Four Month Update (Week 17)

My therapist gave me permission to begin using the elliptical on February 16th, so I’ve been enjoying my new cardio addition for almost a month! I was getting sick of the stationary bike, so this upgrade was much appreciated. In more recent news, this past Monday I was instructed to remove one of the two heel lifts in my shoe. It felt pretty uncomfortable for the first day or two, but I am adjusting to the new elevation. Only one more to go!

I wanted to write a quick update to describe some of the challenges I’ve faced so far in my rehab. Though I knew this would be a long recovery, it’s beginning to sink in just how long it might be before I return to dancing. My progress so far has been sluggish and I must admit to feeling a bit frustrated. I’m one of those stubborn, impatient people who thinks more effort equals a faster recovery time, but it just doesn’t work like that.

 Pictured above is the BTE isokinetic testing equipment I use at my therapy sessions. It measures my output as I perform calf extensions lying prone on the bench. 

Pictured above is the BTE isokinetic testing equipment I use at my therapy sessions. It measures my output as I perform calf extensions lying prone on the bench. 

Though it has improved over the past few weeks, walking is still a problem because I struggle to transfer weight from the heel to the ball of my foot. My ankle also seems to roll slightly outwards during my stride so I’m walking on the outer edge of my shoe. While the latter issue has improved slightly now that I’m down to one heel lift (therefore lowering my foot in the shoe and giving me more support), I have to seriously focus on my gait in order to correct these two issues.

The strength in my left calf has also improved, but only marginally. I have increased the weight on my calf strengthening exercises by a few pounds, but I’m nowhere near being able to perform a single leg heel raise. I’ve attempted it, but my heel barely hiccups off the ground. My therapist estimated a single leg heel raise might be possible at six months post-op, which puts me at mid-May. Though I know it’s hard to predict this kind of thing, I’ve set that as my deadline.

About two weeks ago I started performing a few basic jumping exercises. I began with small bounces on the balls of my feet and have added larger jumps. My therapist emphasizes the need to shift my weight over to the left side and use my right leg only for support, but that has been a challenge. My left calf and tendon are still too weak to support much of my weight.

This recovery is definitely not pain-free. Sometimes—especially after a workout—my Achilles feels so tight and sore that I can’t help but limp. However, the pain does seem to be fading, decreasing in both intensity and frequency. I started doing some passive stretching a few weeks ago and that seems to have loosened things up.

On Monday, my therapist reduced my appointments down to once a week. This would be exciting news for me, except for her reasoning. She said that my progress from now on will be so gradual that twice-weekly visits are unnecessary. She instructed me to continue performing exercises on my own, with four intense sessions a week. My list of exercises includes heel raises (up on two, down on one), calf extensions on a machine, small bounces, higher jumps, step ups, tiny one-legged squats, and skipping. So far I’m off to a good start.