As I wrote in a previous post with much more detail (see here), I fell off a mountain and broke my ankle in three places, then managed to break a bone in my 5th toe on the other foot. This meant that my right ankle was in a hard cast for 6 weeks and I was 100% non-weight bearing…but this was challenging because the foot meant to be my stable base for crutching or knee scootering was often pretty wobbly and in a lot of pain.
This post is a follow up with more detailed tips and lessons learned of things that were helpful in living with a leg cast, as well as what the return to weight bearing was really like. I couldn’t find a lot of good information about the transition to weight bearing was really like, so this is my take on information I was looking for and would have appreciated before and during the weight bearing progression process. (And if you’re looking for diabetes-specific stuff, it’s in the last section!)
Dealing with lack of energy and fatigue
First, it’s worth noting something major about a fractured bone, and *especially* true if it’s a big bone fracture like some of mine were: it takes a lot of healing, which means a lot of energy going to the healing and not much energy left for every day living. I was constantly exhausted – and surprised by this fatigue – pretty much throughout this process. It made sense in the early days (say weeks 1-2 after fracture), but was frustrating to me how little I had energy to do even in the 4-6 weeks after my fracture.
But, then it got worse. Returning to weight bearing took *even more* energy. For example, on the first day of partial weight bearing, I was tasked with putting 25 lbs of weight on my foot in the walking boot. First by placing my foot on the scale and getting reliable with being able to put the right amount of weight on the boot; then by standing and repeating with the scale; then taking a few steps (with the crutches taking the rest of my weight) and re-calibrating with the scale until I was confident in that weight. With weight bearing progression, you’re supposed to spend up to an hour a day working on this.
I took to heart what my ortho said about not progressing fast if you only do 5-10 minute chunks, so after the first day, I tried to always do 10-15 minute chunks at a minimum, with a longer chunk wherever possible as permitted by pain and my energy levels.
But the first few days were really, really tough. It was hard to switch to a new weight every two days – because this meant readjusting how I was stepping/walking, and how much weight and where I placed my crutches. I started with a blister on my right palm, which turned into a squished nerve that made my right hand go numb, and ultimately damaged some tendons in my right wrist, too. This made it painful to use the crutches or even drive my knee scooter when I wasn’t focusing on weight bearing. So I had a lot of pain and suffering in the WB progression process that probably contributed to how fatigued I was overall.
So one of my biggest pieces of advice for anyone with broken bones is to expect your energy to take a(nother) dip for the first few weeks after you start returning to weight-bearing (or return to normal activity outside your cast). It’s a *lot* of work to regain strength in atrophied muscles while still also doing the internal healing on the broken bones!
Tips to deal with so much fatigue as you return to weight bearing:
Some of the tips and things I figured out for being non-weight bearing and sitting around with a hard cast came in handy for the weight-bearing progression fatigue, too.
- I got a shower bench (this is the one I got) so that it was easy to sit down on and swing my legs over into the shower/bathtub. Once I was out of my hard cast, I still can’t weight bear without the boot, so I still need a sitting shower/bath solution while I return to weight bearing. I also removed the back after a while, so it was easier to sit in either direction depending on preference (washing hair/not) without having to ask Scott to remove the back and re-attach it on the other side.
- Speaking of showers, I put a toothbrush and toothpaste in the shower so I can also brush my teeth there while seated.
- I still keep most of my toiletries in the bedside table (or you could have a caddy by the bedside) so I can brush my hair, take my contacts out or put them in, wipe my face (facewipes instead of having to stand at the sink to wash my face), etc. from the bed.
- I am taking ibuprofen 4x a day, and I get tired of opening the bottle. So I dumped a pile of ibuprofen on my bedside table to make it easy to reach and remember to take first thing in the morning or at night. (There are no kids or pets in my household; keep safety in mind if you have kids etc in your household – this solution may not work for you).
- The one time I tended to forget to proactively take my medication was mid-day, so I added a recurring calendar event to my calendar saying “take ibuprofen if you haven’t 2x a day” around 2pm, which would be the latest I would take my second round, even if I woke up later in the day and my first dose was later in the morning. This has helped me remember multiple times, especially on weekends or times when I’m away from my desk or bed where I would have the meds visible as a reminder.
- Pre-mix protein powder (this is what I chose) into the beverage of choice in advance, and keep it in individual containers so it’s easy to get and take (and if I’m really tired, round tupperware containers that have measurement lines make it easy to measure liquid into, put the lid on to shake it up, and drink out of without having to find another cup). I had Scott do this several days in advance when he went on a trip, and we kept doing it in advance even after he got home.
- I kept using my portable desk for working, taking video calls propped up in the bed with pillows behind me, and also laying the surface flat to eat meals from when I was too tired to get out of the bed.
Other advice for the return to weight-bearing:
If you’re like me, you’ll switch back to weight-bearing accompanied by getting out of your hard cast and getting a walking boot of some sort. If you can, ask your ortho/doc in advance what kind of boot they’ll put you in. It’s often cheaper to get the boot yourself. Perfect example: my ortho didn’t tell me what kind of boot I would need, and I looked at various boots online and saw they ranged $50-100 on Amazon. At my appointment he asked if I brought a boot and since I didn’t, they’d provide one..and the paperwork I signed stated the price would be $427 (::choking::) if the insurance didn’t cover it. Insurance negotiated down to $152 for me to pay out of pocket for since I haven’t hit my deductible…which is still 2-3x more than retail cost. UGH. So, if you can, buy your walking boot via retail. (Same goes for purchasing a knee scooter (here’s the one I got) – it may be cheaper to buy it new through Amazon/elsewhere than getting a medical purchase that goes through insurance and/or trying to do a rental.)
- You’ll also probably end up with a boot with lots of velcro straps. When you undo your boot, fold back the strap on itself so it doesn’t stick to the boot, another strap, your clothes, etc.
- Get multiple ankle braces. I had a slightly structured ankle brace with hard sides that made me feel safer the first few nights sleeping out of the cast, and it was often easier to go from the bed to the bathroom on my knee scooter or crutches with the ankle brace(s) instead of re-putting on my walking boot and taking it off again for a shower. (I transitioned to sleeping in a lighter ankle brace after a week or so, but still used the structured brace inside the waterproof cast bag for swimming laps to help protect my ankle.)
- An ice pack with a strap to put around your ankle/broken joint. I had gotten this ice pack for my knee last fall, and strap it and another ice pack to my ankle to get full joint coverage.
- Wide leg athletic pants…ideally ones that you can put on/off without having to take your boot off. (Women should note I found better athletic pants for this purpose in the men’s athletic section at Target..but be aware a lot of the modern men’s style have tapered legs so make sure to watch out for those and have enough width to get over your boot). Taking off the boot is exhausting with so many velcro straps, so any time I can get dressed or undressed without having to remove the boot if I am not otherwise removing the boot is a win.
- Look online for your state’s rules for a temporary handicap parking pass, and take the paperwork to your first ortho appointment to get filled out. Also, make sure to note where the places are that you can drop off the paperwork in person (in Seattle it was not the same as the DMV offices!), or otherwise be aware of the time frame for mailing those in and receiving the pass. The handicap parking placard has been helpful for encouraging me to get out of the house more to go to the store or go to a restaurant when otherwise I’m too exhausted to do anything.
- A new shiny notebook for writing down your daily activities and what you did. If you’re not a notebook type person, use an app or note on your phone. But despite being mostly digital, I liked having a small notebook by the bed to list my daily activities and check the box on them to emphasize the activities I was doing and the progress I was making. At the beginning, it was helpful for keeping track of all the new things I needed to do; in the middle, it was useful for emphasizing the progress I was making; and at the end it felt really good to see the light of the end of the tunnel of a few pages/days left toward being fully weight bearing.
Other tips for getting used to a walking boot and transitioning to weight bearing:
- Don’t be surprised if you have pain in new areas when you move from a hard cast to a walking boot. (Remember you’ll be moving your leg or limbs in different ways than they’ve been accustomed to).
- My ortho told me the goal of weight bearing progression is to understand the difference between discomfort (lasts a few minutes) and pain (lasts a few hours). You’re likely going to be in discomfort when doing weight bearing progression – that’s normal. Pain (i.e. sharp pain) is not normal, and you should take a break or back down to a previous weight (follow your protocol) if you have it. I was lucky – the only few times I had pain was from trying to press down forcefully on the scale when seated, rather than standing on the scale and naturally letting my weight on my leg. I didn’t end up plateauing at any weight, and was able to follow my protocol of 25lb weight bearing added every 2 days and get to full weight bearing with no delays.
- If you have a watch with a stopwatch feature, use it. It’s hard to keep track of actual time spent walking (especially at first when 90 seconds feels like 6 minutes) with just a normal watch/clock. You could also use your smartphone’s timer feature. But tracking the time and pausing when you pause or take a break helps make sure you’re accurately tracking toward your hour of walking.
- The process wasn’t without discomfort – physical and emotional. Putting weight on my leg was scary, and every new weight day was hard as I dealt with the fear and processing of the discomfort, as well as learning how to step and walk and do my crutches in a new way yet again.
- But what I learned is that the first 5 minutes of every new weight day ALWAYS sucked. Once I recognized this, I set the goal to always tough out a 15 minute session after I calibrated on the scale by walking slowly around my apartment. (I put my headphones in to listen to music while I did it). As long as there was only discomfort and not pain, I didn’t stop until after 15 minutes of slow walking with that weight and also re-calibrated on the scale during and after to make sure I was in the right ballpark.
- I had to spend the first half hour or so working on my weight bearing by myself. I couldn’t talk on the phone or talk with Scott while I did it; it required a lot of concentration. (The only thing I could do is listen to music, because I’m used to running with music). So distractions did not help when I got started, but toward the end of the hour I could handle and appreciate distractions. Same for day 2 of a weight – having distractions or a task to do (e.g. walk from A to B, or walking while my nephew was on his scooter) helped pass the time and get me to complete my hour or more of weight-bearing work.
- Be careful with your hands and wrists. Blisters are common, and I managed to both squish a nerve (which caused me to have a numb side of my hand and be unable to type for several days) and also pull or damage tendons on both sides of my wrists. I was torn between choosing to delay my weight bearing progression work, but also recognizing that the sooner I got to full weight bearing the sooner I could completely ditch my crutches and be done hurting my hands. So I chose to continue, but in some cases shortened my chunks of WB walking down to 15 minutes wherever possible to reduce the pain and pressure on my hands.
Don’t you usually talk about diabetes stuff on this blog? 😉
(If anyone finds this post in the future mainly for ankle fracture and weight bearing transition/progression tips, you can ignore this part!)
Diabetes-wise, I’ve had a pretty consistent experience as to what I articulated in the last post about actually breaking bones.
- It was common for my first few days of progressive weight bearing to have a small pain/stress rise in my BGs. It wasn’t much, but 20-30 points was an obvious stress response as I did the first few 15 minutes of weight bearing practice. The following days didn’t see this, so my body was obviously getting used to the stress of weight bearing again.
- However, on the flip side, the first week of weight bearing progression also caused several lows. The hour of walking was the equivalent of any new activity where I usually have several hours later delayed sensitivity to insulin out of nowhere, and my blood sugars “go whoosh” – dropping far more than they normally would. I had two nights in a row in the first week where I woke up 2-3 hours after I went to sleep and needed to eat some carbs. This normally happens maybe once every few months (if that) now as an OpenAPS user, so it was obviously associated with this new surge of physical activity and hard work that I was doing for the weight bearing.
- Overall, while I was 100% non-weight bearing, I was eating slightly (but not much) lower carb and slightly less processed food than I usually do. But not always. One day I ended up having 205+ grams of carbs for me (quite a bit more than my average). However, thanks to #OpenAPS, I still managed to have a 100% in range day (80-150 mg/dL). Similarly on a travel day soon after, I ate a lot less (<50g carb) and also had a great day where OpenAPS took care of any surges and dips automatically – and more importantly, without any extra work and energy on my part. Having OpenAPS during the broken bone recovery has been a HUGE benefit, not only for keeping my BGs in range so much of the time for optimal healing, but also for significantly reducing the amount of work and cognitive burden it takes to stay alive with type 1 diabetes in general. I barely had energy to eat and do my hour of weight bearing each day, let alone anything else. Thankfully good BGs didn’t fall by the wayside, but without this tech it certainly would have.
