Adventures with Internal Fixators – there IS life after ORIF!

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably a roller derby athlete and/or a runner with a broken leg. At least, that’s my hope. Wait, allow me to rephrase that! I don’t wish broken limbs on anybody – but if you’re already broken, then you’re likely searching the web for tales of other skaters or runners who have been bolted back together. You want to know what your future with your newly bionic leg looks like. You want to know if you’ll skate or run or jump rope again. You’re probably even wondering whether to throw out all your high heels. You have questions! I may have answers.

I found myself in similar circumstances in June of 2007, when my left tibia/fibula shattered in 11 places. You can read about it here. Long story short: I have 2 plates, 17 screws & a stabilizing rod in my left ankle/calf. Due to the severity of the damage to both bones, none of that jazz can ever come out. I know some folks who have had plates or screws removed later in life, but this is what I’m working with for the long haul.


My surgeon said that I’d probably always walk with a bit of a limp, that running was out of the question & that I certainly wouldn’t be able to play derby anymore. Looking back on it now, I think he was intentionally challenging me to prove him wrong.  It worked. I played derby for 5 more years and have run two marathons, twenty-three half-marathons and around fifty shorter races since. I’ll never be a pogo stick champion and I’ll always be able to tell you when the weather’s about to get cold, but overall, I’m a better athlete now than I was before I was injured.

It’s been 8 years since my surgery, so I feel like I have a pretty decent grasp by now on what works and what doesn’t for recovery and beyond.  Your mileage will vary, obviously, depending on your pain threshold and willingness to work beyond it.  My observations:

While you’re still in your wheelchair or on crutches:

  • Take your pain pills on schedule, but only as long as you have to.  Try alternative therapy if you can. There are plenty of natural pain relievers that won’t damage your body the way that NSAIDs and opioids can.
  • Sleep as much as humanly possible, then sleep some more – your body needs so much more sleep when it’s trying to heal.  Your body also heals much more quickly if it’s not full of alcohol or crappy food, so don’t crawl into a bottle of whiskey like I did or eat your bodyweight in french fries.
  • Stay active so your general fitness level doesn’t slide completely off the rails. Unless you also have an upper body injury, you can lift weights while seated or lying down.  Here’s the series I did during the three months where I was allowed to put zero weight on my left leg:

Seated: front and lateral arm raises, alternating hammer curls, single-arm concentration curls, overhead press, overhead tricep extension, bent over rows and bent over flyes

Lying on back on a yoga mat or bench: chest press, flyes, alternating rows, pullovers, isometric straight-arm holds

  • Start a journal or blog if you’re not keeping one already.  Write about your entire experience while it’s fresh in your mind. You’ll someday be a completely different person than you are at this stage in your injury, and your story will motivate and inspire others if you choose to share it.
  • Stay involved with your league if you intend to return to derby. Volunteer as an NSO, brainstorm sponsorship opportunities, take notes for coaches on the sidelines.  Even when it’s hard emotionally to watch others get to skate when you cannot, please know that you are setting a good example as a productive member of your league.  You’re still making a difference.  If you were an “I just want to skate” type before, maybe it’s time to rethink that mindset.
  • Now’s a good time to finish that book (and start a new series) or to learn how to crochet. Treat this less active time as a way to exercise your brain. You won’t get quite the same endorphin rush as a tempo run or a scrimmage, but your synapses will fire a lot harder if you’re doing something productive with them.

Stuff to expect during healing that is completely normal:

  • Pain: I mean, obviously. But weird nerve twitches, random stabbing sensations, foot cramping, scar tenderness & general discomfort are all to be expected. Totally normal.
  • Peeling skin: your foot is going to shed at least once, probably more. It’s going to be really soft & tender by the time you can put weight on it again.
  • Cankle that lasts for months post-injury: the trauma to the soft tissue means it’s going to get & stay swollen for awhile. It’ll affect range of motion & temporarily get worse as you get into PT/rehab. Icing & elevating help, but time will be the best cure for the edema.
  • Completely overdoing it on your first day off crutches & having to use them again the next day: completely expected & totally normal.

