coping with the longterm effects of injury

Eight months ago, my life changed when I fell on my stairs and broke two bones in my leg. I had a lengthy convalescence period, along with surgery and regular physical therapy, but the longterm effects of injury remain present. Am I running? Yes, and for that I am eternally grateful. However, my injury remains with me every day, and I have to remind myself that recovery is an incredibly drawn-out process, even for the lucky ones.

longterm effects of injury

Today, let’s take a look at the lasting effects of my injury and what I’m doing to keep them from getting me down.

Physical Reminders

It’s hard to forget about my accident, when some of the longterm effects of injury manifest themselves in very physical ways. First, I still have two scars, one on either side of my ankles, where the surgical hardware was inserted. They’re not terribly noticeable but they’re there, and even more apparent if I swell. Secondly, I still limp, when I am tired or after major physical activity. I despise the limp, more than the scars, and work very hard to be rid of it.

The Solution? I apply coconut oil or Vitamin E oil to the scars to keep them light. Additionally, I make sure to protect that area from the sun. Rest and wearing supportive shoes help keep my limp from being more pronounced.

I Know When Rain Is Coming

It’s truly crazy how my body’s reaction to weather can be one of the longterm effects of injury. I am uncomfortably aware when rain is on the way (which is all the time, now that it is hurricane season). In my bones, I feel all kinds of jangly, electric sensations, and it can end up being anywhere from uncomfortable to painful.

The solution? So far, nerve medication is the only thing that alleviates the sensations. It’s frustrating, especially this time of year, so I do my best to breathe through it and hope for sunnier days.

longterm effects of injury

Loss of Range of Motion

I am disappointed in the defecit I feel in my range of motion. My whole life, I have had incredibly flexible feet and ankles, and now, there is a significant loss. Currently, I am able to loosen up enough to run a solid three miles, but after that, I experience stiffness and swelling. Both are to be expected, and are no reason for concern, but dealing with both those side effects adds another small hurdle to my return to running.

The Solution? Stretching and strength training. I’ve slacked on some of my PT execises (they are boring and take up huge chunks of time), but I’m never going to see improvement if I don’t put in the work to keep my ankle used to moving.

longterm effects of injury

Poor Balance + Stability

I’ve mentioned that I don’t run before the sunrise anymore because I’m afraid of tripping or losing my footing. Prior to my accident, my balance was spot on and I was fairly sure-footed, but now, things are a little different. I don’t feel things the same in my right leg and ankle, and I’m a lot more clumsy. It’s easier for me to lose balance, step off a curb, or catch my feet in a crack.

The Solution? More focus on balance work. I need to channel my inner flamingo while cooking and brushing my teeth. Also of great benefit is yoga and one-legged deadlifts.

longterm effects of recovery

Pain + Discomfort

Despite the surgeon’s and therapist’s best efforts, pain and discomfort remain a part of my life. It’s not terrible, nor is it unmanageable, but it’s there. Sometimes, it’s nerve pain, and my foot and ankle light up with needle-like shocks and burning. Other times, I’m treated to a dull ache around my hardware. And sometimes for fun, I get these cool spasms and cramps in my toes and calf. None of these are serious, but it’s another thing that uses up mental energy in a world where I need all the mental energy I can get.

The Solution? Be mindful of my body. I have to be diligent with taking days off from running, yet staying active to keep things moving in my ankle. I also need to to use my ice packs and heating pads, as well as my TENS unit. Rolling is another way to keep my spasming muscles in check.

longterm effects of recovery

We just keep on keeping on, because it’s all we can do. Some days are hard, but I do my best to stay on top of my solutions and work for a day where these longterm effects of injury aren’t quite as prominent in my life.

Have you ever been effected by the effects of an injury long after the initial recovery? How did you deal with them?

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21 Responses to coping with the longterm effects of injury

  1. What always impressed me is how hard you worked for your recovery. From day one you “showed up” and did the work and that’s why you’ve been able to run to running so soon. I know it must have felt like a 100 years but it really hasn’t been that long. You build a solid foundation and you’ll continue to improve.
    Beckett @ Birchwood Pie recently posted…Weekly Eats: You are what you eatMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I appreciate that more than you know. There are plenty of days when I feel like I’m not doing nearly enough, so it’s nice to see that maybe I’ve got it wrong in my head.

  2. I had a lot of the same issues after a major ACL/MCL surgery 15 years ago. It takes a long time to get everything back to normal. Eventually it does all go away or it comes to a point where you don’r realize it anymore. It’s easy to over do it especially the first year or so. Your recovery is still a work in progress. Try not to be so hard on yourself!