And finally the pep talk I gave myself every day during weight bearing progression work:
This is short-term and necessary discomfort and suffering on the way to weight bearing. It sucks, but you can and will do it. You have to do it. If you need to take a break, take a break. If you need to do something else to get yourself pumped up and motivated to do your weight bearing, it’s ok to do that. But you’ll get there. Slowly, but surely. You’ve got this!
Proof that I did get there:
Best of luck and lots of support and encouragement to anyone who’s working their way to weight bearing after an injury, and many thanks to everyone who’s supported me and cheered me on virtually along the way!
2021 update – see this post about (finally) running the marathon that I had signed up for before I broke my ankle!
141 thoughts on “Tips and tricks for real life and living with an ankle fracture”
Admittedly I scanned quickly because I just wanted to confirm that you were OK–glad you made it through another life challenge with such determination!
Thanks, Gary! <3 Thankfully doing well!
Did anyone have heel pain when returning to weight bearing
I know this is months old, but I’m replying for anyone else who may be looking: YES, YES, OH HEAVENS YES. My therapist and ortho said it’s the result of being stuck in the cast and boot for so long. I can tell you also that I have pretty low arches, and the arch on my left foot is even lower now, so I think that is contributing to my heel pain as well: tight, unused tendons angry from disuse and constant pressure, and poorly-dispersed body weight.
I’ve been going bootless for, hum, three weeks now? and the pain has vastly improved. I still have some work to do to get totally back in order, and I’m still hurting slightly with every step (and don’t have the flexibility to easily go down stairs, again because of that tight heel area), but trust me, other readers, once you get going back to weight bearing and transitioning out of the boot, the progress comes regularly and quickly (just don’t overdo it, or that heel will REALLY hurt the next day).
Yes, I have. I walk every day my dog and with a friend but still so tired.
Hey, I just read your post in more detail. Glad you are feeling better, Dana! Nice job taking all those notes.
As always, YDMV … reading this brought me back to 2012, when I had a right-leg tibial plateau (Knee) fracture; 100% non-weight-bearing for something like 4 weeks and then +25% each additional week .
Thankfully I was able to work from home – no driving when your right leg is 100% nwb. I definitely had the fatigue you describe, and I lost a lot of weight during that time. I remember my BGs being quite good – I thought that was due to a very low carb diet during that time, and almost no work stress. I ate no grains for about 2 months… my calories came from berries and cherries, and organic bone-marrow, along those lines… lots of colorful fresh food, a lot of matcha tea. Every bite of food seemed to disappear into the hard work of tearing down broken bone tissue, and building up fresh tissue.
Recovery was easier for me than what you experienced – ouch, poor Dana! I cried for the first time the day I was at PT, when they took the brace off, and I was unable to command one of the knee muscles to contract. … My goal was to be able to get my heel to my bottom … took maybe 3 months, but I did get there eventually.
The scariest thing once I was able to go outside (on crutches)- and for many months thereafter – were manhole covers in the rain, or anything metal on a street … the thought of slipping and potentially re-injuring the knee … the horror!
The crutches ended up causing another “injury” for me as well – I actually had shoulder surgery to release the adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) that had shown up first in one shoulder, than the other. After 2 years of PT for first the one shoulder, then the leg, and then the other shoulder, I had no patience left. Turns out, being female, over 40 and having type 1 diabetes are all risk factors for that one.
Hope you are all better by now! take care.
Thanks for the post! I have been trying to find first person perspectives on weight bearing experiences.
I broke my ankle and had surgery (while awake) back in March. My situation has been kind of weird as I am also pregnant. And 3 weeks after surgery, a tree fell on our house during a storm causing us to have to relocate. Needless to say, it has been a crazy few months.
I like reading about others experiences because I often find details true to my recovery that the doctors never mentioned. I have also developed numbness in the fingers of my left hand during this partial weight bearing journey.
I go back to the doctor in a few hours. I am both hopeful and fearful about being allowed to start full weight bearing. I am 8 months pregnant so I want to walk before he gets here but each new step is scary, difficult and comes with a learning curve. Thanks so much for your post!
Oh no, how stressful!! I am sorry to hear you’re dealing with all that..all at once. Glad this post helped some! Wishing you luck as you return to weight bearing!
Chrissy, I hope your birth went well and you are back to 100% a year plus later. My biggest challenge 3 weeks post surgery (plate and 6 screws) has been swelling and blood rushing into my foot and toes whenever I am vertical. The iwalk 2.0 is fabulous (hands free!) but does not stop the blood pooling. My toes all went purple with bruising in all the joints after standing up too long one evening making dinner.
The BEST device I have is a BREG Kodiak Cold therapy system with the foot wrap. I leave it on all night and it takes almost all the swelling out until I get up again. I do have about 5 hours each morning where I can do more before the swelling comes back.
My orthopedic surgeon told me I didn’t need physio but being a Chiropractor myself, I knew otherwise. I am following an ankle rehab program I found online which takes about 20 minutes each day and am now ready to begin gradual weight bearing.
Thanks to this blog, I now have an idea on how to go about doing that and what to expect.
It is so nice to share information and know I am not alone in this dreadful journey.
Dana, Thanks for writing your experience with your weight bearing. I broke my ankle in February and was in a cast for weeks then the walking boot for weeks. My ortho never told me anything about 25% or any percentage for that matter. All the sudden it was a checkup at the end of May he was just like OK don’t wear the boot anymore and said I was OK for FWB. I’ve been going to physical therapy since Beginning of June. Well, I am still not walking correctly and I can’t even walk a few steps without my walker. I’m totally frustrated and exhausted. I don’t know what to do anymore. I cannot use my cane which is what I was hoping to transition to. My right hand is becoming numb and tingly which isn’t helping matters. Do you have any suggestions ? I am so tired. 😣😣 I am starting to feel like a failure because I am still not walking. Oh I forgot to mention that my so called good leg just acts like it wants to hop still after using the walker to get around with while I was NWB for months.
So sorry to hear that you’re struggling! I know it’s frustrating. Have you been WB in the boot? If so, what I did next was spend 1 hour in the morning in a shoe, then back to the boot..next day 2 hours…etc and work up from there until I was fully out of the boot. If you’re not WB yet (still using walker with the boot), there’s a lot of progression schedules online you can use – either X% of weight or a certain amount of pounds, depending on your preference. In any case, you’ll get there – it’ll be slow and painful (and slower than we always want it to be), but you can do it! Even if you have to go from a few steps, to 10 steps, to 20 steps, to across your house, etc., set small goals & it’ll help to conquer those as you go along. FWIW – my cane that I got ended up being not useful for anything but fending off people from crashing into my legs, I never ended up really using it for more than confidence.
Thanks for a quick reply.😊 No, I did not do FWB while in the boot. My ortho never told me to do so. He basically had me wearing the boot as NWB and said to only do tip toes while at rest. So there was never any FWB. Next thing I knew after I had an x-ray he was just like OK don’t wear the boot anymore and do FWB as tolerated and started me on physical therapy. I really wish I was told to do FWB while in my boot. Maybe my progress would of been better. Now, I am not sure if I should wear it around after not wearing it since May. I mean now that I have good range of motion and its not stiff at all, like the boot does is makes it stiff and keeps it still. Thank you for listening 😀
Oh wow! It’s interesting how different everyone’s experience is! Sounds like you can choose to put the boot on for your FWB progression time, if you find that helps you be more confident with going WB, or do it in the shoe. It’s great that you’ve got good ROM and aren’t stiff! Good luck!
Thank you very much😀
Thank you so much! I was beginning to think that I was crazy and that something was wrong with me! I broke my ankle in 2 places mid January. The operation went well, the hard time was after that. I got the knee scooter from someone that barely used it for 70$ CAD. That was a game changer for me. I was way more independent around the house until My knee started hurting really bad. I used the scooter for 7 weeks. The knee pain was worse than the ankle pain. About 10 days ago, I’m FWB and going nowhere fast with the crutches. My morning routine that takes usually about 20 minutes now takes me an hour and a half and I get exhausted. I also practice walking without the boot inside the house, with the crutches of course. I’m a normally very active person so this is driving me crazy! At least, thanks to your post, I feel uplifted and a lot less worried! Thank you
I feel exactly like u are saying re walking. I am 70 though but worked until 2 years ago on my feet constantly as an aux nurse but I broke my ankle 4 months ago in 3 places falling off 1 step. I have plates both sides and 8 pins but I feel after no weight bearing for 6 weeks then boot off and given crutches u will be ok a couple of visits from physio. Joke. I feel like 90 walking as if there is something wrong with my hip as if I’m limping [ I am limping ]. Can’t seem to get my legs to move like they did before. Now into my 5 th month and can only walk slowly small steps which exhaust me I was so happy sorry to read ur comments at least I knew it wasn’t just me Hope time heals quickly
How long of a process it took you total. I fell and broke all three bones in my ankle. Slipped on the mountain on April 25.
I’m in my 8/9 week of physical therapy. Trouble with weight bearing. I’m in a walker still. But just using one arm with the walker of heavy limping without the boot and shoe. Any suggestions. Thought about a quad large base cane.
Hang in there! From what I can tell, it’s a longer process to return to “normal” ish than anyone ever expect. I just passed the ~6 month mark and feel like I’m mostly normal for being able to walk around and run, but I also still have intermittent soreness (especially if I don’t run for a week – oddly enough, running and impact at this stage actually seem to help keep my ankle stretched and mobile) overnight and stiffness in the mornings at least once a week still. What I found helps: set small goals (distance? time? new things you can do again, even if modified? etc) for everything you’re doing and celebrate even the tiniest bit of progress.
Thanks for your post. And comment. I m actually in pool therapy, which is helping out alot. Being in a boot for 2 months brought my foot alot of problems.
Thanks for encouraging me. And the time reading about my situation.
Thanks for the tips of weight bearing, wow i am almost there. This week was the first week of 20/25 steps without the walker and cane. I probably have three more weeks till I feel comfortable and confident.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article.. I broke my tibia 4 weeks ago…. Summertime fun ended not so fun….
Your article has been most helpful information I’ve read.
Staying strong and positive but sometimes I get impatient with the process!
Thank you again
Ouch. Good luck with your recovery! Glad the post was helpful.
Thanks for your post and replies. I too was looking for first hand experience as the surgeon did not give much detail on transitioning from NWB to full WB “as tolerated”. I have agonized over my lack of productivity until I was reminded that rest, therapy and recovery are productive as they are leading back to full strength and use. Helps me get through the slow day by day progress and discomfort.
Many thanks for your post. Your comments about energy levels cheered me up after a day of getting around in a moonboot (in my country, that’s what we call the boot with velcro straps). I like your advice about progressing out of the moon boot too: I will work on it! I had sore hands on crutches too and made cushioned handle covers out of a car wash kit – slicing the foam sponge in half and using the polishing cloth as a cover. You can buy covers on Amazon but this was quicker and easy with materials I had to hand! Happy healing!
Hi Dana. I have to say, after searching forever for what going back to weight bearing is supposed to feel like, I am so happy I found your blog. I have a question. How long did it take you to go back to full weight bearing after you got rid of your boot and, how long before you were able to walk w/o your crutches? I’m asking because I cannot afford PT and I am 5 weeks out of my cast and I still cannot put full weight on my foot for more than 5 min w/o the bone on the inside of may ankle feel like it’s pulling apart and then the pain lasts for quite a long time after rest. I’m just trying to get a sense if I am doing too much and put too much weight on my foot too soon. Thanks for reading!
I got back to full weight bearing in the boot, the transitioned to an hour in the morning and the afternoon each outside of the boot (fully weight bearing), then gradually lengthening that time til I was fully out of the boot all the time. (Ditto for crutches – I was walking around all day in the boot without crutches before I began transitioning out of the boot). That sounds really painful! My ortho talked with me about the difference between discomfort (lasts a few minutes) and pain (lasts for hours). Worth talking to your ortho or doc if that’s still the case of having a lot of pain? Also see my tips in the post about practicing with the scale to get confident with each weight level progression. If the progression you’ve been given is too much, take smaller chunks – maybe cut each progression in half, or add X pounds at a time – whatever you can build up safely on without causing pain! And no reason not to stay longer at a stage if you need to. I got lucky and didn’t plateau at any weight on the return to weigh bearing, but from what I read, it’s super common to need to stay longer at a stage or go back a stage for a few days. Good luck!
Your post helps me, too. I broke three bones in my ankle July 7. It’s been a loooong recovery, including a hospital stay after surgery due to infection. I have trouble trusting the three ortho docs that rotate in my small town.
