Updated: Dec 9, 2022
As I am writing this post, I am 12 weeks into the rehab of my non-operatively managed achilles rupture. I have dealt with my share of sport injuries, in addition to treating many, as a physiotherapist. It is safe to say, there is nothing like experiencing a serious injury of your own. There is something about this one though, which I find particularly tough on the mind. The incidence of re-ruptures are low, around 5% -depending on the source- but they are the highest in the weeks following weaning off the boot, as the tendon happens to be more vulnerable and weak at this stage. "Will it rip again?” - asks the tiny voice inside my head. Fingers crossed it will not, but it is always lurking in the background, especially since I’m without the safety of my walking boot.
It. Is. Exhausting.
Just like using crutches when you are not allowed to put much weight on your leg. And do not get me started on the uneven, slanted sidewalks.
I know the tendon has to be strong, so I strengthen. It needs to have enough mobility, so I stretch a little. I am aware that it is safe to walk at this point, so I walk at a pace with the smallest possible limp, while continuously pep talking Attila (yes, we’ve named my achilles after the conqueror). Over the years treating tendon injuries, I have learned to appreciate that tendons love consistent, progressive loading, and it is no different with an achilles rupture. Being more fearful and too cautious will not help my case either. I wish I knew exactly how to walk that line! I am well informed of the milestones, possible pitfalls, and I have read the stories of kindred people with ruptured achilles. I believe that I have equipped myself with all the possible knowledge to succeed. And still, the doubt comes “is it strong enough to hold”?
Am I overthinking it? Absolutely. Welcome to my head. I would gladly push away all the negative thoughts and concentrate on the positive ones. However, when that happens I speed up, just a little, and also become - ever so slightly - less careful. For instance, I will take a quicker step at work while I grab something, or show an exercise on the ground and get up from the floor absentmindedly. I would love to just forget about it! But I really do not want to go through this again. So I continue with the teeter-totter conversation with myself.
What helps? First of all, writing it all down on a sleepless night. It’s either that or a two-hour downward spiral of thoughts, resulting in being curled up in a ball of anxiety. Also, sloth socks. Wearing motivating socks is one of the highlights of 2020 so far. Looking down at my feet I am being reminded to keep going, but move slowly. This happens to be the visual representation of my motto “festina lente” or “make haste slowly”. Who doesn’t love a good oxymoron? Again, welcome to my head.
Sharing my recovery on Instagram (@416physio) has been a big part of the healing process. It gives me an unexpected accountability and a platform, where I am able to share some of my experiences from a physio-turned-patient perspective. I believe there is a knowledge gap and I am hoping to fill it one day (at a time).
I know I am only passing the first few checkpoints of this winding road to recovery, and there will be many times when I will doubt Attila. He failed me once already, so understandably, I am having some trust issues. Until then, I am going to put in the work day after day, and trust that it will be enough. After all, hard work pays off, right?