Achilles Heel

Physical therapy repairs torn tendon, relieves pain.

It was Franklin Hilton’s bad luck to suffer a sports injury while on the sidelines. He was taking a break from his pick-up basketball game when a teammate going for a loose ball accidentally stomped on the back of his left ankle.

Franklin Hilton has physical therapy for a torn Achilles tendon by Jacob Barr, DPT, at Barr & Associates Physical Therapy in Ormond Beach.

Franklin says he was blessed to find Barr & Associates Physical Therapy

“The next day, my ankle was pretty swollen,” reports the 21-year-old air traffic management major at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “I thought it was just a bruise, but I couldn’t walk on it, so I went to the school infirmary.”

The physicians at the infirmary reached a conclusion similar to Franklin’s. They, too, thought his ankle was simply swollen as a result of the collision the night before and were confident that it would slowly heal over time. But it didn’t.

As time passed, the injury only caused Franklin more intense discomfort and soon limited his ability to get around on campus. He tried several approaches to get past those obstacles, but the pain and swelling persisted.

“There was so much pain,” Franklin laments. “It was a throbbing pain, like somebody was stabbing the back of my ankle. I had to sleep in different positions so I didn’t aggravate it. I iced my ankle all the time and soaked it in Epsom salt to reduce the swelling. Still, it stayed swollen for a couple of months. I couldn’t even put on a sock or a shoe.

“At school, I didn’t want to skip class, but I had to walk a long way to get to class from my dorm. I walked so slowly because of the pain, I had to leave an hour early to make it to class on time. I was pretty much afraid to do anything with my left leg because my ankle was so weak and always hurting.”

Franklin continued to hobble through the pain for several months, thinking all along that his ankle would heal naturally. Finally, after about five months had passed, he visited his doctor in his hometown of Statesboro, Georgia. That doctor ordered an MRI. Only then did Franklin learn that his injury was in fact a torn Achilles tendon.

Upon learning the results of the MRI, Franklin’s doctor began coordinating a plan of care. Due to Franklin’s school schedule, he needed a physical therapy center in Florida for his tendon rehabilitation. During the doctor’s search for the best center for Franklin’s needs, Barr & Associates Physical Therapy in Ormond Beach came highly recommended.

Progressing Protocol

Franklin first suffered his Achilles tendon injury in April, when the force of his teammate stepping on his ankle caused the tendon to tear. It wasn’t until September that he learned the true nature of the injury, and it wasn’t until October that he first visited Barr & Associates Physical Therapy.

“When Franklin first came in, he was experiencing quite a bit of pain in his left Achilles heel area,” notes Jacob Barr, DPT, of Barr & Associates Physical Therapy. “He was also having difficulty with simple activities, such as walking to and from his classes at school and climbing stairs.

“We started him off with an easy therapy routine because he was in an acute phase of his injury. We began with treatments such as laser and ultrasound to reduce pain and inflammation and stimulate healing in his tendon.”

Dr. Barr explains that structures such as tendons and ligaments naturally have poorer blood supplies compared to bone and muscle. When there’s an injury to a tendon or ligament, it’s crucial to use treatments that increase blood flow to those tissues to bring fresh oxygen and nutrients that aid in the healing process.

“Because of their poor circulation, tendon and ligament injuries can take a little longer to heal than bone fractures or muscle injuries,” Dr. Barr asserts. “That’s why we use laser and ultrasound treatments. They stimulate blood flow directly to those structures, which helps tremendously with healing.”

Franklin’s initial therapy routine also included manual therapy, which involved massage work and easy stretching of his calf and Achilles area. Throughout his rehabilitation, Franklin periodically checked in with his doctor in Georgia, who managed his condition remotely.

“As Franklin’s pain decreased, he was able to progress with his therapy protocol and do more exercises and functional activities,” Dr. Barr states. “He could do more standing and moving around on his feet.”

“The therapists started out slowly with me,” Franklin confirms. “They used ultrasound, and they massaged and stretched my ankle a little bit, but not so much that it hurt. I eventually graduated to an anti-gravity treadmill, where I learned to walk normally again.

“When I started doing more active work, I began going on the regular treadmill and by doing stretches with a band. They even gave me stretch bands to use for home therapy because that’s part of the process of healing quicker.

“As I got better, I was balancing on a board and throwing a ball off a trampoline, doing squats, and riding the bicycle for ten to fifteen minutes.”

“Franklin performed well with physical therapy,” Dr. Barr reports. “He did everything we asked of him, and he achieved positive results. He recently went back to Georgia to visit his doctor, who cleared him and released him from treatment.”

Flying High

Franklin is currently in his junior year at college and hoping to graduate next spring. He’s deciding on two paths for his future: either continuing his education and joining the Federal Aviation Administration or enlisting in the US Air Force. He hopes to be an air traffic controller. Whichever route he chooses, he needs to be physically fit.

“The main thing the therapists were worried about with me was the stability of my tendon and my explosiveness in jumping off the floor because I’m used to being athletic,” Franklin says. “By the end of my therapy sessions, I could skip, do squats and jog without any discomfort.”

Physical therapy was highly successful at relieving Franklin’s Achilles tendon pain. He says it may be a while before he tests his explosiveness on the basketball court, but he has returned to other activities he enjoys.

“I began physical therapy in late October,” Franklin relates. “At that time, my pain was a nine on a scale of one to ten. By December, it was down to five and by January it was two. My ankle pain now is zero point five, and that’s if I stretch too far or move too quickly.

“Since I did physical therapy, my ankle mobility is great. I can now run and work out at the gym. Going to Barr and Associates Physical Therapy was an amazing experience. So many good things happened there. They were truly a blessing to me.”

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