Even though I'm back in regular shoes and on my own two feet, I'm still in the middle of the rehab process for my ankle injury. The rest of the company is hard at work in the studio every day, rehearsing for the last three ballets of the season, and I'm hard at work at the physical therapy clinic, looking for every gained inch of mobility and ounce of strength. I go there about four times a week for actual hands-on therapy, which includes soft tissue work, joint mobilization, and what they call "scar mobilization"--- that's the loveliest treatment of all. It means doing cross-fiber friction massage directly on the scar to break up the adhesions underneath it. Everyone says it's very important, but it feels so gross that I'm wondering how much I care about having a mobile scar.
The other aspects of my sessions at PT are less unpleasant. The therapist works on getting some more degrees of flexion in my still-stiff ankle joint by basically teasing it further and further, coaxing it along as I resist and then let it stretch further. I'm having a lot of trouble with all the tendons surrounding the area where the repair was made, so we do a lot of flushing and scraping of my Achilles and posterior tibialis tendons to get them less irritated by the sudden uptick in load that they're being put under. When such weak muscles are suddenly asked to take some strain, they often seize up in response, so I do get a bit of calf rubbing to work out the protest knots. Then I'm turned loose into the gym to do my exercises, which can take quite a while since there's really no end to what I can work on. The major focus for the ankle itself involves getting back basic strength and stability. So I do a series of exercises on the balance board and Airex pad, which are unstable surfaces, to re-train my legs and feet to stabilize themselves. There are basic calf raises, but also a lot of work on controlled strength as opposed to just straight repetition. The latest one has me balancing on one leg on the balance board while tossing a ball back and forth to someone. That is hard enough on a "normal" leg. I pretty much started to quiver in fatigue after about a half a minute.
Here are the tools of my current regimen. There's the balance board (also called a rocker board), the blue foam Airex pad, the half-foam (I use that for calf raises and more balancing work), my friend the Magic Circle (adductor strengthening), and the family of Therabands for my foot exercises.
The pig is named Oliver and he's the cheering section.
In addition to ankle-focused therapy, I have a little routine of whole-body maintenance exercises that I do every day to make sure the rest of me will be in good dancing shape when my ankle is ready to go back to the studio. I do several different kinds of core strength exercises, hamstring curls, pushups, and a few times a week I get onto the Pilates reformer for more of the same. One of my favorite/least favorites is the "clam shell", which is hard to describe but is the best turnout strengthener around. There's also a half hour of cardio on a stationary bike and a bunch of different stretches. That stuff is invaluable, and honestly I'll probably be stronger in some ways than before this injury happened.
After all the physical work is done for the day, I do a really good ice-down, massage some Traumeel into my ankle and foot. At some point each day I also do a contrast bath, when I stick my leg first into a bucket of ice water, then into hot water, and back and forth for 15 minutes. That's the best way to flush blood into the area and also helps loosen up the joint even more. While my foot's in the hot water I do toe curls for the intrinsic muscles on the bottom of my foot.
And last thing before bed every night is another ice-down, preferably with my foot elevated over my head, since there's still a fair amount of swelling that happens by the end of the day, especially if I've been up and about a lot.
This whole routine is keeping me busy. I have to say that a lot of it comes from knowledge I've picked up over the years (and from the various injuries and therapies), so although there are always a lot of unknowns I do feel a fair amount of confidence in how I'll come out of this episode of my career. And there are always interesting things to be learned about one's body and mind when going through something like this.