Broken Ankle, healing progress is low, having trouble getting foot to 90 degrees

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Had a bad fall down some stairs and broke my left fibula, went to the ER immediately and they took some x-rays and put me in a temporary splint until I could go to the orthopedist. The fall was on a Saturday Jan 21st, had an appointment with the ortho Monday Jan 23rd. Ortho looks at the xrays, hands me a boot and tells me to come back in 3 weeks to take follow up x-rays and be NWB until then. 

I put the boot on, and crutch myself to the car and find that the weight of the boot is pulling down on my foot and causing extreme pain. More than I've felt since the break. I call the doctor when I get home and he says just elevate and ice until our follow up and use the boot anytime I am going to be moving around. 

Two days go by and I just cant handle the pain that the boot causes on my foot. So I decide to go get a second opinion. I find a local podiatrist who then looks at my x-rays and puts me in a soft cast. Tells me to continue NWB for another 3 weeks and then come back, take more x-rays and if all goes well, I would PWB next 3 weeks and start PT. 

3 weeks pass, I go for my follow up, I am so excited to get this cast off and possibly stand for the first time in 4 weeks. He takes more x-rays and reports the bone hasnt healed at all. He looks concerned but tells me to move to just wrapping my foot with an ace bandage and then putting it in a boot for another 3 weeks NWB!!! 

Im devastated and I feel like I am back at square one with the boot. They gave me a large boot that comes all the way up to my knee and it is heavy! The weight of the boot pulls down on my ankle and increases the pain ten fold! The swelling is still present and so is the bruising. 

And my biggest concern of all, is when I take my foot out of the boot and out of the ace bandage to shower or something, I cannot get my foot to 90 degrees.  Sitting on the couch with my knees bent and my feet flat on the floor, my left foot will not fall flat, and if I try to push it just a little bit, it hurts so bad!

Has anyone else experienced this? I am worried and think maybe a 3rd opinion may be needed at this point? 

I miss my life when walking wasn't even a second thought. 

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11 Replies

  • Posted

    Is your boot an air cast type of boot? On Thursday I got out of the hard cast after 6 weeks and transitioned to a boot. There is a pump thing that inflates "balloons" in the air cast...so the boot fits snugly around my ankle and cannot slide around. It also has 3 adjustable velcro straps to customize the fits, plus flaps. Hoping that maybe you just have a really ill-fitted boot? Have they ordered PT for you? I'm starting that next week...they should be able to address your concerns about the angle of your foot. Best of luck to you and keep us updated!

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  • Posted

    I broke my Tibia as well as fractured my Fibula (in my ankle area), and went to E.R. the next morning. They ace bandaged/put boot on and scheduled surgery two days after that (after some swelling had gone down). They performed surgery and put a metal plate on my Fibula and put 2 screws into my tibia. I have to be in the boot for 4 weeks (which I'm now going on 2 post op) and no weight bearing on it at all, just minor foot rotation exercises. When I go back again then they will have me barely start to try walking on it. Nobody's 2 injuries are alike, but you sound a lot like me pain wise, and in my opinion they should be treating your injury a lot better than what they have been. Without my plate and screws my ankle would not have aligned on it's own to be able to heal. I, too to this day have a lot of pain trying to put it flat like I normally could before. I hope this helps in some way.

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  • Posted

    Two years ago I broke my ankle in 3 places - trimalleolar break. I’m great now and have been so for at least 6 months. I have a plate and 13 screws installed and never feel them. .  My break took 8 -9 weeks for the bones to heal ( I was in a cast thank goodness). The tendons and soft tissue damage took 4 months before I felt like life started again. It took 18 mos to feel 100% again. It was a hard road and taught me a lot about patience.  I don’t think the doctors want to tell you the truth re. the healing time, because it’s a long road, but I’d rather know the truth. If you accept it and realize it’s a temporary problem, and you might as well accept it, you realize it’s not the end of the world. Think about the vets who lose limbs- that’s permanent! Be positive and enjoy your down time.. Soon enough the hustle and bustle of running around happens again! Don’t worry! Enjoy some good movies, googling everything under the sun, hanging out with your pet in bed,  and sunshine with some tea on your porch! .  This too shall pass. 
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    • Posted

      Hi Patti,

      I just read your response to Key and I wanted you to know it made me feel a little better. I had a similar break as you described and have two plates and 15 screws. I have been FWB for about 14 weeks and finished PT about 4 weeks ago. I still have swelling and some pain. I work and have returned to my life for the most part, but some days are quite discouraging.  Walking for a more than a short distance and standing for some time  are still a challenge. I’m 55 and this was my first break of any type. I developed osteomyelitis right after the first surgery which caused a set back and I was NWB for 12 weeks. The tendons that were repaired  are still tender on some days and even though I have continued PT instructed exercises,  my ankle gets stiff. 

      I can’t really find a pattern or logic to this recovery but I keep moving forward. It’s just good to hear that maybe in a few months things will be closer to  normal. 

      I do have a few questions for you if you don’t mind my asking. 

      Did you have any balance issues? I walk unassisted but my balance is a challenge at this point. 

