Brace Yourself

Posted by on January 15, 2010 at 7:37 pm :: 10 Comments

I just hit the very last marker, at least of those outlined by my doctor, on the road to recovery from peroneal tendon repair surgery: the obsoleting of my ankle brace.

Ah, the ankle brace…annoying to get off and on, hard to fit into shoes, yet a reassurance and a necessity. Every time I’ve exercised over the last 14 months my brace has been there to restrict and support and now it’s no longer needed. Is that a call for celebration or a painful separation?

I wasn’t sure how my ankle would handle its brace graduation. After all, obnoxious as the brace was it did make me feel a little more stable and invincible. Would my ankle have separation anxiety after having such a constant companion for so long? Or worse yet, would this precarious advancement cause me substantial pain?

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The thrill of being brace-free immortalized

On my first run without the brace things felt amiss. Since I had not run brace-free for over a year the sliding motion of my ankle as I stepped felt unnatural and a bit disconcerting. It was like a screw holding my foot together had suddenly come loose; it didn’t hurt but it didn’t feel normal. Other than that the run was completely uneventful; my ankle handled the adjustment surprisingly well.

The day after that run a muscle in my bad leg was pretty achy from the top of my foot to mid-calf. My legs very rarely get sore thanks to years of being active (I wish I could say the same about the rest of my parts.) so I concluded that this muscle must be involved in controlling some of the movements my brace inhibited. Hence, it protested a little when it was returned to full duty.

Although my codependent ankle freed itself of the brace with minimal anguish it really didn’t gain full autonomy; it jumped right back into cahoots with another apparatus, one of its Xs. I wore a custom-made orthotic sole for a couple months before surgery in a futile attempt to appease my ankle without an operation, now that orthotic is back in my shoe and back in service. (Righty has been wearing its own orthotic since pre-surgery but the brace for lefty barely fit in my tennis shoe; there’s no way I could have squeezed in the brace and the orthotic at the same time.) According to my doctor, since I am at risk for further tendon damage I will have to wear that baby when I exercise indefinitely. My ankle acclimated to using it again pretty well; the arch in my foot hurt for a few runs but it was manageable.

I must admit that removing the brace from my routines went smoother than I had anticipated. There was no wailing or gnashing of teeth. My ankle didn’t cry, protests, or fall apart. A few strange sensations and a little discomfort were all that stood between me and a brace-free existence. Good job little ankle buddy! May all of you fellow ankle de-bracers fare as well!

10 Comments

  • I give you a lot of credit Rachel. I am supposed to wear my lace up brace all the time, and definately when I exercise. But, after the 17th blister on my foot from that thing, I stashed it in my glove box and pretty much refuse to wear it. Good job for wearing it for a full 14 months while exercising….I know I won’t not be as good.

    I see my surgeon on Tuesday…lets hope he releases me to full activity…because I have pretty much been doing anything I want for the past week. It would be nice to have his approval.

  • Rachel says:

    The brace was obnoxious…I was just bound and determined to do exactly as the doctor ordered so that I’ll never have to have surgery on my ankle again…of course that’s just “in theory”. 🙂

    Hopefully you have been released at this point and are enjoying guilt-free use of your ankle!

  • Yes Rachel, I have been cleared to do anything I want. There was one catch…I had to PROMISE my surgeon that I would wear the lace up brace for most activities and for twisting activities I have to wear one of those aircast stirrups. (those things are even worse than a lace-up brace.) But its all a small price to pay for being able to be active again. I am running, went snow shoeing, went cross country skiing, and my snowboarding trip is next weekend.

  • Rachel says:

    Great to hear! I hope you enjoyed snowboarding. We actually went this weekend too. 🙂

  • OMG, snowboarding is the most amazing sport ever. Its really life changing…because now I want to sell everything I own and spend every waking moment boarding. I learned really fast, which I was pleased about. I picked up on heel edge and J-turns really fast. I had a little harder time with toe edge. Every time I tried to switch from toe edge back to heel edge I wiped out. By the end of the first day I was ready for some of the hills. I am going again on Valentine’s Day. I cannot wait.

    My ankle felt really good all weekend. Its a little swollen tonight, but my surgeon said that it would swell on and off for a while still. I had a little bit of trouble with “mental confidence” because it was my first time boarding and surgery was only 4 months ago. But, it all went well and I am so in love with snowboarding.

  • Rachel says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed boarding! I absolutely love it! If you like it as a beginner you will be amazed how much more you like it as you progress. Once you become proficient at carving (the serpentine curving movement) it is unbelievably fun!

    I too had a hard time toe carving while heel carving came naturally to me. It’s really common for boarders to pick up one easily and then have a difficult time with the other. But stick with it and I’m sure you’ll figure it all out.

    My husband and I are going to Park City tomorrow for a weekend of boarding. We are pretty excited, especially since a snowstorm is supposed to hit tonight.

    BTW, boarding is really hard on your ankles. My ankle still swells up a bit when I go. But I’m hoping that in another year or two that won’t happen anymore.

    Good luck! I hope you have a blast on Valentines Day!

  • So I did not go boarding on Valentine’s Day. 🙁 The snow has been really bad all of February…very wet and heavy and never sticking around very long. The conditions have just not been favorable for much boarding fun. I figure if I were more experienced or not five months post op from ankle surgery I might try to go out there anyway. But at this point its not worth risking it. I’m praying for one more good snow before winter ends. My cousin just broke her arm in three places trying a new boarding trick on the C-Box…ouch!

    So I glanced at some of your progress in the months following peroneal tendon repair surgery. Its interesting to see how things are both very similar and yet very different in other areas. One thing that seems to be the same is that my ankle will not be a “super ankle” by six months post-op. 🙂 Its come so far, but I think its realistic for me to expect that my right ankle will always be cranky from time to time. Unlike you, heels have given me relatively few problems. I can wear 3 inch heels all day with no pain. I even wore higher than that for just a few hours.

    I am running 3-4 days a week for anywhere from 20-30 minutes and my ankle seems to be tolerating that just fine. I am kind of nervous to jump up to longer distances and times because I’ve never been able to do that. You will be happy to know that I had a close call that has scared me into wearing my brace for all activity. Last weekend I was wearing my brace I(coming home from the gym) and I had a nasty spill in the driveway on some ice. My ankle twisted pretty good but I am sure the brace helped protect it from worse. I’m going to wear it from now on. 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t get to go boarding on V-Day. Our snow hasn’t been as good this year as it usually is but it will definitely still be boardable for a couple more months at least.

    I’m jealous that you can wear heels without problems. I still can’t wear ones that are higher than about 3 inches for long without significant pain. But my foot is getting better all the time so hopefully it will accept all heels soon. 🙂

    I’m glad you are able to run as much as you like. That’s a good sign! And I’m also glad your brace saved you from an ankle disaster…it makes me hurt just thinking about it. 🙂

  • Jessie says:

    Hi,
    I stumbled across your blog – and so glad I did! My snowboarding season was cut early this year… I am week 4 post-op peroneal repair surgery. Sounds very similar to you – used to be very active but was limited after this injury 2 years ago. I also have high arches and am an ankle-roller. Thankfully my husband is the biggest sweetheart in taking care of me.
    Thanks so much for posting about your experiences. I have at least 2 more weeks with crutches *ugh*…but if I’m at the spot where you are at in a year, I’ll be so happy.
    Jessie

  • Rachel says:

    Jessie,

    It’s always great to hear from a fellow boarder. Sounds like your feet are screwed up very similarly to mine. I’m sorry. At least you are on your way to recovery and by next season you should be boarding again with ease.

    Good luck and get feeling better soon!

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