When you’re back on your feet (and you WILL be, I pinkie-swear):

  • If you have the time/money/insurance to devote to physical therapy, I highly recommend it.  If you are more of a DIY kind of athlete, then schedule your rehab exercises into your calendar and treat them  like they’re PT appointments that cannot be missed. Yes, it’s boring and unpleasant, but rebuilding your balance and strength is crucial to preventing compensatory muscle imbalances (that can jack with your kinetic chain for years to come).
  • Single leg barefoot balance exercises are great for restoring your balance on foot, which will get you back on skates faster.  (As soon as I can get somebody to take some pictures for me, I’ll post a balance workout that can be used to improve anybody’s single-leg strength and stability)
  • Strengthen your core.  Not just your abs, but your hips too – your hips are part of your lumbo-pelvic hip complex (LPHC), the group of  29 muscles that make up your true core – where your center of gravity is located and where all movement originates (and in derby, it’s your wrecking ball). Weak hips will increase your risk for knee and (more) ankle injuries, and your kinetic chain is already working at a disadvantage now that your muscles/tendons/ligaments have to reform around foreign matter.  I recommend bridges, planks, hip abduction (I lay on my side and do Jane Fonda-style leg lifts) and hip extension (supermans and scorpions factor heavily into my core workouts).

Returning to skating:

Since my injury, I’ve seen many skaters come back faster than I did, and I am always impressed at those who can flip that switch in their brain again so quickly.  You know – the one that takes us from mortal to human wrecking ball. If you’ve been broken, you know that switch doesn’t flip as easily anymore.  That is completely okay.  Let me repeat that.  IT IS OKAY TO BE SCARED TO PLAY DERBY AGAIN. It is wise to have a certain degree of fear/caution, because it helps you protect yourself as you heal.

Hopefully, your orthopedic specialist understands enough about your sport to have given you a realistic timeframe on when you can return to derby. (I give bout tickets to all of my doctors/trainers/PTs so they can see exactly what we do). My surgeon prescribed a month of non-contact skating before letting me jump back into contact.  I had been so impatient to get back to blocking, but I found that I needed another four months for my scars to heal before I could stomach getting kicked in them.  I reffed until I found myself craving a solid hip check. My league was very cool about letting me jump back into drills at practice when I was ready.

Talk to your trainers (and your doc and PT) when you’re ready so everyone understands where you are physically and mentally. Honest communication keeps expectations reasonable on both sides of that equation.

Returning to contact:

  • Getting kicked in the plates HURTS. I wore a neoprene brace for about a year – not because I felt it was protecting me from further damage (that metal isn’t going anywhere), but for the cushioning it provided in my skate boot and the extra layer of protection against contact to my scars and hardware.
  • Your metal ankle needs to warm up before you start skating.  Do an active off-skates warm-up that includes some ankle circles, pointing and flexing, etc.  Repeat these with your skates on, rolling on your good foot while you roll your bionic ankle around to let it get used to the weight of your skate.
  • Inflammation is normal – for over a year, my metal ankle became a cankle every time I worked out. All of those soft tissues are still trying to settle around the new hardware. Ice, anti-inflamatories and elevation are absolutely the best ways to handle this.  Going to the bar with your teammates after practice will not help. Go home and take care of yourself. Sleep.
  • If you have nerve damage, some of that stuff is going to eventually reroute and wake up in unpleasant ways.  Buzzing, tingling, burning and throbbing are all normal. About 4 years after my surgery, I developed a neuroma near the bottom of the inner plate.  It was basically just an angry little ball of hate that would bring me to my knees if you whispered near it. I experimented with a topical prescription numbing cream, got a few unspeakably unpleasant cortisone shots and eventually had a cobbler cut the side of my Reidell 395 low enough so that it didn’t rub Hateball.  It took nearly two years for that intense nerve pain to go away, and I frequently looked back on the dead-nerve time period with an odd fondness – I’d take numb toes over searing pain.  If you’re living with an unbearable neuroma, please go get it checked out and explore your treatment options.  Or tough it out and see if the nerves finally reroute normally, like my stubborn ass did.  I’m clearly no authority here.
The inner ankle of the left skate is cut low enough to fit below the implanted metal.
The inner ankle of the left skate is cut low enough to fit below the implanted metal

Speaking of skates:

Your boot may not feel right anymore, and styles you coveted before may be wrong for you now.  I thought Antiks would help support my ankle, but the high collar was excruciating. I had limited success with a Reidell 195, but the super-low ankles combined with my narrow heels made me curl my toes too much to try to grip, especially on crossovers (I jammed myself right out of my left skate once – so weird to adjust mid-crossover to having one sock foot). What eventually worked for me: Bonts. Oh, how I adore my Bonts. They’re like running shoes with wheels attached.


Speaking of shoes:

I had to rethink footwear after my surgery.  Range of motion is limited in my ankle and every degree of angle change equates to more strain on my metal.

