Recouped, Recovered, and Revamped?
I have hit that magical marker. Yes, it has already been six months since my peroneal tendon repair surgery. According to the timeline my doctor gave me, I should now officially be “recovered”. At this point, I can participate in any activity, even soccer, the violent sport that caused my injury. While I am tickled to no longer have restrictions on what I’m permitted to do, that is only part of my ankle’s story. What about pain and functionality, is my ankle now as good as new?
I remember sitting in my doctor’s office months ago and him telling me that there was a six month recuperation period after this surgery. He made it seem like after six months everything would be hunky dory, my ankle would perfect, more like a “super” ankle really, and there would be no more pain.
For those of you who are somewhere in the first six months of the recovery process from peroneal tendon surgery, here’s what things look like six months out, from a realistic first-hand perspective, not from the mouth of a doctor who has never been on the other end of a scalpel.
Two months ago I was given the go-ahead to start being physically active again. Soccer was the only sport I was not permitted to play quite yet, due to its aggressive nature. I was very eager to jump back into things and wasn’t nearly as out of shape as I thought I would be. My first time jogging, following 4 months of crutching and hobbling around, I managed to run for 25 minutes with no problems and without significant ankle pain. I was thoroughly impressed by how tough my body was, much tougher than I expected, and completely shocked by how little my ankle protested. However, after my first few weeks of being active again I realized something-my ankle definitely has its limitations. One day, in those first few weeks, I went running for about 40 minutes and then decided to go running again the next day. After about 25 minutes of running on that second day I started getting a jarring pain in my ankle every time I stepped. After further experimentation I realized that exercising consecutive days was what seemed to make my ankle mad. Now, two months later, it still doesn’t seem to approve of daily exercise. So, despite my doctor’s assurances, my ankle is by no means invincible at the present.
If my ankle is not 100% yet, was the surgery worth it? In my case it definitely was. Since my tendon was damaged almost to the point of rupturing, surgery was certainly necessary. But beyond that, I do notice a difference. Snowboarding used to be extremely painful for me. And now, even though my ankle by no means feels “normal”, the pain is more manageable. I hope that by the next snowboarding season I will be able to board nearly pain free. So, although I am glad I decided to have this surgery, I think my doctor’s timeline for my recovery was a little skewed.
Here’s an example of my doctor’s biased perspective:
I am rather on the short side and so, in order to prevent pant draggage, I used to wear a lot of heels. My doctor told me a couple months ago that I could start wearing heels again. This seemed too good to be true so I only slowly incorporated them back into my wardrobe. I found that he was definitely being a little too optimistic. Wearing most of my heels still causes me substantial pain. I have discovered that I can get away with sporting about an inch and a half heel, but that’s my ankle’s limit. Also, wearing heels several days in a row, like running consecutive days, aggravates my ankle, so I have to make sure I alternate my shoe picks.
Kitten heels, which have tiny heels, have become my favorite type of shoe. They are feminine, give me a little extra height, and I can wear them as much as I like with little pain. While I look forward to the day when I can wear all my adorable heels, that day has not yet come.
So, despite all my doctor’s sweet talk, judging from the current status of my ankle, a six month recovery period was, more or less, just a beautiful theory. When I wake up in the morning my ankle is still quite stiff. If I overexert it in any way, it becomes pretty achy. Overexertion can result from too much walking (yes, just normal walking), wearing straining shoes (such as heels), and too much exercise. Incidentally, my ankle and I disagree on the definition of “too much exercise”.
What can you gleam from my experience these last six months? As I already stated, I don’t regret having the surgery. The condition of my ankle has improved and now it has the potential to continue improving, instead of heading in the opposite direction. But your doctor, like mine, may be a little more positive than realistic in describing your recovery process.
But don’t be discouraged; just don’t expect perfection at six months out. Give your ankle a break, it’s been through a lot and still manages to lug you around everyday. It has the right to be a little on the cranky side. Expect aches, unpredictability, and stiffness-yes it still feels like someone has wound a rubber band too tightly in my foot when I rotate my ankle.
Although my tendon’s condition is still not ideal, considering the progress it’s made so far, I am hopeful that in another six months it will be much closer to normality. Here’s to hoping!