Should I trust myself or the Healthgrade-rated terrible ortho doc? Should I find another doctor an hour away?
I’ve had both hips and a knee replaces–that’s was child’s play compared to this!
Yikes, how scary! I’m not sure what I would do in your situation – it’s probably influenced by insurance coverage, willingness to drive, etc. But sounds like you’ve probably built the willpower for recovery and what you need to do with those replacements, so hopefully some of that knowledge will help with this. Good luck!
I broke my ankle in 3 places and my shin on Aug, 11, 2019. Surgery Aug 22. Sept 30 will be my first day of physical therapy. I am frustrated with the healing process because obviously I can not do things easily – I have to plan and plan and logistically work out my movement. I have weaned myself off my heavy pain meds and am relying on Advil & Tylenol. I still have discomfort and pain. I am still 100% NWB but there were 2 instances where there were emergencies that I had to actually use my broken ankle to pick up my 50lb child. I felt pain for days after. But I know that soon I will reach the light at the end of the tunnel. I am hopeful that the physical therapy weeks will make me stronger and bring me closer to walking, running and taking the stairs.
Your post has been very helpful!
PS – I forgot to thank you Dana, for starting a v informative blog!
Since I broke my ankle in 4 places and had surgery on July 24,2019 I have searched the internet for information on others who have broken their ankle and their story. I am now in the boot and last week was given 100 percent with and without boot from ortho doctor, like I should just drop the crutches, remove the boot and walk out. Thank you for all the information on transition to weight bearing. From my experience it will happen but not in a week or a month already see my progresion with the boot and starting a bit without boot and one crutch. Again Thank You for explaining step by step and it seems like you were quite athletic before and are again since breaking your ankle and it was still a struggle.
I also broke my ankle in 4 places. I’m on day 3 of transitioning into a boot and wb. My surgeon said that the average amount of time to walk without crutches in the boot was 3-4 days. I’ve been struggling and in pain all day and had to take a pain pill again. I was optimistic to hopefully be without crutches shortly and be able to drive again, since it’s my right foot. This article has been so helpful since I’ve been depressed about my progress.
So glad I found this post. Trimeollar ankle fracture on 10/6, we took our daughter roller skating & I went down. Surgery 2 days later. Plate & screws. I’m 2 weeks post op now and 1st post op appt was 2 days ago. Healing nicely & in a boot now- still no weight bearing. Start PT soon. The boot is so heavy & still getting used to it. I have crutches & scooter. I’m getting around really good & in good spirits. My husband built a ramp for me out our front door which has steep steps. Working remote until next week but where I live we’re starting to get snow so I’m not attempting to go to work on those days. I’m 46 and first injury & surgery ever. Your tips are great! Taking off the boot to shower I felt so vulnerable with my ankle exposed & was scared, but didn’t even think of getting ankle braces!! I will now. Has been quite a challenge but I have an overall positive attitude.
Thanks so much for this Dana and appreciate the comments too. I just had ORIF for a broken filbula from falling from ice skating. I’m a cast now and will see doc in 12 days. I would really like to get back to work for social and physical reasons (so not really work from home, though it’s a desk job) ASAP but also don’t want to deal with snow. Am enjoying the knee scooter as opposed to crutches! Leigh, I’m pleasantly surprised you’re in a hoot already—was expecting 6 weeks for that. Also first surgery ever, and I’m 47. Thanks for tips about ankle braces too, folks. Amazing. Happy healing to everyone!
Thank you so much. I currently have a tibial stress fracture and a torn meniscus. Your tips definitely encouraged me!
Have any of you tried the IWalk 2.0? (hands free knee ‘crutch)
I broke my ankle in 3 places at the end of October, paragliding. I have to admit the healing process is VERY slow. Grrr
Still haven’t got to the WB stage yet.
However, if there is a bit of advice I can give to people in a similar situation is to get yourself an IWALK 2.0. It is the best thing since “bubble gum”. It allows you to do almost everything. It takes a little getting used to but once you get the hang of it it makes life so much more bearable. I make beds, cook, clean and have even done a little bit of garden work.
The only negative thing about it is that family and friends see you are quite capable and will start expecting you to do more. It does make you pretty tired but makes life more bearable.
If I can offer another tip, have a routine. Think every step of your day out
and it will make things so much easier for you.
Good luck to you all, and thanks for an informative post.
iWalk is not for everyone….. I broke my ankle in three places. I tried to get into the iWalk 6 weeks after surgery and, since it has to be so tight and I have a short tibia, it stressed my breaks and gave me a lot of pain for days. Luckily, the return was easy.
I like your article, it sounds stupid but felt betrayed that NO ONE tells you these things before. I did a bunionectomy with osteotomy on my right foot. It was really hard, it was a shock to find me face to face with these realizations. Thank you for putting it out there, you are helping everyone. It’s gonna be 4 weeks tomorrow Non weight bearing… 😐 it’s horrible, nobody tells you that your hands will hurt so much from using crutches. Im sorry for the rant bout I think you’ll get it.
Thank you Dana and all the commenters. Broke my ankle in 2 places Nov 4th. Surgery the next day with plate and screws. I am 63 with osteoporosis but never had any fracture before. Have a knee scooter which limits use of crutches to bathroom visits only.
I especially appreciated your discussion of fatigue. I thought it was just me and my age. Have tried to keep up some Pilates work on my bed but feel strength fading.
Looking forward to cast off on 12-18 and switch to boot. You have given me markers for what happens next.
So great to read this! Info on what this trauma is really like and knowing what to expect is hard to come by. I broke my fibula and bilateral malleoli on 11/6/19. Ortho took off the cast a couple weeks early and put me in a boot so i can remove it for showers but I’m still NWB for at least another week. Just having the cast removed has been a hard transition. And I’m starting to see that transitioning to WB will be even harder. I never expected all of this. It is exhausting and has left me in tears and frustrated so often. Ortho docs are the worst at explaining the process and setting up expectations. Like others have said, mine told me Just don’t bear weight for 6 weeks, then we’ll transition you to weight bearing in a boot for 6 weeks. Like its a piece of cake. It’s so much more complicated than that! I’m sorry there are so many going through this same thing but also comforted to know I’m not alone and what I’m going through is a normal part of this painful, slow healing process
Thank you so much for this post. I fractured my fibula, displaced talus, and torn deltoid ligaments in the quest for good maternity photos of my sister. I had ORIF surgery two days after the injury and was 100% NWB for 6 weeks. The cast came off 2 days ago and now I’m struggling with a walking boot to get back to FWB. My doctor expects for me to be 100% FWB and be able to be out of the boot at my next appointment in 12 days. He didn’t give me any sort of other timeline or goals, just said to take my time, do as much as I can tolerate, and use the crutches as needed. It scares me to even think about taking a step without crutches right now. Putting more than a fraction of my full weight on that leg makes me feel like it’s going to give out. At this point, being FWB in 2 weeks seems totally unrealistic and I get frustrated because of it. I’ve been on short term disability since my injury as I work in a microbiology lab and can’t, for safety reasons, be in the lab until I can wear a shoe again. It’s been great getting to spend more time with my young niece and nephew, but I am definitely ready to get back into the world again and it’s quite frustrating to be so close and yet so far. Thanks again for your post it’s very helpful.
I broke my ankle three fractures on Nov. 6th. Had surgery on Nov. 14th. Had staples removed and splinted on Nov.27th. I appreciate the information in this blog, thank you Dana. I am 63 and very active with a full time demanding job. I go back to the Dr. the 2nd week of January 2020. I am encouraged by what I have learned in the blog. No more chasing my granddaughter and slipping on paper. I will continue to read the blog for encouragement and relatable experiences.
Dana… I slipped and fell on ice November 1, next morning I had (ORIF) open reduction internal fixation to repair broken Tibia fibula and ankle.
I have been researching for the last 6-7 weeks for this type of information. I can not thank you enough. I’m typically a really active person, have found in the mornings it’s almost impossible for me to get started and just doing showering and miscellaneous things around the house have me exhausted and needing to take a nap in the afternoon. So this is been validating for me and good to know what I might be dealing with as I move forward. My next appointment is next Wednesday where I hope to get out of the cast in into a boot. I am wondering what type of crutches you used as the Walker is killing my wrists and my palms.
Again you are an angel for taking the time to share your experience.
I am so glad that I found this post! I am only two weeks into my injury, I fractured my fibula bone in my ankle after a fall. I am currently in a NWB cast and go back to the doctor tomorrow to see if the fracture has healed and then hopefully a walking boot. I still have not been back to work and as hard as it’s been, I’ve been resting and elevating as much as the doctor wants me too. The world outside of my home sounds so daunting! I feel like I have lost my drive of confidence. Your post was encouraging and I’m glad that your healing well! I have Lyme disease on top of all this, so the use of my shoulder and knee joints has been taking its toll too. But life is meant to have these bumps in the road right? Carrying on is but the only choice we have! Thank you!
Ive enjoyed reading this as it feels so much more realistic than some of the clinical info available. Trimalleolar fracture October 25th surgery with external fixation for 10 days further surgery ORIF. Most metal work ever inserted by surgeon. Last week got green light to begin weigh bearing and really finding it hard and frustrating. I am in a boot, i can apply reasonable pressure whilst sitting and can use it to balance and hobble but trying to put full weight down is incredibly painful and makes me feel like i am falling over.
Keen to get back to work and have a life! Feel like recovery is harder as i am overweight so i guess one good thing is a resolve to lose serious weight in the new year.
Broke my Tibia and Fibula on 8/28 surgery for a titanium rod and four screws. NWB for 15 weeks and blood clots that hindered my PT. After 8 weeks PT I was released for FWB and had to leave my home In MI to winter in FL I’m on my own for PT now doing all the exercises my therapist set up for me. I’m so discouraged after 2 weeks of little progress. I’m getting depressed but keep toughing it out each day. My biggest problem is my knee and left side of my ankle swell pretty bad after exercising. I’m feeling like a huge burden to my husband and cry a lot. I’m encouraged by your post as I see it’s going to take a while to walk after not walking for 4 months. Just venting ugh.
I slipped in shower and broke tibia, fibula & tallus bones and also badly dislocated ankle that it was round the back of my leg 3/11/19.
I had dislocation pulled straight obviously while under anaesthetic and an external frame fitted the day after the push bones together. After 8 days I had ORIF surgery 12/11/19 and had cast removed after 6 weeks NWB on Christmas Eve. The orthopaedic doctor said I would be back walking in 2 weeks. !!!
I was given a boot but have only managed to put it on 3/1/20 due to swelling and pain in foot. I am now managing short walks in boot with a frame around the house. Short walks have me panting like I’ve run a marathon but sticking at it.
Physio is booked for 21/1/20 but I have been doing leg stretches etc which I found on the internet. Everybody’s posts on here have given me hope as I too have felt absolutely exhausted by the whole process of getting to weight bearing stage. I still cannot fully WB as yet. I’m 62 so she will possibly go against me too. Good luck to everyone who’s going through this exhausting process. Many thanks to Dana for her detailed log as I too found very little information about my recovery.
Thank you so much for this post. I’m recovering from breaking both malleoli (?), the tibia, and the fibula from arguing with a dark stairwell and losing (Nov 12/2019, ruined the holidays). The information you’ve given in addition to some of the comments is invaluable.
Thank you so much for this. I had a trimalleolar fracture on my left ankle and had been non weight bearing for about 10 weeks. At 12 weeks they want me to get rid of my crutches but I feel like it is so soon. I’m trying to stay motivated but it is a little overwhelming.
You’ll know when the time is right Scarlet. I have the same tri-fracture & healing naturally; no surgery. I was NWB for 12 weeks and then told by the Ortho Consultant to get my shoes on & start walking…. not that straightforward. I hadn’t even had the use of crutches up to this point, but I spoke to Community Physio who suggested that was thd next stage. Fully got rid of the crutches at 20 weeks after weaning myself to one crutch a few weeks prior. We’re all different; just keep at it and listen to your ankle
I just ran across this looking at how to use a knee scooter. I find this very helpful! I broke my ankle 3 weeks ago so I’m not at the weight bearing part yet.
