Recovering from a Foot Fracture
In my previous column, I recounted the story of one of my patient’s to demonstrate the perhaps unexpected value of physiotherapy in recovering from illness rather than injury. This week I thought I would tell my own personal story to emphasise the necessity of sticking with a series of treatments even if it seems to take a tediously long time. There’s a saying, “Accidents Happen” and of course they do to everyone indiscriminately, including me and they are not all dramatic accidents. Sometimes the most simple and apparently harmless behaviour or action can end in physical damage. Somewhat ironically as a Physiotherapist I never gave much thought that I might need physiotherapy one day, but several years ago, what started out as a pleasant stroll along the beach, precipitated an accident. A simple twist of my foot caused a bone fracture. Under normal circumstances this in itself would not have been a big issue, but unfortunately, I then discovered that I had the more serious and undiagnosed health issue of Osteoporosis.
Because of the Osteoporosis and the type of fracture I had, a Jones fracture, the diagnosis was that healing would be lengthy, therefore surgery was suggested to pin the fracture to stabilise it. Following surgery, a cast was applied to my foot which I had to wear for three weeks before a walking boot was prescribed. A walking boot completely immobilises the foot yet allows the patient to have a reasonable but limited form of activity. The boot did its job allowing my fracture to heal but the extended immobilisation caused a different problem by causing the joints in my foot and ankle to stiffen which meant I lost all flexibility in those joints. An added complication was a trapped nerve in my foot which was unbearably painful.
So a series of diverse Physiotherapy treatments was initiated, all working in concert with each other to achieve the best positive result. We started with Dry Needling, a treatment consisting of placing fine needles at anatomically identified areas of the body to relieve pain. A period of manual mobilisation of the stiff joints followed which, over time, restored a normal range of movement and flexibility. Kinesio taping was also applied - this is the tape that you see many athletes wearing in competitions; it reduces swelling and is another resource for alleviating pain. Additionally, I had infra-red light treatment which also assists with reducing swelling and pain. Another part of the therapy process was stretching of the soft tissues of the foot, ankle and calf, to restore normal length prior to rehabilitation because everything in our bodies is connected and each part is dependent on another to work efficiently.
It is important to understand that successful therapy is sometimes an extended and lengthy process to achieve maximum benefit and long lasting results. In my case the next step was a series of rehabilitation exercises aimed at restoring power, proprioception and saving reactions.
Proprioception, also referred to as kinaesthesia, is the sense of self-movement and body position. It is sometimes described as the "sixth sense". Proprioception is mediated by proprioceptors, mechano sensory neurons located within our muscles, tendons and joints. In other words, it is how we remain upright and balanced in our movements, not falling over and being able to save ourselves from falls. The rehabilitation exercises were essential as otherwise the ankle would be subjected to repeated sprains and further damage. Following my Osteoporosis diagnosis, I took medication which included Vitamin D & Vitamin K supplements in an holistic and preventive approach and I then embarked on a series of weight-bearing exercises for strengthening and to reduce the risk of further fractures.
All in all, I underwent 2 months of treatments before full mobility was regained but complete rehabilitation took a total of four months. I was able to achieve an excellent result - with a long term gain but as you can see from my story, this was not a quick fix nor was it an easy process. All therapy requires patience and a commitment to adhering to the protocol for long-lasting results.
PT. Hannah Foster