Achilles agonyPosted: May 19, 2019
It’s been four months since I first injured my achilles. A full recovery has eluded me, but I’m committed to coming back to long distance running.
At the time of injury – back in February – there were four weeks left before the race in Antarctica. I went to a physical therapist because after resting and icing it for two weeks straight, it was still hurting and I was worried I might have partially torn it.
The PT did a few stress tests and decided I had not torn it. He was explicit in his instructions. Continue to ice and rest it for a few more days, then start stretches and some heel lifts to strengthen it. Come race day, if it started to hurt, which it probably would, it was okay if I pushed through it. I couldn’t hurt it any worse.
Got it. Okay, thanks, PT. So, I did as instructed. I rested it. I iced it. I stretched it. I did heel lifts.
When race day came, I ran through the pain knowing I couldn’t hurt it any worse. All in all, I don’t think I did. Of course, it was really sore after the race and throbbed during, but the pain in the following days wasn’t any worse than the days that followed the initial injury.
When I got back home in late March, I rested some more and resumed with the prescribed therapy: stretching, ice, rest, and heel lifts. My achilles was feeling a little better, but not back to normal. I tried running a couple of easy miles on it at the beginning of April, but it ached during and after again. I took another two weeks off.
In the middle of April, I did a six-mile slow and relatively easy hike and it was just as painful as if I ran on it. So I rested it, I iced it, I stretched it and took another two weeks off. I also called the PT and asked for help on expediting the healing. He prescribed more exercises.
I did more exercises and the pain and soreness increased over the following two weeks. Finally, on May 5, almost three months after the original injury, I went to a new physical therapist.
After listening to the history of the injury, she did a few strength, flexibility, and balance tests. Then she spent twenty minutes digging into my leg and foot to feel out the inflammation and loosen up the calf and fascia. It hurt and I was sore after the appointment, but it helped and lessened the pain the next morning.
She also prescribed far fewer but more targeted stretches and exercises, which I did as promised. She recommended coming in 2-3 times a week, which I was happy to do.
It’s been nine days since I started, but the change in treatment has made a world of a difference. I’m actually starting to feel like I could really be running again in a few more weeks with this treatment plan.
I’ve learned two lessons in all this. First, it’s important to seek help early and often. It didn’t help that I waited almost two weeks before my first appointment and it didn’t help that I didn’t visit the PT again before the race or after I got back home.
Second, who your PT is matters more than you might think. I guess it’s like anything, the person who does a good job – either installing a dishwasher or repairing your knee – matters a lot. Whether it’s for your body, your mind, your mental health, or your spiritual healing, get help quickly, but shop around. Meet more than one expert. Get a few opinions. Don’t settle.
If you’re in the same boat, I’m happy to share any of the exercises or stretches that have helped me so far. Actually having the PT put their hands on your injury and work out some of the knots has made a huge difference too.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to take a little time off, but I’m so ready to get back to it. 🙏🏼🏃♀️❤️