Thank you for this very helpful post. And thank you for all who have commented. I had flat foot reconstruction surgery on Jan 3. I was in a boot from Oct 1, 2019 until surgery. I’m NWB and in a cast, which comes off Feb 17. I was told to ‘bring my boot and crutches’. Thank you for the real scoop on returning to weight bearing. I’m ready to call and schedule PT for the day after cast removal- but it sounds like I should wait and work on it at home. We’ll see what surgeon recommends. The whole thing terrifies me- will my foot support me, will it know how to move, and I’m also worried about my ‘good’foot- all it did for the last 6 weeks was push the knee scooter. Heard the iWalk was a life saver. I did not use one because of winter weather. But two of my friends used it and loved it. Freedom to go up/down steps, walk their dogs, and do pretty much everything they used to do when weight bearing.
I broke my fibula in September and had surgery September 13th. I an back to walking and cycling some. I still am very stiff and don’t have full range of motion. I am hoping it will continue to improve. However, I have numbness in my toes almost all the time. Anyone else experience this? My doctor said he will not be concerned until I’m 12 – 18 months from surgery, but he also said it could be from the nerve block, but I don’t think it is still from that.
Hi I broke my ankle in two places and damaged all my weight bare ligaments had to have surgery and had two screws to hold my ankle in place I also broke my shin bone. I had a nerve block also. The brakes happened in April on the 5 so not that long ago. I’m still in a cast , I can move my toes alittle but their still quite numb my ankle in the cast I feel gets quite achy towards the end of the day then I get little twitches and like spasms where my ankle like sort of jumps sorry it’s hard to explain. I’ve got to go back to the hospital on the 18th of this month I’m guessing for another x-ray. I’m very nervous about the whole weight baring part. Thanks for having this page . Me to have been trying to find more info so great to find this. Wishing you all luck on your journeys , sending lots of love.
Amy, I curious if your numbness ever went away. I broke my fibula and ankle about 7 weeks ago. Had tight rope fixation surgery and have progressed from a cast to boot but still currently NWB. I still have some numbness in my entire foot. Ortho dr doesn’t seemed concerned at this point.
Good to read about all the other experiences out there. I broke my fibula and ankle on 16 December, surgery on 22 December, NWB with cast and crutches until 24 January. A memorable Christmas for all the wrong reasons! Was given a boot on 24 January and told I could fully weight bear as long as I had the boot on, and to use the crutches for support. That evening I decided to try and go upstairs on my feet instead of on my bottom for the first time in 6 weeks. I clearly put too much weight through my foot, the pain was excruciating. I spent the weekend with a very sore, very swollen ankle, hardly able to get the boot on. After another visit to the hospital, I was given a different boot and told to weight bear as much as I could take. Nearly two weeks on, I feel I have made no progress. The ankle is still very swollen which apparently is normal. The boot is quite high and whatever I wear on my good foot is lower so I am lopsided the whole time I am walking – this means I need my crutches for balance. I feel I am relying on my crutches to take the weight so I am not making any progress towards weight bearing on my ankle – and to be frank I am actually terrified about putting weight on my ankle again. I feel I have no strategies to help me move forward. Back at hospital in 3 weeks and I want to have moved forward by then but don’t know how. Added to all this, my mental health and well being are taking a big hit, I hate being so tired just making a cup of tea, I hate being so inactive and I hate relying on everybody else for the least little thing. I can’t even shower without help! It’s grim!!
Any tips and strategies for any of this would be welcome. If you are going through this I wish you all the best.
Thank you, Dana and all who have shared their experiences. This has been very helpful. Hearing that I am not the only one who has found this recovery process exhausting is a relief.
I fractured my right ankle in late December after slipping on ice. It was treated non-surgically and I wore a hard cast for six weeks. Using a knee walker allowed me to remain as independent as possible during that time. I rented one but it would have cost less to buy one as Dana recommends. The knee walker made the recovery process much more tolerable.
The cast was removed yesterday. I am using a high boot ($150) and I was instructed to use a standard walker to gradually progress to weight-bearing. I should have asked for more information about how to do that because I don’t believe I am walking as I should. It has been difficult so far. I have had mild discomfort but no pain. I told my boss that I will be returning to work next week, but now I am having second thoughts. Let’s see how the rest of this week goes.
Anyhow, my foot and ankle are still swollen and I was wondering if that is normal and how long that is expected to last. (The doctors don’t give straight answers.) Also, I was wondering what others recommend to apply to one’s skin once the leg is out of a cast. I expected my skin to be dry after being in a cast for six weeks, but it is much worse than I anticipated. Suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.
Best wishes to all in your recovery.
This was so helpful in knowing what to expect in the recovery process. I broke my fibula (clean break, non-displaced) after a fall in my driveway on the evening of Feb. 8th. The ER put on a temp. cast and I was referred to an orthopedic Physician’s Assistant 3 days later. He said he does not do MRI’s on an ankle fracture to check for soft tissue/tendon damage. He cut off the cast and put me in a walking boot. He said he expects me to start bearing weight by this weekend. I can already tell you that this will be impossible. The swelling has not yet gone down and the ankle is still terribly bruised and discolored. I have fallen twice on the crutches and am currently in the process of trying to get insurance to authorize a second opinion to an actual foot specialist. The pain has been so hard to stay on top of and I feel there is more going on than just the broken fibula. It has been very discouraging, but reading this article has helped me realize that this PA’s expectations are quite unrealistic. Thank you for such a detailed description on your experience and I wish you well in your continued recovery!
Angela, I too broke my fibula (clean break, no displacement) late March 2020 after falling off my pushbike. I was in a temp’ cast for a week, then that was replaced by a permanent cast NWB for 6 weeks. I kept it elevated as much as possible. Had the cast off after 6 long weeks. I was then given an ankle support with adjustable velcro straps and was told I didnt have to wear it all the time, but to gradually start putting weight on my ankle again and start walking around! Easier said than done! I have been doing physio exercises sent to me via email because of CoVid19. After 6 weeks without my cast, my ankle is still quite painful when walking, I am still limping. My ankle is very stiff and swollen and feels quite warm to the touch. I do ice it at times too. I have no idea if it is healing properly! The physio has asked questions about my mobility etc which was all ok, but I never expected the healing process to be so long! It feels like I will never walk properly again.
Such a great article! I had a traumatic injury on ice with dislocated ankle fracture requiring ORIF. My care was delayed by 15 days due to physician/hospital issues. Like so many people, I can’t begin to describe all the ugly moments because of everyone having their own agenda. When the dust settled I was NWB for 9 weeks. I was sent to PT but it was ABCs and picking up marbles with my toes, wobble boards and standing on each foot for increasing length of time..After 2nd 6 weeks in PT, I was on my own. After a year of pain and limping, I found a new PT. Myofascial release provided relief and increased range of motion. Water therapy brought relief. Moral of the story…We are all different. If your Doc or PT don’t fix it. Try another. There is life after breaking an ankle even if you are in your 60’s. If you know you aren’t a whiner, don’t let the medical system convince you otherwise. It is a slow recovery but it can happen. Don’t give up.
Like everyone else says, it is so useful to read this post and all the responses. It sure gives a sense of ‘you are not alone in this’ and some useful hints for coping.
I fell and broke my ankle on Feb 7th; had a bad experience as the hospital put my leg in cast and sent me home and told me to come back in 2 weeks time. Apparantly the cast was not set properly and I should have been operated on immediately. So there was no healing. However I have since been operated on week and half ago and had the pins and screws put in. Ortho doc says by this weekend I will be put in a boot which I have to wear for 3 months. I am 65, diabetic, and he found that my bones were soft so I have to be extra careful and will take longer than normal to heal.
I am not sure what to expect once the boot is put on, so it has been good to hear others’ experiences.
I can relate to the feelings of frustration and helplessness and low energy and crying.:)
I wish us all great amounts of healing energy and quick recoveries.
Wow thank you so much for all the information, I broke tib & fib plus protruding bones, had surgery & am I a external fixator, this is week 3, I have another 3 to ex fix removal & if no further fractures on removal will go into a walking cast, if fractures will go into a normal cast. I am nwb now & if I go into non walking cast will be nwb. So I praying for walking cast. I had no idea what to expect this has helped me so much & inspired by your strength. I thank you
Thank you for your post about recovering from a broken leg! I broke my tibia in two places four weeks ago. I had a follow up appointment 8 days ago, and I am scheduled to see my ortho doc on April 1st. That will not happen because of the COVID-19. So I wanted to see what was going to be in my future. You provided great and detailed information, which I appreciate! Guess I am going to get back to well on my own. Hope you are doing well. Stay safe!
Thank you Dana for the helpful post I broke my tibia and fibula in the right leg 3 weeks earlier and i am still on the bed . Next week I will start to walk with crutches and this post and others’ xp will be really helpful for me and i am hoping for good time without struggling to get on with crutches.
Thank you everyone. I fell dislocated my ankle and broke it. I was in Mexico on vacation. Flew home two days later and saw doctor shortly after. Reyplaced the splint original doctor put on and relocated ankle. Painful but necessary. Surgery one week later because I followed orders and swelling went way down. It is almost two weeks later and I see the doctor in a couple of days. I usually don’t want to know what comes next but this info has certainly relieved anxiety for me. Hang in there everyone. We will get through this. In the last couple of years I lost my husband after almost 43 years, smashed my shoulder and had surgery to repair and broke my wrist. I am 70 and know I will get through this too. Have faith.
This post has given me so much reassurance. I wish I had found it sooner. I had ORIF surgery in Austria 9 weeks ago after slipping on ice. Was told my injury was nothing special. Be that as it may, I’m now trying to walk again and dealing with UK hospitals in the middle of a pandemic is a non starter. My cast was cut off and I was given a boot and told that I just had to pretty much get on with it. No physio due to pandemic and the doctors have said, due to pandemic, I cannot have any further treatment. So, I borrowed a walker from my neighbour and now trying to teach myself to walk again. It’s going to be a long slog but so many accounts here have really helped spur me on. After the cast came off, 2 weeks ago, the consultant told me I would be driving after 2 weeks. I beg to differ. I will get there but when I know that I am safe. Thank you Dana and everyone else who has contributed.
How are you now? I had Displaced bones and Weber b trimeallor fracture of right ankle On June 12th, had immediate external fixation until swelling reduced and then ORIF 4 days later. The surgeon sent physio to me 2 hours after surgery and told me I needed to walk on it straight away. I had avalusion and small crack of left ankle which they gave me a moon boot to wear and also a sprained wrist so was unable to weight bear and was given a gutter frame and told to try and walk. Stitches removed after 2 week and plaster cast on for 6 week. At my 6 week check up consultant never even looked at my ankles, told me to get rid of the boot on left leg, removed plaster cast and told me I could now walk with crutches. No follow up appointment and told I should stop using crutches in 2 week (8 after surgery) no physio given due to Covid so I have had 2 video calls. At the moment I am still in pain in both ankles and can’t sleep well due to the pain. Both ankles and lower leg remain swollen. I’m now 14 week since my accident and still using crutches, so painful. I can gobble about in the house without crutches but need them outside. I find the ankle with screws and plates in has very little bend in it. As your injury was just before mine I wondered what I should expect at 14 week. Doctors are saying I should be fine by now and could return to work. I can’t drive and can not get up and down stairs or walk on a slight slope unaided
Thanks for this post, I have found it an interesting read. I am week 4 post surgery and in a soft cast. I will be non weight bearing until the cast is removed at my next appoint in June and then the work begins.
Right now I am really struggling, my partner is finding it a drain having to help me, but as soon as I move around my leg swells a lot.
With 2 weeks left I need to find ways of being more self sufficient.
Again thank you, gave me some good tips to help.
THANK YOU ALL!!! There is so LITTLE on the internet for a broken ankle! I broke mine 3 weeks ago and all the ortho said was, “Eventually you will want to start walking on it.” I was like – “ummmm……yea.” But besides that, nothing else! I did not have to have surgery but was left scratching my head. Am I doing to much? Not enough? There is no cast (outer bone broke) with extreme sprain. I am so grateful you mentioned the fatigue. I go for rides with my husband (like a dog and look out the window, with an occasional treat at the end) and after an hour, I’m tired and ready for ice and elevation. I try to go to work but only last about 3 hours in the boot because of the swelling. I am not that old so I’m bummed and surprised at how hard it is! I guess I am learning patience, learning to be served, and slowing down and getting closer to God. I pray all of you on here a speedy recovery. Many prayers to all of you. Thanks for sharing!!!
Thanks for your detailed account of your progression back from injury. Also appreciate seeing the comments/anecdotes from other folks, so thought I’d add my own story….
April 27: Stepped into my pool while skimming (lack of spatial awareness on my part), left leg went to the bottom (~3.5 feet down) while my right foot stayed on the deck. Very painful, but thought… maybe a high ankle sprain?
