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Nobody is the same when it comes to tolerating pain. Just like all of us have suffered a TPF, none of us have the same injury. So we can’t base our pain on what someone else is experiencing. We can learn from reading others’ experiences as far as what is or isn’t working for them. Every person experiencing this injury or any other injury is unique. We all react or respond differently. I would advise anyone wanting to know how long the pain will last to be patient. I know that isn’t much of a comforting answer, but that is all I can offer at this stage of my recovery now 7 months since my surgery.
Even though I am a physical therapist for 17 years, I had never treated this injury, so when this happened to me I had no idea what to expect. It was difficult finding useful information on this injury until I found kneeguru.uk where I found Shlomi who is the creator of this website. And Shlomi has now put together the best site I know of devoted to TPF where we can share our experiences.
I would advise new members of the TPF club to read the user stories here and all of the other content here to better understand what to expect. Everybody that posts their experiences can offer advice that MIGHT help someone else. But don’t compare yourself to someone else and become frustrated or concerned that you are not recovering as fast as someone else. We are all different, and our injuries are different in the severity and outcome.
I had a LOT of pain for about a month. I spent most of my time in a wheelchair or recliner with several pillows under my leg. I was miserable. I was angry, frustrated, depressed. I wondered if I would ever be able to return to my work as a therapist. Would I ever be able to play sports with my kids again. Would I ever be able to run again? I was in very good shape when my dog broke my leg back in August 2013. I had always been active. I had completed 4 Ironman triathlons in the past. I knew what it took to get in shape and recover from injuries. But nothing in my past prepared me for what recovering from this injury would entail. I was NWB for 6 weeks, then the surgeon said the fracture was healed, and I could start WB. I went to therapy, was told to get rid of one of my crutches and put weight on the leg. I was very apprehensive and scared to put weight on my leg. My leg looked like Olive Oil’s leg, so weak and atrophied. When I put my foot on the ground I almost collapsed from the pain and weakness. The therapist immediately put me in the pool for 3 weeks before I had the strength to actually begin weight bearing on dry land. So then a whole new phase of pain had begun for me along with more frustration and uncertainty. It was a new type of pain, not as severe as right after the surgery, but still very frustrating, causing a lot of anxiety about the unknown. But as I immersed myself in the strengthening phase I saw improvements day by day, week by week.
I hate to use cliches like ‘use it or lose it’ or ‘if you rest, you rust’ but as a therapist who has preached these to my patients for years, I can say they are true. We have to approach this injury like a full time job in the early weeks of your recovery. We have to be patient, and realize recovering from this injury will take a LONG time. I am 7 months out, and I can honestly say my leg is about 40% as strong as the other leg. My surgeon told me it may be a year or longer before I feel like I used to feel. But then he said I may never fully recover to the point where I could resume running. He said I will probably have arthritis a lot earlier than most because of the location of the fracture, and that I may need a knee replacement 5-10 years earlier than most. Not what I wanted to hear, but that is a possibility. And I have to deal with this new reality. But I try to look at the positives of this experience. Because of this injury I got to spend months with my wife and two boys, getting to know them better, and becoming closer to them. I am now a better physical therapist because now I have more empathy and credibility when I say they need to do this or that exercise if they want to return to their previous function. Don’t let this injury block out all the positives in your life. Take it day by day, and revel in the milestones of improvement no matter how small they might seem. Let your friends and loved ones know how much you appreciate their support. No one who has not had this injury can begin to understand the pain and frustration of this TPF. But be thankful for their help. I was a royal pain to be around the first month after my surgery. Because of the pain medicine, I don’t remember much of what I said to my wife and boys. But my wife often reminds me what a jerk I was. But they still love me. And that is what matters most.
I met a fellow TPF sufferer for the first time last week. It was great to swap war stories/compare scars with him. We had a lot of similarities in our experiences as well as differences. But again everyone is different. If you were active and motivated to exercise BEFORE the injury, you will probably respond to the pain and frustration, and work harder to recover than the person who was not active and out of shape before the injury. Whatever your background before this injury was, the common denominator I have found for my continuing recovery is that it is different for everybody. If you really work hard, you will recover faster. Simple as that. When you are sitting around watching TV, on the commercials stand up and do a set of 20 squats, or 20 quad sets etc. Do something every 15-20 minutes if you are still NWB-ankle pumps, calf stretches, chair pressups etc. I admit I wasn’t as active as I should have been in the early stages of recovery as far as bending my leg, stretching my foot/ankle etc. And I paid for it later when the weight bearing began. A favorite saying I use with my patients is “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
To sum it all up, if we want to recover faster we have to work harder than we ever did before the injury. The road to recovering is long, but it does get better day by day. We will all have peaks and valleys to suffer through, yet it all comes down to attitude. Do we REACT or do we RESPOND? Attitude determines altitude.