In January 2010 I broke my left tibia and fibula and had an operation to have an Intramedullary Nail (IM Nail) inserted. The doctor at the time told me, I thought rather vaguely at the time, it would be “6 months before you could do the things you want to do”.
It’s now been 6 months since the operation and I can confirm the doctor was right. I can do the things I want to do, but the leg does not feel like it is completely normal and back to full strength and capability. This is not the end of recovery; there is still some progress to be made.
The leg is really starting to feel like a normal leg. I have finally lost my limp and this was confirmed by my physio and friends are very impressed with how easily I’m walking about.
I started jogging 2 weeks ago. Not on the treadmill, but proper jogging in my local park, Clapham Common. I just did 10mins and it was at a very slow pace. When I finished I felt so elated to have been able to do this and my leg felt fine as I walked home.
My physio recommended, after hearing of my initial 10mins run, to do 3 runs of 10mins every other day (to give the leg time to rest) to see if the leg was able to cope without any problems and then to slowly build it up from there.
I didn’t quite follow her instructions and have increased each run by 2.5mins and yesterday did a 20mins jog. I’m a lot slower than I used to be, at the moment, and it takes me 11mins to reach a marker I used to do in 10mins. I’m really quite unfit as have not been to the gym in ages, but in a way this is good as if I was fitter I would be tempted to run for longer and maybe push the leg too hard too soon.
My visit to the physio last week ended up being my last visit, touch wood, as she gave me the all clear. I still have physio exercises to do:
- 3 sets of standing on tip toes 15 times on my bad leg and once this is quite easy, to start hopping
- One-legged (on bad leg) lunges or rather lowering my body through bending my left knee
- Using the wobble cushion (see below)
My physio recommended buying a wobble cushion as she said the receptors in your ankle basically go to sleep when they aren’t being used for some time and standing on a wobble cushion helps wake them up and will prevent you from falling over when on uneven ground. This type of rehabilitation is sometimes referred to as proprioception or proprioceptive re-education.
Firstly, you stand with both feet on the cushion and try to maintain your balance. Hopefully you will find this quite easy. To make it harder, try closing your eyes whilst doing it. It’s amazing how much you rely on your eyes for balance. With your eyes closed it just the receptors in your ankle giving information to your brain about how to stay balanced. Then try it with one leg (the bad one) on the cushion and then with your eyes closed.
I still have my scars and bruise from the accident and kneeling on my left leg is not really an easy thing or comfortable thing to do. A friend of mine who went through the same thing just over 18mths ago thought perhaps he would not be able to kneel properly ever again and then gradually he was able to.
Walking down stairs is easy but I am still very aware of my leg’s limitations and it doesn’t feel quite natural.
As it is 6mths since the operation I thought it might be useful to reflect on the recovery period so far.
I feel I worked really hard and put a lot of effort in the first 3-4 months, but after that either my will or energy seemed to diminish. Once I was basically able to move about (although with a limp), work and socialise I stopped trying so hard. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just sort of happened that way.
I think I was really trying hard to beat the 6mths recovery time and when I realised I wasn’t able to, particularly when the physio told me I shouldn’t start running yet, I lost some of my motivation. But this could be a good thing in a way as I know others who have pushed themselves too hard and that has ultimately led to a delay in their recovery.
However, I am pleased to report to anyone else who is or about to go through the same thing that after 6 months I really do feel quite good and, as the doctor told me, I can do all the things I want to do.
In January, now (as in July) seemed so far away and I didn’t want to think about all I had to go through to get there. Although the pain largely goes away, it is still sore and you are reminded of your leg problem pretty much the whole time, in every step you take, when you lie down, having a shower, etc. That is not the case anymore, thankfully. Yes, I am still quite often physically and psychologically aware of my leg’s limitations, but this seems to lessen by the day.
My advice to those recovering still remains the same, you should be very short sighted and set yourself small goals to achieve, try not to look a long way into the future.