April 28: Went to urgent care, x-rays indicated fractured fibula. Referred to Ortho later in the week. Due to covid, that was supposed to be a telehealth appointment. Ortho called me the day of the appointment to re-schedule in person the following week, because he didn’t have all the x-rays he needed (i.e., gravity stress) to make a definitive diagnosis.
May 5: Ortho appt with gravity stress x-ray. Weber B fracture, borderline unstable. Discussed options (surgery vs. set and cast), and based on my age and activity/fitness level, opted for surgery.
May 11 (two weeks after injury): ORIF surgery on the fibula (plate and screws). While in there, he did some manual manipulation and was happy with the spacing, so he didn’t need to do the longer pin through fib/tib. Sent home with a plethora of drugs and a beefy splint, NWB.
May 26 (two weeks post-surgery): Follow-up appointment, transition from splint to a walking boot. Referred for 6 weeks of ROM PT, progressing to strengthening at 6 weeks. Told by the ortho doc to “walk around with crutches for now, gradual weight-bearing.” Unimpressed at the lack of specifics, I found your blog post. I like the +25# every two days approach, and utilizing the scale to gauge the weight. I missed the 1 hour per day suggestion on my first read, and am probably doing half that at best, and in much smaller time increments. So will make more of an effort going forward.
Daily walks (1 – 1.5 hours) and 3x weekly runs (6-7 miles) were my release valve in the early days of the covid lockdown, so suffice to say I’ve been going stir crazy with this injury!
The ortho doc said (pre-surgery) that I would be at 90% in 3 months. In my follow-up, he said 90% in 2 months, but that the last 10% would take a long time. Meanwhile, PT seems more realistic with a 4-6 month projection. Anyway, fingers crossed that everything continues to improve. So far, so good! 2x weekly PT for now, and next ortho follow-up on June 23rd.
Oh goodness, I’ve been thinking of everyone who’s broken something during COVID-19 and how an already challenging time escalates to a new level! FWIW, if you can still get outside to breathe fresh air and do your WB work outside..I’d try to do that. I remember even pre-COVID-19 for my experience with a broken ankle how much better I felt getting a little bit of fresh air, whether that was during my WB work time or otherwise. Moving your body through space outside of your house makes a difference for mental health, if you can safely do so!
Regarding the hour a day, I vividly remember my ortho saying that you can get by with less, but to help make improvement, the longer segments and the hour overall are what seem to help people progress, so it’s a good goal to aim for!
Regarding the last 10% – the last 10% definitely takes a long time, depending on how you assess it! I was walking etc several months after my fracture, but I think it was really the 9-10 mo time frame where I moved past the stage of my ankle feeling stiff when I woke up every morning and needing to really stretch it out to get my mobility going..so there’s lots of little ups and downs still in the last 5-10%. Don’t let that discourage you – keep looking back at where you were the day you broke it or the day after surgery for context on how far you’ve already come!
I am glad I found this post, it has given me some hope. I have been feeling very depressed and hopeless for the last few days, which make every day feel like a year.
I was exercising in my bedroom on May 12 when I stepped on a shirt on the floor and heard my leg snap as I went down. To make things worse, my husband is deployed and won’t be home for 6 more months. So, I took an ambulance ride to the hospital where they told me my fibula was broken and to follow up with ortho.
Due to insurance issues I couldn’t get into the ortho for a week. He saw my x-rays and literally said “Holy shit”. Apparently my fibula was broken in at least 3 places and my ankle was nowhere near where it is supposed to be. Due to Covid and more insurance issues I wasn’t able to get surgery for another 9 days, I went in on May 21st for surgery and ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days.
I am now 4 weeks post surgery. I spent the first week in a splint and then a hard cast. I am looking forward to getting my cast off and into a walking boot in 2 weeks.
I am having trouble with the loss of my mobility coupled with my husband being gone. Due to Covid restrictions, he wasn’t able to come home at all. I just needed some hope that I will start feeling better soon. I can’t wait to start weight bearing and get some of my independence back. I am so sick of sitting on the couch all day. I am losing my mind! It’s good to hear from other people and to remember that there will be an end to this!
Amy I hope you are feeling a little better. I went through a tough time after I shattered my ankle nearly two years ago. Weeks in hospital with an external fixator holding the bits together then an operation to fit plates and screws internally. I thought I would never get through it but it’s now just a distant memory. You will get through this too and one day it will be like a bad dream. Allow yourself plenty of rest and be kind to yourself. Best wishes Moira in UK.
Sorry to hear about your accident. Covid makes things worse! I fell on the 3/29/20. They first refused to see me at the ER due to Covid. I had a trimaleolar rt foot fracture and another fracture.I completed 12 weeks post surgery today. I walked 3 miles with no pain, no limp. today morning. After 6 weeks when I was told to go for FWB, I gave up one crutch the next day and the second crutch after 2 days. I was crying when I gave up my crutches. I did not go for PT as it was not covered by insurance and I had just paid my high deductible insurance plan for my surgery! This has been a journey! You will get there. Have faith. Be brave. Work at it. After you are allowed to bear weight, apply that ice, massage that foot and ankle and use compression. Exercise those joints and push yourself ever so much, you will get there and be amazed at your progress. I work as a nurse and have been back at work since my 11th week post op.
Thank you so much for creating this information! I had no clue about beginning the walking process after six weeks in a hard cast after my orif. You gave me hope and a plan to begin working my way back to bearing weight. I found this site the day before I got my cast off and got my walking boot. What a gift, may God bless you for helping so many others!
I too am so glad I found this post!! Thank you Dana for sharing your experience! It has given me hope to read it and other people’s experienced with recovering from leg factures! I fell early June of this year, non displaced fibula fracture with torn deltoid ligament and others, stage iv fracture per Ortho, unstable ankle. Plate/screws 16 days later. NWB for over 4 wks by the time I was recently cleared for the following: 50lbs of weight bearing using boot and both crutches for one week. Second week one crutch, boot and 100 lbs weight bearing. 3rd week: boot only no crutches. Also gave me range of motion exercises (abc, etc) PT will start up in 4-5 wks.
I’m doing the best I can with putting weight on my leg but am not to 50 lbs. I really can’t fathom being crutch free in 3 wks. I am no where able to do an hour a day of walking. He told me to walk as tolerated. Maybe in the next week or two I can progress to an hour. The pain, swelling and weakness are the limiting factors as we all know. I am thankful that I can do more than I could for myself a week ago but do wish Ortho was more realistic with the recovery process. My sister is a PT and thinks it is going to take 3-4 months at least.
I have a trimalleolar fracture on my left ankle – stepped off deck wrong and managed to sprain my right ankle as well. A 30 minute drive to the nearest ER. The Ortho there said I’d need surgery, but gave no indication that I had a serious injury. We were 4 hours from home so he splinted it and we left. I opted not to have surgery there and try to recover at our cabin.
It’s good to have friends who know people, so the surgeon here (home) said go straight to the ER. Fortunately the hospital is open for business after being shut down for 2 months. My husband was not able to go in with me however. 3.5 of surgery , 9 screws and 2 plates later (and negative c19) spent the night home the next day. That was 2 weeks ago. Saw the doc Wednesday to take my cast off and get a walking boot. Not that I’ll be walking any time soon! PT this Monday.
I have a scooter, walker and crutches. Use the scooter the most until my right ankle feels better
Super frustrated at how hard/difficult everything is, and how tiring.
I’m 69 and was in pretty good shape- hiking daily etc.
Am being as optimistic as possible, I can get out on the deck and get some Vit D. And glad I’ll be able to go to PT.
Thanks for this post, as I got very little info before I got cut loose.
Hoping to find a lighter weight boot thing to sleep in, the dreaded walking boot is hot and scratchy. Doc said I didn’t have to wear it at night, but we have 2 dogs who also sleep on the bed so thinking I need to protect my ankle. Ha, and no, they won’t sleep on the floor!
This too shall pass- slowly!
Right fibula fracture – non displaced so no surgery. Given boot but unable to bear weight. I was only able to toe touch while using walker. Back in ER a week later with blood clots in that leg. (If you have calf swelling, be sure to get it checked out!) Live alone and due to COVID I was unable to have many visitors. I am accustomed to going to work all day and being with people. Sitting at home alone for months is hard. Having to care for myself when unable to walk is hard. Getting knee scooter helped. Started PT at 10 weeks post fracture and finally at 12 weeks, I am bearing weight with a cane. Still can’t drive. I fatigue easily, the ankle & foot are still swollen, my foot is reddish/blue when not elevated. I have battled discouragement because my ortho doc acted like this was no big deal. WELL IT IS!!
I suffered multiple fractures from a 20ft fall. My entire weight landed on the bottom my right foot shattering and crushing the end of my tibia pushing the fractured pieces up the bone. I also broke the bottom of my heel bone. I went to an orthopedic surgeon who performed surgery on my daughter’s ankle when she fractured her growth plate and was sent away due to the severity of the injury. I had to seek a trauma surgeon. He wrapped my entire leg in soft cast while I waited to have my first surgery in 3 days. First surgery was for external fixation device- almost like a halo where they drilled pins into my tibia and heel. It was a pain to have that for 2 weeks cause I kept hitting it on everything. After 2 weeks of having external fixation, I went for my second surgery. I felt very unsafe cause the hospital was full of Covid patients at the time. The surgery took 6 hrs and the surgeons placed screws, plates and bone glue to try and keep the shattered pieces together. The bottom end of my tibia did not have any shape at all and the fractured pieces were all pushed up into the tibia from the fall. Yeah, the surgeons said that it was one of the worst ankle fractures they’ve seen and worked on. The very next morning I was in so much pain that I can’t even get out of the bed to pee. I was up all night moving around every 2 minutes from the pain. The entire foot was swollen. It went on for 5 days of extreme pain without sleep. I didn’t want to drink or eat anything cause it was so painful just to even go to the bathroom. I had the hard cast on for 12 weeks and finally gave me the boot (pun) but no weight bearing for another 4 weeks. So yeah, I was in a boot but still fully relied on the crutches as I was still NWB. My 4 month appointment was 3 days ago and he finally gave me the thumbs up for WB. I tried to walk on my boot that day without crutches and let me tell you… the pain was excruciating. It felt like there were knives placed in my foot and ankle and someone kept pushing them in as I put weight on it or took a step (which was worst). I kept on with it and today was a big improvement. I am now able to stand on both my feet and able to walk a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still painful but not as bad as the past 3 days. I was told by my ortho that have joint space narrowing and arthritis already forming which was expected so this could be why I’m in so much pain. He gave me an ankle brace which I can put on with my shoe but I told him that I was not ready for it and that I will slowly transition to it once I’m ready. Keep in mind that these doctors will tell you to do certain things even when you’re not ready for it. The important thing to remember is to listen to your body. He agreed with me btw lol. He advised me to use the boot when I go out and maybe put the brace on at home and try to support myself with crutches and slowly steer away from it. I walked with the brace on without crutches today on carpeted flooring cause it seems to absorb the impact rather than hard wood and I was able to walk for about 15 minutes. The pain was getting less and less so it’s just a matter of repetition. Hang in there cause you will eventually get there
I found this article shortly after I broke my ankle, I was looking for something like ‘how to cope with a broken ankle’, issued exactly like described here.
Thank you so much for writing this up. It helped me a lot. I am physically fit and exercise a lot, I could not believe the fatigue I had to experience.
The listing of different items (e.g. ankle brace, desk etc.) was very helpful as well.
Broke the 3 bones in my ankle on July 5, 2020 and had ORIF surgery the next day with a soft cast and splint. At 3 weeks I was changed to a fibreglass cast. I’m now 4 weeks post op and NWB. I can’t use my crutches at all. Using the knee scooter almost exclusively and the walker when I have to. I’m sitting for hours and hours each day and it’s so frustrating. Summer is passing me by and it’s depressing. Orthopedic doc told me that at 6 weeks post op I will move to the boot and start WB. It’s so hard to be reliant on others for everything and can’t drive! Ugh. Thanks for this article that shows there’s a light at the end of the tunnel but right now it feels so far away. Looking forward to getting back to WB and starting PT in the coming weeks.