  3. I definitely had effects for months after spraining my ankle. It would swell after almost every run for about 2.5 months after I returned to running. Eventually that went away but it seemed like it took forever. I also had phantom pain after runs sometimes and even when I stood on my feet at work for long periods of time. And after that was gone I’ve had effects in other parts of my body. I sprained my anterior talofibular ligament in my left ankle and I have issues with that corresponding muscle in my shin from time to time, which my PT says is a result of the scar tissue. I get cupping done for that whenever I have a flare up and it starts to bother me. I’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that I will most likely have long term damage, but I know it can be really frustrating, especially when you are really wanting to get back to your previous level of fitness. Hang in there! It does get better.
    Montana @ Pretty Lil Mudder recently posted…BDR Leftover 5k Training Weeks 3+4 (7/13-7/26)My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Yup. I am so careful with my form when I’m running to try to ward off other injuries. I hope it works. It’s hard to get used to always feeling sensations in that foot and leg. It’s really tiring, especially when there’s not much I can do about it.

  4. Isn’t it crazy how an injury can have such long-lasting effects? I had hip surgery 10 years ago and I feel like its created a lot of imbalances in my body, especially around my core and hips where that stability is so important. I still have scars there but they are very light now. I notice I have less mobility on that side and need to be aware of that. You are doing great and I hope that over time these issues will become less and less noticeable!

    • runswithpugs says:

      We definitely compensate for our weaker areas, which can lead to so many other injuries. It’s an incredibly delicate balancing act. I’m glad you’ve seen so much improvement over the years.

  5. knock on wood, I’ve never had that kind of injury. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through everything. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have hardware in my body.

    OTOH, I can totally understand cramping in feet & toes. I’ve been prone to that pretty much my whole life — and have no idea whey & what would prevent. I’m well hydrated, I take electrolytes, yadda yadda. Still happens.

    It’s really hard to keep up with PT. It’s time consuming. But as difficult as it may be to believe, you will continue to improve as time goes on.

    • runswithpugs says:

      PT gets me down LOL. I just don’t want to do it anymore. However, when I feel weaknesses, I know I need to get back there.

      It’s weird having the pins and plates. I think I am happier having them in there than needing another procedure to remove everything, but it’s still kind of intrusive.

  6. You have made incredible progress, especially considering the severity of your injury. As you know, I still have my beautiful 6-inch scar from my ordeal. Although it’s front-and-center on my knee, people reassure me it’s not noticeable (but it’s the first thing I see when I look in a mirror). It took a long time for the color to fade to “white,” probably due to its size and location. I still don’t have 100% range of motion back, but things are close enough. Just this past year, I was finally able to withstand some weight on that knee (single-leg kneeling)…but that’s still a little uncomfortable.

    • runswithpugs says:

      That’s awesome you have so much range of motion and can bear weight! It’s crazy what we notice compared to what others see. People tell me they hardly see my scars, but to me, they are super evident, as is the thickness of my ankle. It’s one of the only things I’m vain about LOL.

      You worked super hard to get to where you are and I’m glad you have seen so much progress.

  7. I almost didn’t respond because I don’t want to depress you.

    Although we had the same injury, everyone is different. I have even more hardware than you.

    All of what you mention still remains even 8 years later (sorry).

    I did everything religiously the first year after and then I just ignore it.

    I never thought I would run again. I am so grateful that I healed. Yes, there are scars, stiffness, lack of range of motion yadda yadda

    But many people have worse injuries…those that have ended their running.

    I refuse to complain (well not too much). You won’t see me doing yoga poses on that leg. But I did run a MARATHON!!!

    • runswithpugs says:

      It doesn’t depress me and I hope it doesn’t come off as too complain-y. I see and hear things from people with injury and they are dealing with residual effects years later, and it gets them down and keeps them from moving forward. That’s why I added my “solutions” to the problems I’m currently facing, to share that there are usually workarounds and ways to move through it.

  8. Catrina says:

    Great summary, Jenn.
    I especially can commiserate with you on two points: the reduced range of motion and the lack of balance on the damaged foot.
    I still work on it, but I sometimes doubt that I will regain full control.
    I guess we will both have to keep on trying!
    Catrina recently posted…A Neuromuscular What?My Profile

  9. Debbie says:

    You worked so hard for your recovery! I’m sorry you still have these aftereffects and I hope they eventually go away.

    I hurt my knee years ago. I was off running for several months and I’ve never really returned to where I was (and now I’m old so that is done!).

  10. Liz Dexter says:

    I hadn’t realised about your injury – you’ve worked so hard and well. My friend Jenny, who I ran with today, has a pinned-together ankle and does have to be careful of it but does well in general.

    • runswithpugs says:

      I mean, the ankle itself is solid as a rock with all that hardware. But like today, my toes, foot, and heel are just aching and on fire because of the low pressure coming in with the storm. It’s not the end of the world, but there’s not much relief either.

  11. Cari says:

    Whoops, somehow missed this. I think this is a great way of looking at the situation eight months out. I hope you find relief over time — being a barometer is frustrating, but for me at least the knee nerve pain passed.
    *HUGS

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