Hi, I'm Dave Mulder. This is my website, where I write about user experience and product design.

This post is part of a series regarding my recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Go to the full Achilles archive

Originally Published: August 30, 2015

Week 3: Incremental improvement

I’m now two weeks away from having my fiberglass cast removed. With routines and new habits in place, days are passing more quickly.  And I am beginning to notice general improvement in my recovering leg.

Over the first two weeks post-injury, whenever my leg was lower than my heart, swelling would come on strong and make my foot and ankle incredibly uncomfortable in its fiberglass cast. Now, in the third week, any onset of discomfort takes longer to manifest, and doesn’t reach the same heights of pain. I’m also beginning to feel some sprinkles of tenderness in the healing tendon, which is positive because I now have feedback when some kind of activity/movement may be problematic.

Every day, I can put a little more weight on my leg (assisted in a big way by crutches). Improvement has been incremental, so my principal mobility device continues to be the hands-free crutch. I don’t mind the hands-free crutch since it does give me an extended range of freedom to carry things and complete household chores.

How has this injury changed my day-to-day life?

Obviously, recovering from an Achilles tendon rupture has changed my day-to-day life substantially. Around 16 hours per day, I’m lying in bed, either sleeping (at night) or working on my laptop while elevating my leg. The bed is most comfortable for me — I’ve tried working from the couch, and working from my home office, but they aren’t ideal.

Prior to this injury, I would go out most days to work from coffee shops, work from our office, mostly to get out of the house and change my perspective. Now I’m lucky if I even get outside at all. In the last two weeks, I’ve gone on one car ride, and walked out to sit on the deck on just 2 or 3 occasions (note that humid and rainy weather has been the biggest driver to keeping me inside).

Another big-time impact is that I haven’t driven since the injury. Most people operate the accelerator and brake of their car using their right foot. I had been assuming that, with a cast on my right leg, it would not be legal for me to operate a vehicle. However, it turns out that legality centers on safe operation of a vehicle. If I can do so safely (perhaps by using my left foot), then legally there is no problem. Something to consider as my leg’s increment improvement marches forward.

Why did this injury happen to me?

I’ve been working through some thoughts on why this injury happened. Thinking back to how my lower legs felt prior to the rupture in my right Achilles tendon, I had been (for months) experiencing morning stiffness and post-exercise soreness in the Achilles tendon area. I’m a snug fit the weekend warrior mold, and my working theory is that I have had Achilles tendonitis (a chronic weakening of the tendon) for some time. I had recognized a potential problem, and had even increased warmup stretching, but this was apparently not enough, and while sprinting on August 6th, the force placed on my weakened Achilles tendon was too much for it to bear.

This actually brings me to a significant concern regarding the Achilles tendon in my left leg. If I have had Achilles tendonitis in both legs (as suspected), then there’s an elevated risk of rupture in my left leg. Though I won’t be doing any sprinting for a while, I am going to make my left leg a point of focus right away.