacher was now different and I wasn’t used to her style/pace yet. More and more I found that my body remembered some things and I felt like a ballerina again. One of the first days as I was rediscovering my ballet groove I woke up the following morning with muscle soreness, to the point that it hurt to put full weight on that ankle. I was able to walk around at a park later that day, but it scared me a bit.

After a check in visit with my surgeon he decided go order me an MRI to continue to assess the damage and check against necrosis. The x ray scans show that the bone is completely healed.

The MRI was an interesting experience, I laid on a table for what felt like forever listening to the various tones of humming as the machine ran and obtained various images. You never realize how hard it is to lay still until these moments. My right leg felt stuck in such an uncomfortable position, but I didn’t want to move myself and have to start all over again.

Right after my MRI I had physical therapy. I began through the normal exercises for about the first half of the appointment. Then, my physical therapist surprises me by moving us towards the treadmill. I was skeptical that my ankle would cooperate to this level, but I knew he wouldn’t suggest it unless I was ready. We started out at a fast walk, then he tells me to move the speed up to 5.5/6. Well whenever I jogged on the treadmill previously it was never that fast. I bargained with him as I moved it up, 4.5? Him: how about 5? Well…okay….

You guys! I ran on the treadmill 4 times for about a minute each time at a speed of 5!! Despite the fact that my chest was dying from the cardio the rest of me felt amazing. I have a love/hate relationship with running, but I was so humbled to be able to try and succeed at something that I’d have no idea if I’d ever be able to run again.

This reassured me that its okay to work harder at dance and be able to participate in the show in May. Epppp!

Celebrated 6 Months Post Talus Fracture

Today marks 6 months since my unexpected journey of fracturing my Talus began that fateful day in June. In some ways I can’t believe it has been that long, in others it feels like it has been forever.

In November I had another follow up with my surgeon. I visited him after work the day before Thanksgiving. He saw me walk into one of the exam rooms and expressed his satisfaction at how well I was walking. I explained that I really walk the best while at work during the day, but that when I rest at home it tends to stiffen up again. He inspected it all, ordered me a routine of anti-inflammatories and stated confidently that even though there was still a long road of recovery (this injury can take years to recover from) that he was optimistic that I would make a full recovery. Its funny to see/hear his optimism when my physical therapists often comment on how stiff my ankle is. I think its the difference of the thousand foot view versus being in the trenches. I don’t fully understand what my surgeon means by a “full recovery” I doubt it means getting my full range of motion back as I feel like that has not really increased since surgery recovery began…but that I’ll have a good “new normal” afterwards that includes things like running and some level of ballet? Time will tell.

Overall, I’ve decreased in pain, which is why I was only taking NSAIDS before physical therapy and not every day, hence starting this new cream and daily NSAID. I definitely feel my foot loosen after the cream, but it took me awhile to realize how much it was drying my hand out (FYI you want to apply that stuff with gloves on). I’m not nearly as stiff as I was in the mornings when I first returned to work/the weather first turned cold, and there really are times at work where I’m walking as fast as I used too.

The rough time is in the mornings getting my ankle started or if I’ve left my ankle rest from work I feel like I become Peg Leg Hobbling Pete. I have struggled with discouragement about it all this month of December. I’ve been frustrated with the “shoulds” of it all “I’m just 30 I shouldn’t feel this way, My ankle should be healed by now” (Which, by the way, all “shoulds” do is drive you crazy). I was weary of my daily routine of waking up a few minutes early in order to apply the cream and use the heat pad in order to loosen my ankle. I began doing Physical Therapy at 7:30 am because I was frustrated about it interfering with my work schedule.

Months again my PT warned me that I’d face the plateau when I wouldn’t see the big exciting changes anymore, and I felt it this month. I never felt that I was making progress at least not in any sort of consistent fashion. One day at work I randomly checked to see if my knee could touch the wall and I came within milometers! It was the closest I’ve been able to flatten out my foot and bend my knee over my ankle! But it was also frustrating because I couldn’t tell you why my ankle was looser that day. My PT’s encouraged me that we were making progress, just slowly.

