Congratulations! You’ve experienced your very first broken bone(s). I’ll bet you feel pretty slick. Much like a ninja who had entirely too much soju and gracefully fell off of a roof.
I made it to age 32 29 25 (seems like a good number) before I legitimately broke myself. After years of falling out of trees, crashing my bicycle, and having my feet crushed by overweight ponies at summer camp without more than a few bruises and scrapes, imagine my surprise when I fractured my ankle by simply walking to the refrigerator. The quest for gatorade can be deceptively perilous.
This being my 8th week in brokendom, I’ve become an expert in adapting to the various stages of healing. The learning curve is quite steep in the beginning, but it won’t take long to find your groove.
Here are a few things which have made healing a bit less miserable..
1. People will ask how you broke yourself. You can answer honestly, or if your story screams ‘inept klutz’ like mine does, feel free to embellish the truth a bit. In my case, I tried to kick the moon and it was much more difficult than I expected.
2. RICE. rest, ice, compression, elevation. With a cast, ice and compression aren’t possible, but during the first couple of weeks you’ll want to take it easy and keep your leg elevated as much as possible. I got a wedge pillow for this purpose.
3. Get a shower stool and a waterproof cast cover. I covered my cast with a couple of pillowcases to keep it from poking holes in the garbage bag I was using. I used a set of two velcro straps to secure the top of the bag around my thigh. Higher quality covers are available, but necessity for one may be dictated by the estimated duration of your time in the cast. I only had mine on for 3 weeks before being switched to a boot.
4. Plan for a way to scratch an itch in the cast. An unscratchable itch is crazy-making at the very least. I ordered something called sanicast, but it arrived the day after I had my cast removed. It sure would have been nice to have it when I actually needed it!
5. Coconut oil, and lots of it. When that cast comes off, your leg and foot will be covered in several layers of dead skin. It’s nasty. I used copious amounts of coconut oil to condition my skin and help cut down on the itchiness while peeling like a lizard.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for narcotic pain relievers. They make them for a reason, and Advil probably won’t get the job done.
7. Wear comfortable and supportive footwear on your uninjured foot. This foot and leg are now responsible for toting around all of your body weight, so treat them well.
8. Dig out a backpack to assist you in carrying stuff around. If you’re agile enough to use crutches, your hands will be occupied, so becoming your own pack mule can come in handy. I used a messenger bag to carry stuff up and down the stairs.
9. As soon as your ortho doc gives you permission to put weight on your injured leg, do it as often as you can tolerate. Disuse osteopenia (bone density loss) is fairly common but can be minimized by frequently bearing weight on it.
10. I take calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and a good multivitamin. I take 1200mg of calcium citrate split into morning and evening doses, and 2000 iu’s of D in the morning. I take 400mg of magox with a snack before bed (also helps with relaxation and muscle spasms).
11. Try to eat more nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. Avoid foods and drinks with added sugar if possible, as it can effect the way your body metabolizes calcium and trace minerals if you get too much. The same goes for coffee (do as I say, not as I do 😉 )
12. If sleeping with your broken leg unprotected is too painful, consider wearing a night splint or an aircast. I wore a night splint up until a week ago, and even now I wake myself up occasionally when I sleep wrong and smoosh my ankle.
13. When you part ways with your boot, invest in a good stabilizer brace (I have an ASO speed lacer stabilizing brace), and again pay special attention to footwear. I highly recommend Brooks glycerin or New Balance 1080’s. You want something with plenty of cushioning and ample support. Sorry, no flip-flops or sandals unless you like falling on your face. Muscle atrophy is a bitch.
14. With your doctor’s approval, begin doing joint mobility exercises, stretching, and use resistance bands to gently strengthen the muscles in your ankle and lower leg. For me, this was around 7 weeks. I have fluid buildup between my heel and Achilles tendon, so the joint feels very tight, but the exercises help loosen it up.
15. Most importantly, go easy on yourself. Listen to and respect the cues your body gives you. Rehab isn’t at all comfortable, but it shouldn’t be exceptionally painful either. Give yourself frequent breaks, and don’t feel bad if you need a day off. As my mother keeps saying, Rome wasn’t built in a day.