I broke 3 bones as well June 25th. Had ORIF July 10th. On September 9, my next Drs appointment, I am expecting to be full weight bearing. I was toe weight bearing for a week now. Not sure how helpful that was. But. I am expected to be able to return back to work September 19. So. Given that I’m confident I will be full weight bearing I have been working on more than just toe weight today. I’m thankful to find this site because I had no idea what to expect. Seriously. Who does anyone know who’s been through what we are going through for advice. I’m hoping to progress to just a cane before the 19th. That’s my goal. I’m glad I read your post. It seems we have a lot in common
Great reading everyone’s stories ,thanks Dana for your story, I’m week 14 snapped ankle and fractured shin all Orif ; 2 metal plates and lots of screws in: wearing boot since 4 days after surgery ,13th May 2020, freak accident on grass ,went over on my ankle wearing flat form sandals 😫 never felt pain like it ; heard ankle crack and then managed to fall twisting my shin bone fracturing it big style,! So after 6 weeks of NWB , fracture still there but now thankfully after 12 weeks in ,my shin healed ; still in the boot and without it can’t walk , using crutches : getting physio soon and doing stretches for my ankle! Can I just say the sensations in my foot from metal is really horrible, sometimes numb, pins n needles just really uncomfortable but surgeon and physio say it’s normal, I’m just fed up and exhausted and feeling deflated but as my hubby and friends remind me there’s a massive difference from first three weeks when I couldn’t move and doped up on pain killers. So glad I found you all makes me feel better! Onwards and upwards I just want to walk normal without this boot 😕
Hi everyone, thank you for sharing your stories… it helps reading similar experiences. I’m 3.5 weeks post ORIF surgery. I am in a walking boot for 3 days now, still getting used to it. It is heavy and clunky. I didn’t sleep with it on… I used my splint instead but I wear it during the day as much as possible.
My ortho doctor said I can start PT next week to get some ROM back before allowed to weight bearing in 4 weeks. I tried to “write” the alphabet with my foot but I couldn’t.. so frustrating. I can barely flex my foot up and down. I am afraid of damaging the fracture or the healing process. I will wait until next week to see what the PT will do. I m really hoping I can start bearing weight in a month. I’m currently using crutches and a walker to get around. They make my hands sore …and even my good leg is getting tired of bearing all the weight …
I broke my ankle on Sept 5th – not long after you! I hope you’re doing better now, as I have noticed much improvement after 5 weeks and after starting to use a walking boot.
The weight bearing seems to “loosen” up my ankle and doesn’t hurt as long as I listen to my body. It has also improved my range of motion (along with some stretching and exercises).
Hopefully you can report the same and you’re doing okay!
I experienced a trimalleolar fracture of my right ankle coming down stairs at the end of last month—my left foot went out from under me and I tried to “break my fall” using my right foot. Bad idea! Surgery with two plates and multiple screws eleven days later, I am in a boot but still nonweightbearing (for a total of six weeks) because of the nature of the third fracture. Reading others’ experiences makes me feel not so alone, and this post is helping me put together a game plan in my mind for recovery. Thank you for sharing your experience in a detailed and frank way.
So I’m 3 weeks post op … will be going to the Otho 15th sept … to see if he will put me in a boot … the first appointment he took xrays and sees it healing very nicely … hoping he will put me in a boot on the 15th .. I’m terrified with everyone having a difficult time bearing weight and still in pain … please give me some hope
I’m 3 months post op ( trimalleolar fracture) and now one month weight bearing. It’s for sure is a process so listen to YOUR body, if it gets swollen and stiff (and mine does when I’m on it a lot) ice and elevate. The bone may be healed but the soft tissue is still inflamed and your muscles aren’t used to the new normal- yet ! Do your PT exercises and stretches
Every ortho doc seems to have a different protocol! Mine said (at 7 weeks zero weight) to “ditch the boot and scooter “, which I promptly did, only to overdo. Stupid. So I got a soft splint. Wore that till my final ortho appt last week. Now I use it when I hike.
Remember to listen to your ankle, it’s going to hurt and swell up if you do too much! Hang in and good luck on the 15th 😊
Hey! I fell and broke my ankle (tibia and fibia) on July 21, 2020 while on vacation. I took an ambulance ride down the island and across a ferry to get to the hospital! The X-rays showed 7 breaks in one bone and 2 in the other. I had surgery the same day and ended up with a plate and 7 screws in one bone and 2 screws in the other. Spent the night at the hospital. Two weeks later I went to a orthopedic doctor and they removed the staples and placed me in a soft splint that I could remove to shower! I was in that for 4 weeks, last week I went back and they put me in a walking boot so I can start weight barring. Only problem is that my foot was in one position so long I cannot bend it to the 90 degree angle to fit in the boot properly with my heel at the bottom. So now I’m scared to start weight barring. I’m trying to do exercises to stretch my Achilles’ tendon but I’m not getting any more flex in a weeks time. It’s very frustrating! Ankle is still swollen and I have the pins and needles feeling in my foot. Any advice would be appreciated!!
I fell and did a large fragmentation of my tibula on 26th July. A surgery for a plate six screws and a bolt, followed by 8 weeks non weight bearing. I am now following advice from a fabulous private physio. The best thing I am finding is a trug of cold water (ice if you can stand it) then gently rolling your foot on a ball. Lots of massage with deep heat and gently stretching your toes, ankle, knee and glutes… yes all the way up your leg. I can almost make 90 degrees despite my foot drooping downwards when I’m not concentrating on it.
I can’t thank everyone on this site enough, your shared experiences have helped me through a dark painful night. Together we can all make it to a recovery.
Thank you for your useful post. I was looking for information on weightbearing. I broke my fibula 7
weeks ago falling of my bike with my whole bodyweight landing on my ankle. I have a clean, simple fracture. I’ve had a cast for six weeks. X-rays after six weeks revealed that my fracture wasn’t healed yet, yet they told me to start weightbearing as that might stimulate more bonegrowth, so that feels extra scary with a fracture. I have no walkingboot or anklebrace. I’m from the Netherlands and I think our healthcare system sucks ,lol, and that it is weird to walk on a non healed fracture with no extra support or guidance. For a week I was making good progress, walking on it for ten minutes at a time without pain, holding one crutch. Doing flex exercises. I kind of felt I had a good sense of when to put weight on it and when to rest. That I found the right balance. But yesterday when I was doing a simple flex exercise, I heard a loud cracking sound snd after it started hurting again, although all of the sudden it was a bit more flexible. A sharp pain and I keep reading everywhere that this is bad. So very worried now that if a slight amount of callus was formed, that it is already broken again or something. The fracture site had been very hot ever since the cast came of and swelling has gone down only maybe 2%. So might get a second opinion now. But at least your post has been very useful! Good luck to everybody!
Very helpful info! Broke my ankle three weeks ago…surgery, pins, plates…you give very practical advice for dealing with the challenges of getting around on one leg and letting me know what to expect when I start PT. Thank you!
Same as everyone else. Thanks for writing this post and taking time to document. Its been ‘good’ (?) to read all the comments and stories. In particular, Im so glad you wrote about the tiredness. I thought I was being a drama queen.
After running down steps and cockling over an upturned brick…who even does that? Why didnt I see it? I broke my ankle. Have been in hard cast and crutches for 3 weeks. Then boot and crutches for 3 weeks. Im back for xrays and check up tomorrow.
You know what I thought…seeing as I didn’t know any different. I thought after 3 weeks in the boot that would be it. Maybe a week to restore my muscles and I’ll be up and walking with maybe just a limp. ;-/ I work outdoors making Custom design containers and its now winter container season and Christmas decorating. I seriously expected to be at work next week shopping for supplies and getting stuck into the dirt! uuuuggghh! I guess not after reading all this . Im sad I wont be going to work next week or the week after, but grateful to read all the stories and know that its a work in progress and I have to be patient! Speedy recovery to everyone.
Thank you so much for your detailed post, and to everyone commenting with their stories! I guess I’m the latest to have one to share. I had a pilon fracture to my left ankle when I slipped and fell on my mountain bike (with my 7 year old son!) on 10/24/20. Surgery on 10/30 and have been in cast for last 10 days. I am supposed to get a boot tomorrow, and will go from there for PT. I’m sure I’ll be back here often during each phase of recovery/healing.
I have a knee scooter and crutches to get around, but am feeling so frustrated not getting any fresh air or exercise. My question is: have any of you ventured outside at all (on crutches or scooter) for walks around the neighborhood? I’ve only left my house for dr visits, and TBH I’m a little scared but am also going stir crazy. If anyone has any insight I’d love to hear about it.
If you’re asking about venturing outside because of COVID-19 (?)…yes, by all means venture outside. Wear a mask if it makes you more comfortable (but if you’re not around anyone while it outside it is not necessary). Outside is a great place to be and is the least risky place with regards to COVID-19. Fresh air and exercise helps A LOT with broken ankle recovery…and also helps with mental health during COVID-19 pandemic!
I was referring more to just crutching around outside, and my fear of losing my balance on the old uneven sidewalks! I still go up and down stairs on my butt, and I’m 6 weeks post-surgery (NWB still). I think my accident was so traumatic that I don’t want to risk any other injury. That said, I have gotten out a bit more and it feels sooooo nice to get fresh air. I can’t wait to actually be able to walk in my neighborhood again!
Great feedback all! My story, I was mountain biking and hit a bad spot and went down hard. This has happened before and normally a few scrapes and bangs and I’m back on the bike. Well this time, my left foot got stuck in the clip-in pedals. Maybe I had them too tight, maybe it was just bad luck. Basically, my bike and foot went one way and I went the other, at first I thought I just twisted or sprained the ankle – pain wasn’t really bad. Then I looked and saw it dislocated and turned at 180 degrees. First thing I checked was skin break – fortunately I saw none, no blood. Whew. Then moved toes, good… Now, I had to get out of the woods.
Hobbled about 1/4 mile to the road, dialed 911 and ambulance to ER. Fortunately I live in an urban/suburban area and ER was available, and they separate the COVID cases. At ER they did x-ray, broke ankle in 3 places, tore ligament and dislocated. There goes the biking season. Had a closed reduction done and sent on my way with crutches and splint. Met with Ortho who said if I don’t have surgery, I’ll gain 50 – 60% back, with surgery 95% back. As an athlete, I can’t give up biking so opted for surgery. Had surgery 8 days later, which went well. In a splint for 8 more days, then cast for 2 weeks and now walking boot (non-weight bearing) for another 3 weeks. After that start PT and weight-bearing. So I’m still in the middle of the journey.
Ortho feels as I was athletic, recovery should be faster. Who knows. Biggest pain I have is cast and now boot pressing against the top of my foot. I have numbness on the top of foot as well and some by the incisions. Also, my toes range of motion isn’t great, can’t curl them…but Ortho said that will come back over time.
I plan to get through this and get back on the bike by February/March, but dumping the clipin pedals going for flats! Good luck all, stay strong!
Wow – your story is very similar to mine. Clip-in pedals on my mountain bike, hit some mud and rear wheel slid out and my left foot did not clip out. I don’t even know where my bike landed but I ended up in the fetal position in a ton of pain, could NOT walk (my whole ankle/foot was flopping around) so paramedics had to wheel the gurney up the trail to me and slip/slide me down.
I had problems with my boot being too tight over the top of my foot at the beginning of it and loosened it at night which helped. My biggest issue is the inside incisions were painful from the metal part of the boot pushing on them. I found that actually compressing the foam inside down MORE helped for that.
Best wishes in your recovery – I’m pretty sure I won’t be mtn biking again anytime soon. But Snowboarding? Yessiree!
Hi Rider, interested to hear how your recovery is going!? I did my ankle fracture (3 bones) a few days after yours, on Nov 24. Had surgery a week later. It is now 9 weeks post surgery. I am only just starting to weight bare in the boot. Having a difficult time. Are you really going to be back on the bike by Feb/Mar. I just want to be able to walk around the house in the boot by then :)!
Thank you Dana & everyone for your posts. I am almost at the end of 6 weeks post surgery & see the ortho surgeon in a few days. NWB so far in a heavy clunky moon boot. It’s good to see & read what the next stage will entail & amazing at how the journey has been so different for many. I’m realizing this next bit will be daunting but find inspiration in everyone’s determination. All the best to you all. So thankful that I found this post.
I fell on stairs yesterday and x-ray shows mildly displaced distal fibular fracture. Nurse was emphatic no weight bearing. 7 weeks ago I had right shoulder surgery to repair torn rotator cuff tendons (3), and bicep tendon. I am leary of using crutches and have a walker for now until I see doc hopefully this week upcoming. I am seeing the surgeon who did my shoulder surgery first for recommendations as I don’t want mess up shoulder progress.
