Getting Ready to Walk

You wouldn’t think something so simple would be so hard, but break your ankle and then wrap your foot in a cast/boot for two months and you’ll find walking becomes a difficult, half-remembered skill to be remastered.

I’m two weeks into physical therapy and I’m making good progress. During that time we’ve been working on ankle flexibility and breaking down the stiffness that settled in during my recovery. It hurts — during therapy sessions and while practicing at home — but it’s the good kind of hurt that’s matched to progress. This week I started doing some preliminary walking exercises aimed at improving my gait. Right now my short walks around the bedroom or down the hall at home are uneven and Frankenstein’s Monster-like because my Achilles tendon is so tight, and my ankle doesn’t have the proper range of motion yet.

After only a few days of doing those exercises, I’m already seeing my range of motion improved and with it my short walks. Part of that is psychological: I’m playing things very conservative and I’ve purposefully not stretched my ankle this way until the professionals said I was ready. Now that I can stretch it, the progress is coming quickly and I can feel my gait returning to something like normal.

It feels good.

Life in the Boot

Most of the time, I’m wearing the boot and it’s not terrible. I certainly won’t miss it, but it’s granted me a high degree of independence (albiet slow-moving independence). As I mentioned earlier, I’m cleared to drive (sans boot), which makes everything easier for myself and my family. When I first got the boot I was super-excited to start walking again, and started taking short .5 mile walks around the neighorhood. I increased that up to just about a mile before the downside of walking with a boot caught up with me: back pain.

As I’d been warned, walking in the boot — even when my other foot is in a thick-soled hiking boot — causes my gait to be uneven. That causes stress on my back, which leads to soreness (though thankfully not outright back spasms). I’ve eased off a bit and decided to limit myself to .5 mile walks, either through the neighborhood or around downtown Easton. Our “March Winter”, during which we’ve been hit by multiple nor’easters of varying strengths, hampered these excursions, but being able to go for walks two or three times a week has been fantastic.

I need to wear the boot through early April, at which point I’ll get another x-ray to evaluate how the bone is healing. If it looks good, I’ll lose the boot. I’m cautiously optimistic that the boot will come off then, but if not … then not. You can’t argue with bone hardening (or lack there of). It’ll take as much time as it needs, and while it may be frustrating, I’m ok with that. Of course, I don’t have much choice in the manner, but getting frustrated won’t help.

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A photo of my shadow on the sidewalk next to 3rd Street in Easton, Pa. It’s a big deal — a month ago I was on crutches and wouldn’t have been able to take the picture. Credit: Ken Newquist.

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