Well I had my 12-week post-op appointment yesterday with the consultant and then later on with the physio.
The consultant was a bit of a waste of time and I was in there for about 20 seconds – he basically said “are you walking yet?” – and when I said you haven’t told me to, he said “OK I’ll see you in another month”. When I asked if I can walk (with or without boot), go back to work, drive etc, he just said ask the physio all of those questions…
My physio, I’m happy to say, is very good. I don’t know whether I’m allowed to name her, but I’m not slagging her off so her name is Tammy! When I got to the physio gym, I took the boot off and she said “Right, let’s see you walk.” I didn’t know whether to do this with or without crutches, so I tried without. I carried one of the crutches in my left hand (I’ve ruptured my left Achilles) just in case I needed to push my weight on to something. I managed to not use the crutch, and whilst I was walking very gingerly it was a strange sensation but a very good one. I felt like a baby learning to walk again, albeit a big fat hairy bearded baby. Having walked up and down the gym a couple of times (very slowly), Tammy showed me some exercises to be doing over the next couple of weeks before my next visit:
1. With something at approx. waist height to put my hands on to bear a slight bit of weight (such as a kitchen worktop, table or a window sill), put both feet flat on the floor and then lift my right foot off the floor bearing all weight on my left leg with my foot flat. Repeat 3 sets of 15 reps at least once a day. This is the more difficult one as my body’s centre of balance has shifted to my right side, so balancing on my left leg is difficult and obviously I’m wary having not stood on it for 3 months too. I couldn’t do it for more than a couple of seconds – it makes you a bit dizzy actually!
2. Again with something at waist height to catch weight, with both feet flat on the floor and straight, push up onto toes bearing equal weight across both legs. Repeat 3 sets of 15 reps once a day. This one doesn’t feel as strenuous but this is to try and learn to balance weight evenly across both legs again and it’s difficult to judge at first.
3. Continue to use theraband (this is what the big green rubber band thing I had is called apparently) to push against, with leg straight and with knee bent whilst sitting down. Similar amounts of reps to above. This will help flex and strengthen calf.
Aside from individual exercises, she said the best thing to do is just walk around and get used to that again, which will obviously strengthen calf again too. Having walked around a bit yesterday in trainers (no boot), it was very strange, pretty stiff in my ankle and foot as can be expected. I’ve decided to put the boot back on this morning as it was hurting too much to walk around the house without and is much better with it. I’ve made sure to wear a trainer on my other foot to allow for the height difference too. I’m going to buy some decent quality walking boots with a bit of a heel, which I was planning to do anyway. Never before have I realised how bad for you pumps are! I seem to be struggling to bend my knee when I’m walking for some reason, but this is probably due to being cautious at the moment and hopefully that will come over next week or so.
The physio also said that swimming is a good exercise to strengthen the leg and get back some general fitness (as someone had commented on one of my previous posts) – and I agree and look forward to going on Sunday morning. I asked about cycling but she said it’s probably best to leave that for a couple of weeks. I have a road bike and she said the roads are a bit too uneven to risk it (anyone who lives in the UK or has been here will know this, and with the amount of rain we’ve had over the last couple of months potholes are worse than usual). Next time I go to see the physio, on 23rd July, she said I can go on the exercise bike then and see how it goes.
In addition to exercise, rest is of course still important, so I should continue to keep it elevated for at least some of the day to reduce swelling and can apply ice if I need to as well.
Back to work
She said she’s happy for me to go to back to work now too, which I’ve never been so happy to hear in my life. It’s been a long 12 weeks. She said not to walk the 15-minute walk to the train station and back, and that I should get a lift for this part of the journey for at least a couple of weeks. My brother, who works at the same place, has agreed to pick me up and take me home from the train station each day, so that’s cool. Once I get to work it’s only a short journey to my office. She said to make sure I wear shoes with a bit of a heel, which all of my work shoes have so that’s fine too. I will probably take a crutch with me for the first week or so too, which I’ve still been carrying around a bit whilst I get used to the sensation of walking again. It still feels very strange but it’s only been a day so far… so I look forward to returning to work on Monday.
I also asked if I could start driving again. She made me push my foot down against her hand (to test if I had enough power to press the clutch down if I need to make an emergency stop), and she said it seems like it would be fine, but to only make short journeys and test myself out – again not doing too much too soon. I don’t drive nearly as much as I used to now anyway now that I get the train to work, but it’s still something I’m looking forward to getting back to.
The main thing to come out of this part of the process for me is how hard it is to shift your body’s centre of balance back to the centre of your body when standing. I’ve become so reliant on my right side over 3 months that it’s really difficult to stand on my left leg! This will come back with the exercises though over time. The pain of walking is mainly in the stiffness of my ankle and my heel – the Achilles itself doesn’t hurt that much although it is still healing. She said that the length of my Achilles is pretty perfect so doesn’t need stretching anymore, and my ankle range is very good too. It looks like it’s only a couple of degrees out from my good foot.
Whilst there I also asked about my stag do, which is coming up in 3 weeks. We’re not getting married until next March, but I wanted to go to this particular festival so 21 of us will be going up to Kendal on 26th July. Tammy said definitely take and wear the boot, and I think it’s fair to say I won’t be jumping around to any bands! At least it will minimise the abuse I’m subjected to, a small positive to come out of the whole thing…