      Did you have to wear a compression sock? If so for how long?  

      Was your stamina reduced? I feel as though I tire too easily. 

      Lastly, does your ankle still get really stiff? 

      Thank you,

      Karen 

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  • Posted

    Hi Key!

    Get another opinion asap. Your bone should have shown some healing within that time frame. I had ankle replacement surgery  3 months ago and I'm still NWB. The boot kills my ankle. It's even made my knee start to pop. 

    I've started PT and I cannot put my foot flat on the floor either. I am doing painful PT and exercises to eventually get the foot flat on the floor. It's been a painful, frustrating journey.  But my doctor tells me I will be as good as new at the end of all this. Which he said will take a year. 

    Good luck and get another opinion. 

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  • Posted

    Hi Key,

    It seems you've had a frustrating time with doctors and getting care for your injury.

    From your narrative, it was hard for me to determine how long you have actually been non-weight bearing in boot-- at least 3 or 4 weeks is my guess.

    Bear in mind that bone fractures generally take 4-8 weeks to mend enough for to safely engage in weight-bearing activity-- the average seems to be about 6 weeks.

    If you are over 6 weeks in waiting, and fractures haven't knitted yet-- that is a cause for some concern. Non-unions, or bone breaks that won't knit together do happen, but I don't believe they are common.

    As far as your boot causing you discomfort, I haven't heard many ankle patients complain loudly about it. Are you sure you are properly fitting and installing boot on your foot? It should be a snug but not suffocating fit--which is adjusted by tweaking the air cushion inflation levels. Make sure all the straps are in place and snug so ankle won't move at all in boot. The whole purpose of boot is to immobilize ankle so bone mending and soft tissues will be unaffected by movement.

    If you are wearing boot correctly and still experiencing severe pain then that would be something to bring to your doctor's attention.

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  • Posted

    Hi Key, 

    So sorry you are in so much pain.  I'm not a doctor but it does sound like you need that 3rd opinion, and quickly! 

    Honestly, try to find someone very highly recommended. You sound like you need help and some pain meds. Did anyone give you anything to take? You need a specialist in Orthopedics who can give you the right information. 

    I went just shy of a year playing around with "so called" doctors after my injuries. No one listened to the pain and yet, I couldn't stand for any length of time. 

    Finally I found my specialist and within 2 months I was in surgery to help me. I actually thanked him for listening to me and hearing me! 

    I wish you luck and some relief!

    Rose

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  • Posted

    Thank you everyone for the replies! Here are some updates and answers to some of your questions...

    1. The boot they gave me had a pump on it... but no one tested it and the pump was defective!!! so it had actually been making my healing process more difficult!!!

    2. I am 4 weeks NWB as of today, and have a follow up with the doctor at 6 weeks to see if the bone is finally mending. 

    3. I dont know if I added this, but my doctor cleared me to go back to work full time at 1 week after the injury. So I've been working 40 hour weeks with a boot on and using a a knee scooter everyday at work. (My gut tells me this is not helping with my healing either) I only spent one week in bed with my foot elevated and icing. After that I went back to work. The 2 doctors I have seen have said it was ok. 

    I'm am trying to be patient and get used to the idea that this is going to be a much longer journey than what was originally conveyed to me. 

    I have another question for any of you still following this thread, now that I have a functioning air cast, do you all leave it on all day and night? I find that after 8 hours of working with it on, when I get home I just want to let my foot our for some air.  I also just want to sleep with my compression bandage and not the boot. 

    I appreciate all of you, this support is priceless. 

     

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    • Posted

      Yes! I know how you feel about letting your foot having some freedom and fresh air. My Dr's have allowed me to take mine off from time to time just to take a break from it and get air to my foot (plus it's easier to do minor foot rotations that way) although that is painful, so I can maybe do about 3 rotations, before elevating it (without any boot/bandage) on a pillow for about 30 min. 2 times a day. I would love to be able to sleep without mine on but I Choose to mostly wear it as it keeps a protective barrier between my ankle and my 4 young Children/Husband accidentally hitting it. Lately my leg muscle has been wanting to try and cramp up on me, so I am going to try letting it out even more, and although painful, try to exercise it more, so it's not so stiff. I also am currently taking an anti-inflamatory, and may ask for a refill on my flexeril which helps with spasm/cramping. Hope this helps, take care.

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    • Posted

      Hi Key!

      I wear my boot all day, but take it off at night to sleep. I hate the boot. It is so uncomfortable, but I am NWB, so I don't want to hobble around without protection. 

      I have a long way to go before I start walking. 

      I am going into a smaller boot on Wednesday. 

      Hopefully, that will be more comfortable. 

      Good luck and feel better. 

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  • Posted

    Sounds like you need another opinion, and now. I had X-rays 2 weeks after surgery ( had surgery same day as injury, thank God)and they could see a bit of healing taking place. My 6 week appointment showed perfect healing, and I was able to start therapy immediately. It’s inconceivable to me that you were cleared to work. My dr said 10-12 weeks from surgery to go back to work. No wonder you aren’t healing.
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