My Ankle Update: The One Year Edition

Posted by on October 9, 2009 at 7:04 pm :: 16 Comments

A few weeks ago I posted about my ankle’s willingness to let me resume my status as a running fool, which is extremely exciting to be sure, but I didn’t give any details about how my ankle is doing in general, now that I have successfully survived my first year following peroneal tendon repair surgery. So for all you people out there with an ankle that currently looks like Gumby’s, here’s my eagerly anticipated, highly celebrated, one-year update.

Functionality? My ankle functions marvelously compared to how it used to, but not so great compared to my other foot. It’s much sturdier and more stable than it has been in years but still a little on the unpredictable side. I can now pretty much do anything on it I want, however, that doesn’t mean it won’t complain. My ability to do whatever I desire, not it’s whining, is what concerns me most though, so I’m pretty content with its current performance. I still have to wear my brace for the next couple of months while doing physical activities; I am very curious about how lefty will do when it doesn’t have the brace anymore for support and stabilization. I guess I’ll see in 8 weeks.

Mobility? My ankle’s mobility has improved greatly over the last 12 months but it’s definitely not as flexible as it was before surgery. There’s a limit to how much I can twist and angle it before I start feeling that unnatural tug of the tendon and its unwillingness to stretch any further. It’s not bad though, I don’t notice this inflexibility during most normal daily activities.

This is what lefty looks like now.

This is what lefty looks like now. My scar is still quite visible. I'm hoping someday it will lighten up a bit.

Swelling? Still swollen, though less so than a few months ago. But, since the doctor told me to expect some swelling for a year or two, I haven’t been anticipating much progress on that front just yet.

Stiffness and Achiness? Unfortunately, my ankle is still a little cranky. Every morning when I take my first few steps out of bed I can feel it resisting the movement. Some days it will hurt persistently for no apparent reason, which makes me feel like an old lady who can tell in her bones when a storm is approaching. But, although it is prone to fits of moodiness, most days it behaves relatively well. However, I am in no danger of ever confusing my good ankle with my reconstructed one.

Heels? Yes! I don’t don my highest heels much anymore but I can wear 2-3 inchers without any noticeable issues. So don’t worry ladies, you won’t have that sadly limited shoe selection forever.

In conclusion, my ankle is doing well. I don’t know if I can ever expect it to feel exactly like my normal one, probably not. For lefty, I suspect life will permanently be a little tricky. I’m sure it will continue to improve over the next few years but it will most likely always have some complaints. Honestly though, who cares? Now I can run, I can bike, I can board – I can do all the things I love. If that means having to put up with my ankle’s occasional temper tantrums that’s alright by me. So for all of you out there in your first year of recovery from ankle surgery, there is hope at the end of those initial terrible months. Maybe a perfectly blissful ankle doesn’t await you at the end of that road but, if you are like me, a pretty darn good one seems practically just as fantastic.

16 Comments

  • Hi, I stumbled across your blog when doing a search for peroneal tendon repair surgery. Sadly there is not much out there for information on this surgery, so I am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for the information, its been very helpful to read from someone first hand what all of this is really like.

    As for me, I had peroneal tendon surgery on September 21, 2009…so I am almost three weeks out from surgery. My surgery involved repairing the peroneal brevis (including removing muscle growth inside the tendo), reconstructing the retinaculum, and deepening the fibular groove. My Surgeon has a bit of a different approach following surgery…but I am sure they all do. I am in a walking boot for a total of 8 weeks, was on crutches and non-weight bearing for 2 weeks. Now I can walk on it without crutches. I see my Surgeon on Tuesday for the first time. Anyhow…just rambling on all of the boring stuff.

    My ankle, like yours, was an old injury that never really went away. I always had pain, but ignored it. I also had some serious knee injuries over the past four years and a total of 7 surgeries to repair my knees. Thankfully my knees are fixed and in perfect condition now.

    Your blog has been encouraging to me. Like you, I am not known to sit still for more than 5 seconds. I am addicted to running. I was training for a triathalon before this ankle thing came up on me. My ankle resurfaced this August after a very severe sprain and so I was in a walking boot for 6 weeks before the surgery. my biggest fear has been that I will not be able to return to the activities that I love, but after finding and reading your blog I feel confident that I can return.

    If you have any additional advice or thoughts, I’d love to hear them. Thank you again for your blog…its helped me so much.

    Brianne

  • Rachel says:

    Hi Brianne,

    I’m glad my experience has been helpful to you. Sounds like you’ve had more than your share of surgeries. Man!
    The best advice I can give you is just hang in there. Being forced into a sedentary lifestyle was really hard on me and apparently it’s very difficult for you as well. The first couple of months are the worst, but it does get better and, in the end, it’s worth it.
    Good luck in your recovery! You’ll be back to running in no time!

