Progress Report: Achilles Rupture & Advice for those in recovery

Today marks almost 12 weeks since I completely ruptured my achilles tendon. It is honestly incredible how significant of an injury something like this is, and how long it takes to recover from. A lot of people have been asking how I’m doing at this point in my recovery so I want to offer a blog post update. I have not given an update since April 6th, but a lot has changed since then….

On Monday, April 22nd I had an appointment with my Doctor. I was told that I am making really good progress and it is time for me to get out of the walking boot! The most refreshing piece of news concerning this development is that I now am able to drive! Driving has been no problem at all since my foot movements are pretty good from right to left and up and down. The walking has been a different story though! Ever since I’ve been walking in normal shoes rather than the walking boot my foot has swelled up significantly more than during the 4 weeks in the walking boot. I’ve learned throughout this week that as annoying as icing can be it is totally necessary, otherwise I will have issues with swelling that keep me from being able to walk pain free. Right now the swelling and the overall just muscle weakness of the right leg are the two biggest obstacles for me to overcome.

All in all, my therapists have said my recovery is going remarkably well. Two different therapists have told me I must have an amazing surgeon because they are not used to seeing achilles tendons heal so quickly following a complete rupture. I’d like to point out that I have done nothing in my recovery besides what was given for me to do by either my surgeon or my therapist… I have no secrets to share with people who also tear their achilles– I’d just tell you to listen to your doctor and take therapy very seriously. For me, the surgeon appointments have been mostly progress reports and following the original protocol, however, there is the possibility of infection or complication during these recoveries, so it’s possible a surgeon and their PA would need to become more involved in the recovery; thanks be to God that has not been the case yet in my recovery.

Therapy is where a lot of the recovery truly happens. Your therapist gives you a lot that you need to do at home on your own, and of course you need to ice at home, but for me therapy is where the action is at. Before I started going to therapy I literally couldn’t do anything with my leg because it just dangled. My therapist, Lisa, saw me for the first time the day after I got my cast off, and she immediately gave me leg and ankle exercises to help me walk in a boot. I used crutches for only the first few days i was in a boot, and by the time I was at the end of boot weight bearing I was walking really well in the boot. My therapist has a zero gravity treadmill which has been the catalyst for a quicker recovery to walk! This machine is amazing, and I thank God for modern medicine and engineering because without this machine I really do not think I’d be anywhere near where I’m at right now in this process. Ever since getting my boot off on Monday things have really taken off for me at therapy and my therapist is adding new exercises for me each day- it’s going really well. I am now walking with only a cane, but I really don’t believe I will need the cane for too much longer. It’s hard for me to say for sure how long it’ll be until I’m back to jogging, then sprinting, then squatting and deadlifting. My goal is to walk without a cane by my birthday (May 23rd), go on hikes this summer, and then return to powerlifting in the fall.

So if all I’ve done is follow protocol do I have any advice for others who experience an achilles rupture? Yes, now that I’m almost three months into this I can speak to some of what you will go through and what will help.

  1. You are going to feel really down and out following the injury and especially following surgery. You are going to need community to lift you up. Do not be ashamed to reach out to your friends and suggest they come over for lunch. Do not allow yourself to be a complete hermit following your doctor ordered bed-rest, but get up and try and go out for breakfast or whatever is easiest for you. Turn to the Lord in prayer and turn to Him often! Allow His Word to encourage you and build you up because it is going to be tempting for you to just ignore God and wallow in self-pity and self-loathing, but a little perspective helps! When you realize that in the grand scheme of things your injury is a help for your Christian walk rather than a hindrance then you will be able to limit the amount of feeling sorry for yourself, and you will begin to make the most out of whatever the Lord is teaching you in the midst of your pain and recovery.
  2. Adjust your diet! Eat protein. Proteins are the building blocks for cells, and so therefore, eating protein can help your healing process. Limit your carbs and overall just eat less calories. Because I was not able to do cardio much for about 2 whole months I needed to drastically reduce my carbs and calories intake. Carbs are good for you when you are active, but when you are inactive they can be unhelpful. Also, calories are obviously necessary for you to workout but when your workout is drastically reduced your calories need to be adjusted so you don’t get fat. My diet needed to be overhauled while I was recovering and I did pretty well minus the Twizzlers my friends from my ministry gave to me-LOL!
  3. Go to church and be a part of the worship of the Word and in music. You don’t have to stand up during the music, and you can sit in the back with your leg propped up but go worship! When you are going through a hard time you have a tendency to retreat and stay to yourself. When you are recovering from a traumatic injury like a ruptured achilles, or a torn ACL, or a torn rotator’s cuff, the last thing you need is to retreat into yourself. You need to be fed by God’s Word and through His Spirit. You also need to direct your gaze to the Lord and off of yourself, and that is what you are doing when you glorify God through worship- you are looking to Him and singing of His goodness, and His holiness, but if you do not go to worship you are looking inward on yourself and your own situation-this will not help you.
  4. As you get better do what you can do gradually and over time. Don’t rush it! Yes, we all want to get the boot off and immediately go cut the grass to prove we’re still human, but that just isn’t wise. Adjust your routine so that you are gradually adding household, and daily activities that your leg can actually manage. Right now I am able to help my wife around the house but I’d be lying if I said I’m ready to go out for a walk around the block… That’s OK! Don’t do too much, but also don’t do too little. Just because I got hurt it didn’t mean the world stopped turning. I still have responsibilities that need accomplished, and while I wasn’t able to drive to meet with people I was able to help out the Church, my colleagues, and those in my ministries in other supportive ways.
  5. Learn gratitude. Learn gratitude for those who help you. Learn gratitude towards God who lovingly guides and directs your progress. Whenever you get out of your cast just take a moment to be thankful for the progress you’ve made. Whenever you can place your foot on the ground and stand long enough to do the dishes just be super thankful! My perspective on my health and fitness has been radically changed by this injury, and I am just so thankful to be able to do the little bit I’m doing now. I used to be thankful when I hit a clean, squat, or deadlift PR, but now I am thankful that last night I could walk through the grocery store with my wife. God teaches us perspective in the midst of hardship and He does this so we would look to Him with thankful hearts.
  6. Be OK with asking for help. I’m an American which means I’m naturally obsessed with myself and my own independence. God made us for community, because God Himself exists in community in the Trinity. Because of sin, we are naturally arrogant and prideful and we believe we can do everything by ourselves and on our own. I firmly believe God allows things like achilles tears to happen to us so that we learn we need other people. I had so many people help me by serving me and loving me. Some came over to eat with me, some took me for rides in the car, some sent me letters and cards, some prayed for me, but all kinds of people helped in all kinds of ways. It’s humbling to ask for help, but that’s the point. When we are weak then we are strong. God the Son is the suffering and humble servant of Philippians 2 who “humbled himself to the point of death; even death on a cross.” Growing in godliness actually means that we grow in humility– “He must increase and I must decrease.”
  7. Use the time to do something you enjoy. I continued to workout through the entire process because I enjoy it. I also watched movies because I enjoy them. I also wrote a lot because I enjoy writing. You are going to need some enjoyment, as you always do, so do not keep your head in the dark clouds but look above the sun-to God, and after death, to your eternal purpose and do something you enjoy for the sake and glory of God; it will help tremendously.

I could say a bunch of other things about this injury, recovery, and bearing one another’s burdens, but the number 7 is symbolic of completion so I’ll leave this blog post lie right there-ha!

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