This past week I saw awesome progress. Same as the week prior. But today is perhaps the most encouraging – I woke up to no soreness in my achilles! I knew it was getting close but was surprised when I woke up this morning, and, while still laying in bed, started flexing my ankle as I usually do in order to work out the soreness and stiffness. I was surprised when, even with the first flex, there was no soreness at all. And no stiffness!
I immediately got out of bed. The first few steps there was some stiffness, but no soreness. Hard to describe, but if you’re suffering with achilles tendonitis at the insertion point then you probably know the difference when I say soreness versus stiffness.
It’s been just under 2 months now since I re-injured the achilles, and I’d estimate that, as of right now, I’m ~95% healed. Good enough to start a gradual jogging protocol. I am not a fan of jogging for exercise but it is what I did when I was close to healed last time, and it was a great “You did it! It’s done!” feeling when I crossed the finish line of a 5k and had no issues with my achilles. While I’m not a runner and never will be, the “I did it!” was due to my achilles not being injured again, not for finishing the 5k : )
I started this blog to vent about my fear and frustration with this injury (or should I say “disease”, since it is chronic, per my Sports Med doctor?). Frustrated with the lack of information I was getting, and the lack of science/research on insertional achilles tendonitis/tendonosis, and getting seemingly contradictory advice from various health professionals, I started blogging about this in order to document my experience. I’ll continue to write until it is 100% and stays that way for a while. And then periodically check in with a post. Hopefully I won’t be back with a “It’s Re-injured” post.
So why the rapid improvement this past week? That’s the million-dollar question. And I have a confession…
So, if you recall from the week prior, I mentioned that I was seeing great improvement that week, after having over-stressed the achilles the week prior while goofing around during my kids’ soccer practices. I can’t stand just sitting on the sidelines, so I jump in on an empty field with the siblings/younger kids who aren’t practicing, and we all just kick the ball around. I wound up reacting too often to a poorly passed ball or something and once in a while would jump/run some steps to catch it. It was okay at first but then I felt some added soreness, so the following week I used my brain and didn’t run or push things. I also took a couple of days off from any stretching or eccentric heel drops. My brain told me to keep those up, but it just so happened that those two days I was really busy with work and other stuff and used it as an excuse to not do them.
After 3 days of relative rest and no stretching or heel drops, my achilles improved. So I used that as an excuse to not do any stretching or heel drops this entire past week. And each day I felt more improvement. To the point where, on Thursday, I did some very light jogging and then this past weekend I ramped it up with playing some very rigorous soccer kicking/dribbling/passing with my son. No issues with my achilles aside from some slight soreness post-‘workout’, but that soon went away. It’s just gotten better and better.
I have had zero soreness or tightness during the day the past couple of weeks, aside from the mornings when first waking up. And then this morning I didn’t even have any soreness, only a little tightness.
So the big question – how did this thing heal up so fast (less than 2 months, versus the 5 months it took last time)? Last time I injured it I was going to physical therapy 3x per week, not to mention the rigorous stretching protocol on non-PT days.
This time, I did some stretching but the main thing was the eccentric heel drops. And I didn’t do them 3x per day as the Johnson et al. study prescribes – I was doing 2x per day, for about 5 weeks. Then I stopped about 10 days ago, and have seen rapid improvement since. So I wonder:
- Was doing the eccentric heel drops and static stretches prolonging the recovery?
- or did doing them, even if only for 5 weeks (versus the 12 weeks prescrived by Johnson), cause the relatively speedy recovery?
I have no idea. Thinking about it, I definitely believe they helped. To the point where I am thinking I should continue to do them under the theory that a 12 week protocol of them will effectively “rebuild” and straighten out the fibers in the tendon and essentially be a total cure for this condition. My doctor said it was chronic, that it would come back at any time.
If it does re-occur, I will definitely look at one of the more evasive procedures, like Platelet Rich Plasma replacement. One reader emailed to tell me that he’s seen great results from Shockwave Therapy, so that’s another option.
Happy days! I’m cautiously very optimistic!