  • Brianne says:

    Thanks for the response Rachel. I had a chance to look over more of your ankle surgery blog and it has proven to be very helpful and encouraging. We probably have a lot in common. I am a shoe addict for sure and I have used this surgery as an excuse to buy new shoes. Lol. And like you I do no sit still for more than three seconds.

    I saw my surgeon last Tuesday and he said all looks good for now. I have 4 more weeks in the boot and then I get to step down to a lace-up brace. My Surgeon okayed me doing upper body and some ab work at the gym. He also said it is okay if I do Yoga as long as I modify or leave out when necessary. It feels so good to be doing something again. I hope to be running again by the end of January and I have a friend who promised to teach me to snowboard as long as I am ready for it.

    Anyhow, thanks again for the blog which has helped and encouraged me a lot.

  • Rachel says:

    I think surgery is an excellent excuse to buy shoes!

    It’s all smooth sailing once you are in the lace-up brace! Good luck! And you should definitely try boarding; it’s fantastic!

  • Cam says:

    Hey Rac! Guess what I did today? I went and saw a physical therapist for my… you ready… ankle! As you may or may not know I’ve taken up a fairly serious exercise regime (sick of being unhealthy- also I am determined to participate in one of your running things and beat my wife). In any event- all the running I’m doing has caused some ankle discomfort and I thought I’d have it looked at. The Doc gave the ankle a passing grade and said it’s probably a mild case of tendonitis. I plan on going back and rereading some of your blog posts. Who knows- your blog may become the holy grail of ankle information. I may have some questions for you about proper ankle maintenance and preventative care.

  • Rachel says:

    Cam,
    Way to go on the training! Good luck beating Fran though; she’s pretty fast.

    Yes, I would be happy to share the endless ankle trivia I have learned over the last year and a half.

    Good luck with physical therapy. It makes you feel like an uncoordinated ape.

  • Hey Rachel, I wanted to pop in and share an update on my ankle with you. I do not have the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…yet. It appears that my tendon has retorn (actually would have happened 4 days after surgery but I did not know it at the time). My progess has all but stalled in the past three weeks, actually…my ankle is regressing. Its worse now than it was a month ago. I see my surgeon tomorrow, but after talking on the phone with him he said its almost certain that the tendon is retorn.

    So tomorrow I get to find out what happens from here. A revision surgery is the most likely next course…and it won’t be as ‘easy’ as the first one. Of course, I’ll know for sure once I see my surgeon.

    But hey, if you were curious what a second peroneal tendon repair surgery was like, I just might be able to fill you in on all the details.

    Boarding will have to wait until next winter. Or I need to move to a place that still has snow in April.

  • Rachel says:

    Brianne,
    I’m so sorry to hear that you will probably have to have ankle surgery again. What a bummer! Once was bad enough.
    I’d love to hear how everything goes. Good luck!

  • Okay, I am one happy camper tonight. It turns out that my tendon was stretched by my accident four days post-op and the muscle is so weak that its not doing its job. Those two things are causing the peroneal to snap a bit. My OS assured me that once I get strength back that the snapping will go away. So he graduated me from a boot to a lace-up brace. He also told me to work double time on strengthening.

    I am happier than I could possibly imagine to be out of the boot and for the issues still happening in my ankle to be ones that will resolve themselves.

    All I can say is that if you thought your calves looked oddly paired, then you would not believe mine. My lower leg is so atrophied that you can see my bones sticking out. Its unbelievably gross.

    And you are 100% right, the lace up brace is an impossible shoe phase. I cannot find any nice dress shoes that fit well with the lace-up brace. I wore my running shoes to the office today because I just gave up and I wanted to be comfortable. I think this is an excuse to go to DSW.

    I’ll keep you updated as I progress more.

  • Rachel says:

    Brianne,
    I’m so glad the doctor gave you good news. I’m sure that is a huge relief.
    Getting out of the boot is definitely a good reason to go do some shoe shopping. But then again, do you really even need a reason? 🙂

  • Rachel,

    There does not need to be a reason to shoe shop. I will freely admit that I am horribly addicted to shoes…but is that really a bad thing? 🙂

    I am shocked that my OS told me to do PT on my own. I questioned and requestioned him and he assured me that I could do it on my own. So I am going to the gym every night and doing what I can to get my ankle and calf back into working order. I am doing a lot of pool workouts for now. The improvements have actually been considerable just in the past week. My goal is still to board by the end of January.

    My foot has been aching more than anything the past week. My toes hurt to push off the ground and my arch sreams at me with every step. This is all just because those muscles got a free ride for 3 months and now actually have to contribute to the walking process. This is improving a little at a time.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Brianne

  • Rachel,

    Quick question. I thought you might know the answer. I saw in some of your ankle updates that you are very much into mountain biking. I am obsessed with mountain biking, but do not have good places to ride where I live. I am tossing around the idea of taking a road trip out west to do some riding this summer/fall. I saw from your pictures that you are in Utah and the riding looked amazing. Where are good places to ride that you know about?

