How my ankle injury got (mostly) better

In the 11 months since I sprained my ankle, I have emptied the internet of all its secrets in the realm of ankle trauma.

Matt (Remember Matt? He’s been around this whole time but if he wants the spotlight he can get his own blog) teased me that it was overkill and obsession, but I learned a lot of things that I think helped me. Instead of summarizing my findings, since I’m not a medical researcher (I mean, by trade, I am a resident expert in all things googleable) I’m just going to tell you what worked for me. So if you have a lingering sprain that just won’t go away, read on.

Recovery came from four departments:

1. Acknowledging the injury
2. Finding a good doctor
2. Getting custom orthotics 
4. Going to physical therapy 

Acknowledging the injury
By this I mean, I stopped running, I stopped spinning. I stopped jumping. I acknowledged that my ankle condition was not going to go away overnight and I needed to stop aggravating it. It took me a while to understand what this included. For me, this meant no more clipping into a spin bike. Some doctors will say you can ride a bike with an ankle injury, and I can ride a bike with regular pedals, but I can’t clip in. That puts too much direct pressure on my ankle.

I also wore an ankle compression brace briefly. This helped too, by making it harder to turn my ankle which I been twisting quite a bit and aggravating the injury.
Finding a good doctor
I saw three New York doctors (okay and one DC-based physician  just cause) in my search for an answer. The first doctor misdiagnosed my sprain as nerve damage. The second thought surgery was the only answer. The third doctor was useful. He prescribed custom orthotics (more on that below), a prescription grade anti-inflammatory and physical therapy. The orthotics+ the anti-inflammatory worked to stop the endless cycle of re-injury. He also demonstrated specific exercises to try to strength my leg and gave me clear parameters on what not to do. Seeing him satiated my need for answers and eventually I stopped reading WebMd and medical forums with the religious commitment Matt dedicates to the NY Post.

Getting custom orthotics
Since my injury, I had been wearing SuperFeet orthotics. My specific ankle sprain (yours might be different) is caused by the fact that I have weak arches. Physically the arches are very high, but they collapse when I walk. Orthotics fill in the distance between my arch and the shoe’s insole. SuperFeet filled in some of the space, but I needed custom-made orthotics to stop the pain. Basically, with every step I took I was putting strain on the already useless ligament. Custom orthotics helped. Full disclosure: At nearly $600, they are pricey. I also had to go back a few times to get them just right. But it was worth it for me.

Physical Therapy
I started physical therapy in last year, but this particular physical therapist wasn’t a good fit for me. I started slowly getting better and they rushed me into activities I wasn’t ready for and I got hurt.  I had heard about Finish Line Physical Therapy, but when RacePaceJess tweeted and later emailed me with more information on Finish Line, I decided to check it out. I’ve been going since March and it’s made all of the difference. Raechel (my PT) is incredible and the place itself is meant for the exact type of injury I had. I’ll write a full post on why this place is special later.

Maybe most critically, Raechel helped me figure out when I should fight through discomfort and when I should rest. For me that was one of the hardest parts of coming back from an injury.

I’m not 100% back yet, as demonstrated here. And my ankle is usually a little sore the day after I run, but evidently this is OKAY.  So, I’m running again and doing PT at home (and visiting Raechel every 5 weeks). I’m not thinking of myself as limited anymore. (But this white girl still can’t jump.)
Also things that did not help: cortisone shots.
How’s it going, people?


Leave a comment