11 Weeks Post-op, or Halfway to Running

Things have been busy in life lately, mostly thanks to school, so I’m a little sidetracked. Never fear, rehab is going well, and I called my surgeon’s office after the 10 week mark to let them know. Sometimes there is joint stiffness when it’s cold (welcome to old age), and for a few days after introducing new activities (like weighted calf presses) it’ll be sore. But nearly three months out and halfway to running, I can confidently declare that this has been a huge success and feels great.

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It’s been so long since my last post we entered a whole new season during October. 

I learned that I am cleared to elliptical, and probably could’ve been doing it already, but what’s the rush? I figured I would need like 12 weeks, but they claim it’s as low-impact as biking. I actually did 8 minutes of it today at PT with the BFR cuffs, and if I can make it through that, I can definitely add it into my routine. I did not make it through pushing a sled. I almost threw up and had to take an emergency apple juice home with me.

My PT told me today he doesn’t think much further work is needed currently, but I’ve got three more sessions scheduled so I’ll keep going to those. I know, my balancing skills are just too impressive. What can I say. But actually this is the strongest I’ve ever felt as far as core stability is concerned. Three more months to really max that out! On nice days when I pass my favorite alleys in town I get an overwhelming urge to take off and run to my heart’s desire. Soon. Soon.

So my workout routines have basically been the same for two or three weeks since I last wrote, but here’s a general idea:

  • MON: 30-60 min bike, steady or w/ intervals, core, easy lift
  • TUE: 45 min aqua jog
  • WEDS: 30 min bike, option to add 30 min aqua jog, core
  • THUR: 45 min aqua jog, PT
  • FRI: 45-60 min bike, steady or w/ intervals, core, easy lift
  • SAT: 30-50 lap swim
  • SUN: off

I’ve been slowly phasing out the daily aqua jogging sessions in favor of doing prolonged pool days on Tuesdays and Thursdays when my buddies are there. Some days my anxiety is so bad that getting in a decent water run just isn’t possible. So I know I can make it 45 minutes when my friends are there, but otherwise I’d rather spend more time on the bike. I actually biked around town for the first time in months the other day, just because it was nice out and my pool day hadn’t gone well. You gotta do what you gotta do, ya know?

I’d like to get back to yoga. I think my stability and ROM can handle it at this point, so now I could really use it for the added benefits of flexibility and strength. I notice I tend to be less injured when I go to yoga regularly, but it’s hard to be consistent. I either wanna go four times a week or not at all. I did procure a Pilates pass from my absolute favorite instructor this week, so I’ll be adding private reformer classes for the next few weeks after I phase out PT, and I am PUMPED! This is gonna be a hell of a comeback. A baby comeback, but it’ll be strong as fuck.

That’s about all for now, but I will leave a decent dump of photos from a display case I installed recently for a design class. I ambitiously chose the topic “Women in Sports History,” and this is very near and dear to my heart so I really bit off more than I could chew, but I think it was worth it. Initially, the idea came from wanting to celebrate the iconic moments in running that have been happening lately, from Shalane and Desi winning major marathon titles to Courtney and Emma dominating the steeplechase. But then I kept thinking of more and more special moments, in other sports, and I realized this project was becoming bigger than I anticipated.

Part way through planning, I knew that it was important to me to recognize as many sports as possible, performed by as many women as possible from around the world. So I made sure to give attention to the women of color who dominate sport, as well as to women from non-Western areas who are making huge impacts in their native countries, often because it goes against their customs to participate. Obviously, there’s so much to unpack just at that level. But I’m really proud of how the installation came together, even though I panicked for three days straight, forgot to sleep and eat, and missed a workout or two.

Please enjoy the photos and let me know if you want more information or have additional insights to share.

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Ankle injury diagnosis

Osteochondral lesion of the talus

I’ve been injured for a long time. For months. Actually, for the better part of a year. With no signs of improvement or relief. No timetable for a return to running. I’m inclined to share the entire months-long progression, but that’s not really useful to anyone. After exhausting all other options, I finally did what I should’ve done weeks ago and got an MRI.

Osteochondral lesion of the talus. There is a fracture in the cartilage that sits at the top of the talus bone in my left ankle, and the underlying bone has been damaged considerably. I remembered thinking once, “ok, it’s gotta be either a stress fracture or arthritis.” I wasn’t far off. And I was closer than most professionals had come.

An OLT is a tricky injury, I’ve now learned. Cartilage isn’t known for its ability to repair itself or regrow, and the talus is a very low-blood-flow area. A scope surgery is one of the only ways to treat this injury successfully. This procedure allows for cleaning debris from the injured area and drilling into the talus to create a microfracture. Ideally, this chain of events encourages new bone to grow and scar tissue will fill in for the cartilage.

That is the surgery I am now scheduled to have next month. That is the part I want to share. I spent months Googling my symptoms, trying to find a home for my injury, only to find very little reliable information and misdiagnose myself repeatedly.

I’m a runner. I’ve had all the “traditional” soft tissue injuries and a metatarsal fracture, too. But this is a new one for me, and the most difficult one for sure, especially when it’s been years since my last major injury. For weeks I wished it was a stress fracture – so straightforward! Almost guaranteed to run again in 8-12 weeks. Currently, I’m so far away from my usual place of fitness that going into surgery at this point is like “well, what’s another 6 weeks.” But at least I have a time frame, finally.

In the meantime, I’ll be updating throughout my pre-op phase, and then detailing the surgery and recovery plan. I struggled to find the information I needed, so I hope I may be a resource for someone else.

Predominate symptoms I experienced over the last 8 months:

  • A crunching, grinding, catching sensation inside the ankle joint
  • Shooting pain or a compressive ache in the ankle while ascending stairs or pedaling a bike
  • Midfoot instability
  • Sharp pain at the front of the ankle that was confused with both a cuboid fracture and impingement syndrome
  • Skin numbness across the bridge of the ankle, where you tie your laces, and behind the ankle on the lateral side
  • Joint pain in the medial arch of my foot
  • Swelling near the peroneal tendons
  • Pain and pinching behind the ankle on the medial side

Because of these symptoms, various physical therapists and doctors diagnosed me with a wide range of afflictions from plantar fasciitis to cuboid subluxation to tarsal tunnel syndrome – and keep in mind, none of these even occur in the same part of the ankle. That’s how much the pain migrated. I was able to run with it for about four months, and finally started to feel like the whole ankle was about to shatter, at which point I stopped.

Conservative treatments I tried:

  • Rest. Like, days, then weeks, then months of rest
  • Cross-training on the elliptical or bike
  • Dry needling, laser therapy, manual therapy, ice massage, NSAIDS
  • Air cast walking boot
  • Running? We all think maybe it’ll just “clear up”

Osteochondral lesion of the talus. I went to 4 physical therapists over this time. That’s maybe the most frustrating part. Every misdiagnosis made me feel like I wasn’t being heard. Like everyone was confirming their own biases instead of listening when I repeatedly said SOMETHING HURTS INSIDE THE ANKLE. It’s not the fucking plantar fascia! I often wish I had gotten imaging earlier. Thinking how much time I wasted beating myself up over useless rehab exercises, wondering what I was doing wrong… Knowing somewhere in my heart that it would lead to this. That it had to.

But I can’t dwell on that. That chapter is behind me. When I left the consultation with my physical therapist after he’d received my MRI results, I said, “You know, I actually feel excited. Relieved. A little scared. The hard part is over, and I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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If you have experience with this or another similarly drawn-out injury, please reach out! Constructive, supportive feedback is something you can’t find over at the LRC message boards.