I am fortunate as I already have a PT who is knowledgeable so hopefully he can figure a way to continue progress on my shoulder along with ankle rehab.
Grateful for all of the posts and especially the comments about fatigue which I experienced with my shoulder.
Thank you, everyone, for the tips and information
Thank you for sharing! Recently broke my foot (I’m 4 days in) and found your blog post while googling for confirmation that being THIS exhausted is normal for this type of injury. Just wanted to say that I appreciated everything you write, and am happy to see that you fully recovered!
Thank you so much for the post and all the comments too. I recently fractured my ankle in 3 places, had surgery just over a week ago. It’s good to have an idea of what to expect in the coming months.
Did you sleep with your leg up every night? I bought a special pillow to keep it raised. I’m doing this all the time but finding nights very uncomfortable after a while. I’ve also come off the stronger pain meds so although I’m tired I’m so restless at night it’s so frustrating. I guess this is normal?
I gather it’s a long process which requires patience and kindness to yourself. I’m quite anxious about long term affects as I enjoy running, so hope I’ll be able to get back to that again later rather than sooner
Thanks again & Merry Christmas 🌲
Hi Everyone: I too am pleased to find this blog, information and to read others’ journeys including progression to wb. As others have said there is a very wide range of experiences. There seem to be many who did not get very much information from their surgeons. I fit this category too, even receiving contradictory information from different surgeons. There has been a lot of frustration and more than a couple of meltdowns. I didn’t have any expectations re progressing to wb. Also told to do “as tolerated” with no other info. Was referred to physio so at least have that assistance. Like so many others this is a horrible experience. Not having fun at all. But have to remain hopeful. I fractured 3 ankle bones on Nov 24, requiring surgery which was performed a week later – 3 plates, 16 screws and 40 staples. Was completely non wb for 6 weeks. Have horrible nerve pain around base of inside incision. Non-narcotic meds do not touch it. Have only really started physio and wt bearing 8 weeks post surgery. Not going great. Wearing the boot itself is painful even without doing anything in it. My physio has mentioned complex regional pain syndrome. My question to all is has anyone had or got this, and what has been your experience. Reading about it is quite terrifying. Anyone out there think they had the symptoms thereof, and progress thorough it – nerve pain, numbness, electrical shocks, pain out of proportion to where at, joint stiffness and swelling beyond what considered normal, joint pain in other joints (I thought mine was caused by compensation) and pain in other foot mimicking injured ankle (I’ve only had this v slightly, on and off for short periods). There are other symptoms too – very individual. I cannot get my foot into the boot – can’t get foot flat and heal at the back. Not sure how to wb under these circumstances. Thank you for info re. how difficult it is to continue the activities of daily living and how tiring they are. I find this too. Nice to share how to make these activities a little easier. I am still struggling with how to cook rather than just prepare food. Do very limited tidy up and cleaning. Everything is a struggle.
Many thanks to all input here. I PILON fractured my right ankle (tibia)into 6 parts, compound out the side. Fibula made it ok but also crushed my left wrist. Happened mid Oct. After swelling and removal of fixator they added 2 rods. Basically 4 surgeries between the two breaks with the first day after being unbearable. But overall pain has been manageable until therapy. As gruesome as the foot was, i still have very little pain and started walking recently with the same progression as most. Cast, walker, boot, then lace shoe. Im in first week of full weight bearing (Feb wk 2) and much more prefer a lace up boot with gel or cushion insole. Still no normalcy to walking from limited range of motion but hopeful. And ready to see if running will ever be an option again.
Time leading up to this point was similar to most too. Get everything downstairs and near. bedside desk with everything you need until morning or when you have help, especially water and something to relieve yourself. Pills, remote, computer, phone, chargers etc. And if you can score a bed that tilts, even better. Did the shower bench too and used my office chair to wheel around the house. Ice, compression socks and elevation kept swelling in check and I still use the compression sock while walking.
Just about lost my mind over how avoidable the accident was but try to remind myself that its called an accident because its an accident and Im still alive. If you havent read about Michael J Fox doing the same thing, it may help give you some perspective.
You will start sleeping better and you will start walking again, which has been quite amazing so far. I am very impatient, but I followed everything the doctor recommended and believe it made a huge difference. Using Tylenol vs Motrin. Limit coffee and alcohol. I finally had a drink and paid the price during the night. Curious if others experienced the same.
Be prepared that therapy will leave you wondering if you will ever have the same movement as before. But finally got my fingers to move 90% full range and still going, now foot and wrist. Wrist is by far the most painful to rehabilitate. Slow progress and pain at night. My OT and PT are remarkable. If you dont make progress with yours, might not hurt to have someone recommend another. But be sure to keep your stretches going at home too. If they say 3 times a day and you do it, you’ll see it pay off every week.
As everyone has said, its a long process so hang in there.
Thanks again for all those who wrote in and to Dana for starting it! Everyone heal fast
Yikes John, one fractured limb and one surgery is quite enough. Can’t imagine having done an upper limb too and having multiple surgeries. Yes, I tried alcohol – half can of cider – and paid the price. Had V & D all night until completely empty. Am on gabapentin for nerve pain, so wasn’t a great choice.
Now 12 weeks post op and had 5 weeks physio. Agree, physio and doing the exercises pay off – well worth doing. Am walking in shoe without support (cane/crutches) for short distances and times. Gets better each day. Good luck all.
Hope you’re doing better John. It’s a long hard road.
Thank you so much for this incredibly clear article about the trouble of a broken ankle, and the happy ending that you are ok now.
I really couldn’t understand my lack of energy …. getting worse every day. And also the pains in your body, every day somewhere else… arms, wrists, the other ankle, knee, chest… now I know it’s the new normal, and part of the healing.
Thank you again,
Wish you the best,
Very very pleased to read how other injured people have coped with being immobilized. Was hoping to get back to normal sooner rather than later so it seems like I need to adjust my thinking to longer than I thought.
That’s really good to know. It’s only one week since double ankle fracture & into moonboot.
Crutches are cumbersome but very grateful to have them.
Have set goals to write sections of my autobiography & other projects as well.
Also taking natural things like magnesium, calcium etc.
If my comfrey has enough leaves, I’m making some ppoulticeswwithit.
Tehanks again for everyone’ss story,advice & encouragement.
In the grand scheme of life, this is only temporary. 💪😳
I appreciate reading everyone’s experiences. I rolled my ankle and have a fibular fracture. Missed a bottom step, something so simple, ugh. I am one week into this and it feels like forever. And all of your injuries make me féel like such a wimp. I am in a boot and have been told to wear it all the time, sleeping as well,except when icing my ankle. Dr. told me to do some WB ( had to ask for a percentage, it’s such a vague instruction!) with crutches. I go back on the 14th of May, 3 weeks after the injury for xrays to check. I sure hate being dependent on my husband. All your stories give me encouragement, this is my first time and I hope only injury like this. I guess not bad for being 65. Thank you everyone!
Oh Susie, I know how you feel. I squashed a spider I had just hosed down with bug spray on bamboo flooring, so my thing is even more simple. Don’t feel like a wimp, I stopped sleeping for like two weeks after my break and ended up not eating or drinking without help. I hope you have healed well since this post!
hard to believe that from golf i would have an jnjury this devastating, i broke mi fibia and tibia clean fracture with sprained ankle. as all of you i had many unanswered questions on what to do, time frame and pain plus expectations to walk again normal. mi sister is an RN in LA area so she warned me that i would be out 4 to 6 months before walking, i went with the 8 to 10 weeks google advice instead since that suit mi expectations and i wanted to believe it was just another injury that i would get through. this has been a very inpatient and devastating to mi life injury, but we must stay positive and follow the exercises to get better. there is times when family and people will think you just normal and don’t realize what exactly we are dealing with. i mean just to shower and putting walking boot and bandages for the first 12 weeks its an every day nightmare, im going on mi 12th week now and can walk on mi boot for going to the restroom and around the house and work. i used mi scooter since week 1 . i never liked the crutches. the scooter its the best way to get around for the most part, oh big advice do not use and try shoping in San Francisco LOL i learned the hard way that hills are not scooter friendly. im very thankfull for this article and page that i was able to read other’s experiences to help me understand and encorage me to stay patient and keep with phisical therapy . even after the pain its gone 80% that 20% left over can comeback and wear you out at end of the day. leg and ankle still get swollen i limp for most part since mi foot muscles are numb and have somewhat of arthritis due to lack of use for this many months. but i feel that in 3 weeks i should be past limping and walking better by 4th month.
Thank you all for so much helpful information and all the encouraging words. I’m 4 weeks into a trimalleolar fracture of the left ankle. Surgery (2 plates and lots of screws), out of the hard cast and now in a huge boot 24/7 and still NWB for another 2 weeks until I can start PT and gradual WB. Long slow process, but I realize there’s light at the end of the tunnel thanks to you all.
Please keep posting – very much appreciated!
Thanks for this blog. I had ORIF Jan 6 to repair open tib-fib fractures. Today is May 9, 4 months later. I am FWB but still have daily swelling and pain. I’m unable to walk or do work around the house at anywhere close to pre-injury. (I’m retired, so I don’t have to worry about showing up to an office every day, thank god.)
I look all the time online for information included here to see how others are coping and recovering.
I had PT for 6 weeks after the cast was off and continue to do the exercises at home about 3x a week. My brother is a trainer so his advice is to back off the exercises if there’s pain or unusual swelling. I think the exercises are mainly keeping me at an even level of mobility, but not yet advancing to pre-injury status. My fear is that the achilles tendon will atrophy or become stiff, so I do a lot of bending — squats and lunges, as well as cow/camel yoga to keep it stretched. And I bought a balance board to encourage and increase stability. My gait is still not normal. I usually have to have a cane for part of the day and always by evening when the swelling and pain is worse.
I have a shower seat and we installed handrails in the shower, which is a large walk-in shower, so much easier to use than having to navigate over a tub rim.
Sometimes I have a lot of pain on the tibula side where there are screws. I might have to call the PA about this if it becomes more of a problem.
This is the first broken bone I ever had and have been stumbling along in the dark about what to expect. Thanks for this blog and for continuing to monitor it. It’s a great help.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to tell their stories. This site is what I needed to find to help me recover from a walking accident on 23rd January 2021. I dislocated my left ankle and had to have a plate and screws fitted. It is a painful journey with lots and lots of tears and frustration when I think of the life I had before and asking myself will I ever be normal again! Good luck to everyone and I am sure we shall get there in the end!
I broke both ankles (bimalleolar) 6 weeks ago, so far have had cast on both feet and non weight bearing. Does anyone have any information about rehab once the casts come off. I have not found anything on the web so far. Thanks for any input you have. Hope everyone has progress to a more normal lifestyle since last post showing is from Feb 2021.
I slipped and fell while walking my dog on a rainy day and ended up with a tri-malleolar fracture on my right ankle. My fall was on April 9 and ORIF surgery was scheduled for April 15.
After the surgery, I was released to go back home next day but my first night at home was terrible and the pain was excruciating. Over the next days pain got less each day and by day 5 I was able to ditch the pain meds altogether. Three weeks later I got my staples off and was put in another cast for three more weeks.
On May 27, the cast came off and was transitioned into a walking boot. My doctor asked me to start PT asap and to start with 30% WB and to progress to FWB by week 5.
When the cast came off, my skin under the cast looked terrible. Also, the feeling of having my ankle so weak and blocked with numbness on the top of my foot was quite distressing.
To get rid of all the dead skin in the gentlest way possible, I started epsom salt baths on a daily basis. The amount of skin that came off my foot was ridiculous. It took me almost 10 days to clear all the dead skin. Now at week 11, the numbness of the top of my foot has also resolved by almost 90%.
Having three orthopedist friends giving me advice besides my doctor, I was recommended to take Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium and Vitamin B on a daily basis. Also was recommended to do PT for three times a week to restore the ROM in my ankle.
At week 11 now post surgery, I am able to bear weight with one crutch with the hope of being able to do FWB by the end of week 12, before my next doctor’s appointment. My WB journey up till 75% WB with crutches have been pain free. However, as I got rid of one crutch there is definitely a bit of pain and soreness around my outer ankle which I am hopeful that will resolve in the coming days as my foot gets stronger. Applying ice to my foot every night before I sleep definitely helps with the swelling.
As for the PT, my exercises so far have been to strengthen my foot and to work on dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, inversion and eversion with weights and elastic bands. I also work on a stationary bike which also helps to increase ankle ROM.