Last month I was even hopeful about my recovery because I tried on heels on a whim and I was able to walk around in them in my house!

Cue Christmas break, relaxing, staying up late and feeling sorry for myself. I probably get about half the steps that I usually do when I’m not working, I just don’t randomly get up and walk around, I sit, watch tv, craft, read, do photography stuff. I ended up not doing my exercises for 2 days in a row, then the next morning I did my morning range of movement exercises and I pulled something in the ankle, creating a soreness that wasn’t usually there.

The next morning I returned to PT and they said it was definitely stiffer than normal, but they couldn’t say if that was from the injury or from less usage. It felt better over the next few days and I felt well enough on Friday to do my normal PT exercises, with a slight ache in that muscle.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how I feel, no matter what “shoulds” I get stuck on, I broke my ankle, I broke my Talus and sat on my butt for 8 weeks this summer while it healed, and it is going to take time to recover. I can face my recovery head on, or I can whine about it, feeling sorry for myself. The problem with that, if I whine, if I don’t do my exercises each night, if I don’t do them well, not only will I not complete my recovery I could lose hope of normal without a consistent limp. So, its time to put on my big girl pants, focus on all that I still have, and fight to finish this recovery well.

What helps you stay motivated to finish things well?

Begun Physical Therapy: Talus Recovery (Week 10)

It took a little while after I started walking to get the work comp approval to start physical therapy. I was nervous, but also excited. Husband kept warning me that it would be painful, but I assured him that it was different now since he had it as a kid, that they had better, less painful ways, bahahaha.

Husband showed up for my first appointment, which really focused on the intake and teaching me a few range of motion exercises to do with my ankle. I was like “oh, this is easy” that didn’t last long though.

I had one solid week of PT before our beach trip with friends. It was painful and tough trying to get my knee to move over my ankle. You see you have to rest your leg in order for your ankle to heal…but at the same time all of your muscles completely atrophy or develop scar tissue and become stiff from disuse.

I wanted to cry so much, and I did the first time I officially worked with my physical therapist, I think because I had allowed myself to believe it would be something different than it was. I joked and I said, through sniffles that I couldn’t hold back, “tears are supposed to prove that you are strong right?” I felt slightly comforted by the fact that there was no way that I was the first person who had cried in front of him. He said, “tears mean you worked hard” He’s kind of a no nonsense hard to read type, so I treasure that he said that.

The first month of PT I was able to meet many of the therapists including some assistants. I enjoyed distracting myself from the painful massages by asking them about themselves, especially what caused them to want to get into the field. It was neat to hear their passions in their answers. One of the PTA’s I’ve gotten to know the best used to do ballet and was going to try to be a professional ballerina in Richmond I think, before she had an injury. I really enjoy working with her as well because she has a similar bubbily personality to me, she’s easy to talk to, and very encouraging at any progress that I make.

Most of the physical therapists will apologize or check in about the level of pain that they have to cause me while working on my ankle. My main went out of town again and the one who was left to fill in said, “So your PT left me some notes to work on you with….I’m sorry” None of them hurt my ankle as much as my main PT so I just laugh it off.

Physical therapy has been an interesting journey, and my PT warned me that its easier to make progress in the beginning, then many people reach a plateau and they become stuck. In the beginning it was incredibly painful but I could marvel over each step. Today was the first day that I walked across the room, today was the first day that I balanced on my bad foot 3x for 30 secs, today my knee moved a little farther over my ankle, etc.

Unfortunately, the thing that seems to work the best to help me bend my ankle back (dorsiflexion) is the graston method. Basically, they take this thin steel bar (think butter knife sized) and some oil type stuff, and literally rug burn scrap into your stiff muscles. I was so proud of myself for not crying during that or asking the PT to stop. It really feels like they are cutting into your skin, or its like the most intense zit popping pressure you’ve ever felt. However, my ankle works so much better after.

Here’s to finding my motivation to do my exercises well at home to be able to get back as much range of motion as possible and decrease overall ankle pain while walking.