My last report was 10 days post-op. Here is an update at 12 weeks post-op.
I was relieved from my walking boot after 6 weeks. At that time I could walk but with a pronounced limp. It was not due to pain but due to atrophy in my calf. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles were very weak.
I am so fortunate to be able to go to a progressive physical therapy office [Spooner Physical Therapy]. And I have been more fortunate to have progressive and aggressive therapists (Nicole and Matt). [Nicole just finished Ironman Arizona in 12:19 and has run a 3:19 marathon – she understands runners!]
It took a week to get into physical therapy. So at the beginning of the 8th week I began three-days-a-week of physical therapy. I am in on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Here is how my therapy routine started:
- Stationary cycle 10 minutes warmup
- Ultrasound treatment
- Deep tissue massage and strip muscle
- 45 minutes of continuous leg exercises, 1-leg squats, balance board, wobble board, stretches, leg press, you name it…
- Electrical muscle stimulation 15 minutes with leg packed in ice
- This routine took a about an 90 minutes and lasted the first 4 treatments. I was compliant, worked hard and was very sore.
At that time, Nicole introduced the Alter-G treadmill into my rehab. (I had used this once before. Click here for demo video.) This treadmill is like no other in that it encases you from the waist down. It fills with air and “lifts” you to reduce actual body weight on your lower extremities while still performing neuromuscular specific training for runners!
The rest of the daily routine remained however (I am now in physical therapy for 2 hours at a time). I now had 15-20 minutes on the Alter-G while I still had fresh legs – right after the ultrasound, stretches and deep-tissue massage. The first week I “ran” at 60% of my bodyweight. The second week I experimented with 60-70%. The last couple minutes I did the higher bodyweight percentage. In my third week I am now starting at 70% and using the last few minutes at 85% of my normal bodyweight. Regardless of pace (9 mph to 12 mph) the sensations in my calf/achilles remain the same: stiff, dull ache, weak. Only as the weight increases on my legs do I feel more discomfort – but no pain. It is a matter of being weak and having sore muscles.
The Alter-G is like being set free! Just being able to do the running motion is amazing. It is also a psychological boost because you start to see yourself as a runner again and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
My doctor appointment 8 weeks post-op was uneventful. However, the swelling in the achilles is still pronounced. And he now introduced criteria for “real running”. I have to be able to do a one-leg toe raise. Ugh.
This past week another treatment modality was introduced – ASTYM. This replaced the deep tissue massage – muscle stripping. OUCH! [Matt is the therapist in charge of this masochistic treatment.]
At this point, I have experimented with “lightly” jogging across a parking lot (400 meters or so at maybe 10 minute mile pace). I get the same sensations as on the Alter-G. I still cannot do a full toe-raise. I can raise my heal up about 1 inch or so. I am constantly sore. I am progressing and I see light at the end of the tunnel. I should be able to run on terra firma within the first couple weeks of December. My goal back in August was to run before the end of the year. I have my next doctor appointment in 2 weeks.