    Ankle is coming along great. I see my OS on Jan 19th and I fully expect him to release me 100%. I even have a snow boarding trip planned for Jan 29-31. So geeked!!!!

    Thanks in advance!

    Brianne

  • Rachel says:

    Sweet! I’m glad you are going to get some boarding in and that you are quickly nearing your release date.

    Utah is a fantastic place to go mountain biking!
    Moab is probably one of the most memorable spots for biking in Utah. It’s home to one of the most popular biking trails in the world: Slick Rock. Slick Rock is quite challenging but the scenery is stunning and the ride is unforgettable. Of course, Moab has many many amazing trails so if you aren’t up to something as crazy as Slick Rock there are plenty more to try. We go on new ones every time we head down there and we are never disappointed. If you decide to go to Moab I would recommend going in the spring or in the fall. It can get pretty toasty there in the middle of summer. I would also recommend making hotel reservations at least a couple weeks in advance. It’s not uncommon for every hotel in the town to be booked. And incidentally, if you’re more into sleeping outdoors there are great places to camp near Moab as well. Arches National Park is just barely outside Moab; it has campsites and of course it is absolutely beautiful.(Canyonlands National Park is not far from Moab either.) The campsites, like the hotels, go fast so if you decide to camp you will still need to make reservations.

    If you prefer biking through pines and aspens then the Wasatch mountain range is perfect. Mid-June through the fall is the best time to bike these mountains; if you come any earlier many of the trails might still be covered in snow. We live just south of Salt Lake City and we have countess trails within 45 minutes of our house. Many of the ski resorts around here are operational in the summer for mountain bikers. You load your bike onto the lift, ride it to the top, get off, and have a sweet ride back down the mountain. It’s a lot of fun! Of course, if you don’t want to go to a resort for your riding there are plenty of other options. One of our favorite places to bike is American Fork Canyon. It has a lot of great single track trails. But there are also fabulous trails in Provo Canyon, Millcreek Canyon, Payson Canyon…and so on. Here’s a few links to some websites with more information. I’d be happy to answer more questions if you have them. Mountain biking is one of my passions.

    http://www.utah.com/bike/trails/slickrock.htm
    http://www.utahmountainbiking.com
    http://www.utah.com/moab/

  • Rachel,

    Thank you so much for this information. This is great information. I really love mountain biking but there just are not good places in Michigan where I live. I’ll research the links that you sent me. I’ll let you know if I have any more questions.

    Brianne

  • Becca says:

    Hey there,
    I had a peroneal groove deepening procedure done about a month ago to fix my subluxation syndrome. I was googling some info to see more about recovery, and I’m glad to have found this post, even though we had different procedures done. Your scar doesn’t look so bad to me! I’m glad to see it gets better, as mine’s about the same size and placement. Range of motion is really hard right now, so it’s also lovely to hear that that’s not forever. My right leg (the surgery one) is turning into a chicken leg. It’s funny, because I always wished my calves were a little less muscular, but now that the muscle is gone, I want it all back!
    Right now I’m in a walking boot, and I’m just starting 50% weight bearing this week. Like you, and everyone else on here, I’m really active, and hate sitting still, so even this small bit of mobility feels awesome to me.
    I did have one question for you, and I don’t know if you’re still active on here or not…
    What sorts of exercises did your doctor have you do for mobility? I’ve only been told to do the alphabet, but I want to do as much as possible. I dance, play ultimate frisbee, bike, hike, and run, so I really want as much flexibility in my ankle as will be possible post-recovery.
    Thanks!

  • Rachel says:

    Hi Becca,
    I am definitely still active on this blog-though I don’t post much about my ankle anymore since it is mostly recovered now.
    I’m sorry you are in the middle of the recovery process. I don’t envy you; that was a tough time for me. And I hear you on the chicken leg; seeing how quickly your muscles melt away when it took you years to build them is downright depressing. But now that you are starting to weight bear a little they will begin to come back-it does take a bit before they legs look symmetrical again though. It will happen, just hang in there.
    As for mobility, that was the last thing to return to “normal” for me. I was beginning to wonder if I would always feel that rubber band-like resistance in my ankle but it finally almost feels completely normal now. The alphabet and resistance bands are a great place to start but eventually your normal physical activities will take their place. For me, the biggest help, and I think the reason I have almost all my mobility back now, has been snowboarding. Snowboarding forces your ankles to stretch and, since I’m a big fan of boarding, I’ve had to deal with a lot of discomfort and achiness due to that fact. But it’s really helped return my ankle to its former glory. So my best advice would be just to start doing your favorite physical activities as soon as the doctor gives you the okay and let those activites force your ankle to be flexible. It may be a little painful and it may take a while but your mobility will return.
    Good luck, I hope you are back to dancing and hiking in no time!

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