I have noticed that when my foot swells at the end of the day, my foot becomes a bit stiff however the stiffness is resolved by next morning after a good night’s rest.
It is definitely a long process and takes a lot of patience, hard work, positivity and self-encouragement. I still have a few more weeks until I can walk properly without the boot or crutches and can go back to driving. However, I am taking each day as it comes and I know that eventually I will get there.
i broke my ankle (lateral malleolus) falling from a climbing wall and had an ORIF done as the fracture was unstable. it’s coming up to 4 weeks post surgery and i have recently come out of the cast and into a moon boot, in which the ortho said i can FWB in.
i have been feeling frustrated with weight bearing so far, pretty sure i underestimated the ability of the moon boot. i thought it would be some miracle device in which i could walk miles in. that has proved not to be the case i can’t imagine walking without the boot on, much less running or any kind of high intensity activity.
thank you Dana and everyone that has shared their experience about their recovery processes, it’s nice to know that im not alone in this. it seems like patience is key, and also not to beat yourself up about not being productive or progressing fast enough. it’s better not to rush the healing process. that’s what i tell myself anyway!
hope everyone is healing well and stay strong!
Thanks for sharing! Appreciate everyone’s comments. I am 28 and on June 4 2021 I broke my ankle skateboarding. It was a stable spiral fracture that was low enough on the leg to not need surgery. I am at just about 6 weeks post break and I went in today for an X-ray. The bone is growing back so he told me I can switch from my walking boot to a brace with my shoe. For reference I was NWB for the first 2.5 weeks then I started to walk with crutches and by week 3.5 I was fully walking with just the boot. I don’t have much mobility and my doctor didn’t say anything about PT but I don’t know what to do. He pretty much said to wear a brace and come back in like 6 weeks to see bone growth progress?
I broke my 3rd metatarsal and cuboid bone on my right foot 6 weeks ago and just got cleared to start driving again. Not as serious as an ankle fracture but still really difficult to cope with especially as a single parent. I’ve been non-weight-bearing this whole time with a moon boot (no cast). Was just told I can start to weight bear wearing the boot and crutches as tolerated over the next 1-2 weeks with no directions whatsoever – just “see how I go!” Thank you for the advice on discomfort versus pain – that helps a lot and gives me something to work with. I did maybe 5 minutes today and will aim for 10 minutes tomorrow. Would rather not overdo it in case it sets back my recovery.
Just a comment for those who were asking for updates, I did a post just now (https://bit.ly/3jxB7KJ) about running a marathon 2.5 years after my ankle fracture! I didn’t think I would ever get to the point of every day walking, let alone running, let alone running longer distances, without being stiff or sore in my ankle or even thinking about my ankle, but I did eventually get there (sometime in the 1-2 year time period). For everyone still feeling stiff or sore or having challenges months after return to weight bearing, keep hanging in there! It gets better as you go.
Thank you so much for this blog – 3 months after surgery and can walk a bit but now it all seems slow -and Trying to walk down stairs bending ankle is impossible at the moment !! But you have all given me hope and the realization it is going to take a long time . Thank you .
Congratulations Dana! I too experienced a full break of my Tibia years ago and have lived a full life even some four decades later. The ankle does ache when weather changes – this actually is a real thing>
Keep running and inspiring!
Just wanted to thank everyone for sharing their stories and experiences. I came upon this blog early this morning when the discomfort from my cast wouldn’t let me sleep.
I am 11 days out for cartilage graft surgery on my right ankle along with a clean-up (thanks to a hit and run driving t-boning me whilst riding my motorcycle [needless to say I am lucky to be alive]).
I was going crazy trying to find ways to cope with thus temporary normal (my surgeon estimates 5mo before I’ll be able to walk without mobility aides) especially the discomfort and pain I am experiencing in my splint (already had one resplint but still experiencing pressure pain where ankle and foot lie against the hardness of the plaster).
I see my surgeon tomorrow and I hope everything looks good. His nurse said he might transfer me to hard cast or boot depending on how the graft looks either way it is 4 more weeks of nwb) but being to come on here and read y’alls post and read about your journeys has been highly valuable and motivating.
Oh and yeah I have noticed the extreme exhaustion and fatigue the first week home after surgery I basically slept the entire time. Even 2 weeks out I’m still very fatigued and I literally slept yesterday away. The nearest I can figure out is your body is healing and so in order to repair itself it puts us in a stasis (sleep) mode so it can divert resources to its injured systems.
Hope everyone is thriving in their journey.
Thanks to everyone for sharing. I broke my ankle in two places on Jan 10/22 and had surgery Jan 13th. Spent one night in hospital and then went home. I’m 67 and walk alot every day but my upper body is very weak. I couldn’t use crutches, didn’t have the strength. I’m definitely working on that now three times a day. A week after my surgery I suffered a massive pulmonary embolism and am lucky to be alive. My husband was home when I collapsed and called 911. Last thing I ever expected with having a broken bone was a blood clot. Anyway I’m now 6 weeks post surgery and using a walking boot. I’m still not weight bearing but hoping in 4 days at my next appt. they will tell me I can start to put some weight on it. Glad of all the advice on here because I find the docs are in and out before I have time to ask my questions. I’ve started taking my list of questions with me. I haven’t had much pain at all even when I broke my ankle. Worried about pain when I start walking again though. I’ll refer back to this site when I start walking. Not sure I can use crutches either so that’s a dilemma. I have borrowed a walker so will try that. Good luck to everyone still in the rehab stage. I can see that I have come a long way since day one so hang in there. Small steps.
Dana and everyone else thank you for the words of advice, stories, wisdom and encouragement.
Just got cast off and setting screw removed after NWB for 8 weeks following surgery in Austria.
And told like so many to ‘go ahead’ unless too much pain – no boot, just a small ankle brace. I now have a much better idea about time frame, fatigue, setbacks ans how to progress and will keep the crutches for a while and only slowly transition to walking sticks and less.
One suggestions for those who want to stay ‘active’ or at least approach breaking a sweat during the NWB time: The ski-erg from Concept2 works like the rower but one can do it sitting on an armless chair and workout everything from hips in up.
Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I have found no other site with detailed information on recovering from ankle fractures. Like most of you, I have been in the dark navigating this journey – the information here is very helpful.
I am 8 weeks out from ORIF for a trimallecular fracture. In a high boot since and will be for another four weeks.
Started progressive weight bearing at 4 weeks, but found it difficult. Directions from my orthopedist were to start with touching foot to floor and increase weight bearing by 25% of my body weight every 3 days as pain and swelling allowed. The pain and swelling came after the increased WB, not while WB as I expected. I learned to back off so that I wouldn’t be hurting so much at the end of the day. It took me 4 weeks of progression and back sliding to get to full weight bearing (still in the boot)- and I still will lean on crutches if I feel my leg is tired.
I started PT last week and wish I had better information about what I should expect. (Shouldn’t they be taking some measurements or noting how I stand/walk? Should I really be standing on my one injured foot with no boot, when the ortho has me wearing the boot 24/7 for another four weeks?) We are so vulnerable and dependent on whatever healthcare provider we go to and what they choose to tell us. I also couldn’t answer questions about my procedure that the physical therapist asked me. The PT script from my doctor said that I had ORIF, possible arthroscopy, and syndesmosis. What does “possible” mean? Does syndesmosis mean I have a tight rope installed? I don’t think I do…I have no details about what specific medication I was given or the procedures performed other than a five minute verbal at my office visit.
I was told that the anesthesiologist would talk to me about nerve block and I would decide whether to get one at the surgery. There was no explanation, even when I asked him – it was just expected that I was getting that. I still don’t understand the implications, except for needing less anesthesia. The anesthetist said I would recover easier, the surgeon said I would have more pain in recovery. The block didn’t wear off for 3 days, and I have some weird tenderness above and behind my knee that started 3 weeks post surgery, and that the ortho says is from the nerve block. I don’t understand exactly what is hurting or whether it will resolve. (From what I googled it seemed more like a clot symptom.)
Another frustration has been understanding and planning recovery. I thought I would be back to work in a couple of weeks. No clue that I would need someone to get groceries, do laundry, help me down steps, take out the trash, get the mail, and mow my lawn for over a month. For the first month especially, just getting something to eat or washing up was a major effort. After 6 weeks disability, I was able to start working from home – but I need to take naps and breaks, and keep my leg elevated much of the time. It’ll be a total of 14-16 weeks post surgery before I can go back to working in person.
Overall there has been a lack of information, but I am healing. I have learned to trust and listen to my body, more than others, and not to push myself. I have also surprised myself at what I am able to do that I thought I could not. My body/brain has forgotten how to move, so it takes some reteaching and patience, but remarkably I’m getting there one step at a time.
Thanks again all, and best of luck!
I’m reading your thoughts a few years after you posted it but I still wanted to thank you for sharing this. It was such a nice surprise to see that this post also discussed your experience getting to weight-bearing while having diabetes. I’m pre-diabetic and hadn’t seen a diabetic perspective of this recovery process other than yours. Thanks again!
Love the article and overall answered a lot of questions I have. I was told I need to be 8 weeks nonbearing, but have xrays at 6 weeks. It’s my driving foot so I haven’t been able to work. I feel depressed, helpless, and hopeless even with my support system. I mostly feel like a burden.
My biggest issue has been the inability to get comfortable enough to sleep. I have major sensory issues and the random numb spots accompanied by the working nerves overly flaring up their screams of discomfort…..low pain, but completely nonstop as well…..have me lying awake most nights and dome nights even in tears over shear exhaustion.
I’ve yet to find an article that says, here is how I was able to sleep lol. I have already I vested over $80-$90 trying to find a wedge and then a full body pillow. Still uncomfortable. Sleep with the boot and the plastic drives me nuts on the edges of my foot. Sleep without it and my foot and ankle starts burning from the nerve pain.
If you have tips for that part? Or have found anything when you did your searches? Any help would be super appreciated.
I fractured my right ankle a few weeks ago. I slept without a boot before surgery and it was okay…. But then when I put the boot on (Before surgery to keep the ankle stable) it was a nightmare. I didnt know how to sleep!!
So what i did was I would put a pillow next to my boot and then try to find the right angle etc and have it supported in that way. It was trial and error.
Then I had my surgery last week and my god couldn’t find a good place to keep my foot. But then I applied the same technique of using multiple pillows to aid different parts of my body and it has helped lots. It still hurts, ofcoarse, but I am able to find some relief, just enough to fall asleep comfortably.
A good tip for when my toes etc are no comfortable is that I wriggle them and or massage them slowly. Just send lots of love and care to your body and it will help. Let us know how your going. Sleep is so important!
Im nearly two weeks post ORIF in my Tibia. Doctor told me to sleep with no boot on so i can start getting micromovements back in my ankle. That was his recommendation for my specific injury.
There is swelling and my foot was stiff and i have calf atrophy as its been 4 weeks since my calf has been utilised.
Doing some dorsi and planta flex was tough initially with the foot moving not much. However now im much more comfortable and it feels nice when i stretch.
The swelling goes up and down with each day and i get fatigued easily. I had to remember my own internal clock and not rush the rehab. Reading this has made me remember to take each small movement as progress and it truly is. The psychological part is the hardest.
My Doctor said NWB for 6 weeks. But to do rehab during this time. He expects me to be walking with no boot or crutches at the 6 week mark.
Ill get back in touch once this happens.
I wish I had found this post weeks ago. You told me more in this blog than my surgeon has communicated to me before or after my foot surgery. Hearing that my lack of energy, and the fatigue are normal make me feel better. I thought I was just being lazy and cranky. I’m in transition on the weight bearing issue and wondering if I’ll be able to switch from crutches to hiking sticks soon. In any case thank you so much for sharing your journey it has normalized how I am feeling. As you know the psychological aspect of healing is equally important to the physical part as you can’t accomplish one without the other being in balance.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with recovery! They’re still being read and appreciated two years later. 😊
Thanks, Rody! Glad it’s still helping! <3
I recently just broke my ankle in 3 places and am on week 3 of non-weight bearing healing. I have some nerve damage that will *probably* come back as I’m young, as my doctor says. This post was exactly what I needed to see. It’s comforting to see someone who overcame the healing and documented what it was like. It’s been a rough time. I also just got an offer of employment and was cleared to work by my doctor as long as they allow crutches, but I’m not sure how to go about it. It’s really nice to see this post though. It gives me hope and faith that it’ll all turn out okay. Thank you:)
You’re welcome – and thanks for the comment! Good luck on your recovery and returning to work!