  • Stilettos and narrow, tall heels are out for me now, as they’re not stable enough.  However, I have had excellent luck with Pink and Pepper heels – they have a wide base and stable ankle straps. Wedges are a better choice, but honestly, flats are probably going to feel better from now on. Whichever heel height you’re comfortable with, a cushioned insert can help absorb some of the impact you’ll feel  on the metal.
  • Running shoes were also a trial and error experience for me – it’s hard to find shoe salespeople who are familiar with the special needs of the bionic runner. (I really should look into product testing for shoe companies – I think I’d be a good candidate and I could write reviews that might help other athletes)  I used to be a minimalist runner, but my old Adida Adizeros and Nike Free didn’t have enough padding to absorb impact.  Nike Lunarglide was a better choice,  but then I found Hoka One One & never looked back. They’re maximal running shoes & they are the bomb-diggity. The extra cushioning absorbs the  impact that causes the pain of the metal vibrating inside the bones, which means I can run farther and faster without pain. I am actually able to sprint in these, and I never thought I’d sprint without pain again! I prefer the Cliftons for half marathons or shorter distances & the Stinsons for anything longer – I also like the Stinson ATR or the Mafate for trail running.  The Conquest is pretty good for long distances too but it feels a bit heavier than the other models.
  • Not pictured: the Bondi B, which was my first pair & were worn to death before retiring

Returning to running:

As with skating, returning to running was a slow process for me. Single-leg balance exercises helped strengthen my atrophied muscles, but it took awhile to get used to the sensation of impact.  For the first mile, I can tell you exactly where every screw is, particularly on cold mornings.  An active warm-up routine (instead of static stretching) before you run helps tremendously.  Build mileage slowly and ice after you run. Increasing my distance too quickly resulted in strained tendons around the outer plate (and that neuroma popped up around the time I increased my mileage, so take from that what you will).

Other adventures – what works for me:

  • Yoga has been one of the best things to ever happen to post-surgery me.  Yoga helped me restore my physical balance, gave me an emotional outlet for my frustration and made me more aware of what my body was capable of doing if I focused my energy.
  • An elliptical is a fantastic low-impact way to get your cardio in as long as you’re not on autopilot. Sprint intervals are more comfortable on an elliptical than a track when you have internal fixators.  I like setting the ramp on mine to the highest incline so that it becomes a stair-stepper.  (I miss climbing stairs with my travel teammates, but my knees can’t take the impact these days)
  • Swimming and water running: I spent a lot of my recovery time in my mom’s pool, walking through the water or running while wearing a floatation belt. (okay, it was my kid’s alligator floatie. Don’t judge.)

What hurts a bit but I do anyway because I love it:

  • Aerial silks: footlocks around scar tissue are unpleasant but worth the discomfort. Some tricks that involve spinning/turning to wrap the silk a few times around the ankle are a little ouchy but again, worth the discomfort & I’ve become desensitized over time.

    Yes, my Dark Angel is crooked. It was my first time! I was just happy to be able to invert into it!

  • Kickboxing: I have to be careful how I kick the bag with my metal leg. I wear minimalist shoes for boxing (Puma Pulse XT) & we do a lot of plyometrics work in between bag work, so I’m working on landing lightly to offset the impact.
  • Crossfit: I can jump rope, but it aches during and after. I can still do squat jumps and box jumps, but I land harder on my good foot to offset impact. Plyometrics are never going to feel great on a metal leg, but you get used to it & you find ways to adjust.
  • Tennis (side-to-side, quick movements aren’t friendly to rigid ankles)
  • I still do agility ladder training, but I land as lightly as possible, and I’m slower than I used to be.

Bottom line: You have to decide how much you’re comfortable hurting. If you’ve made it this far in your recovery, you’re probably pretty good at handling pain by now. Challenge your limits, but don’t beat yourself up if you move more slowly than you used to or can’t lift as much as before. You’re moving, and that’s pretty damn awesome.
Many thanks to you if you’ve made it through this ramble!  Please feel free to ask me any questions about recovery/rehabilitation and whatnot. I’ll answer them in Life After ORIF Part II: Mom of Steel. I’ll also address some specific derby concerns, like re-learning to snowplow with limited range of motion.  I’ll also talk about getting tattoos on top of scars/hardware, since that’s an adventure in itself.

31 thoughts on “Adventures with Internal Fixators – there IS life after ORIF!

  1. Elle c.

    Hi I have a similar experience as you. I have 7 screws and 1 long rod after breaking my ankle and shattering my tibula. I’m 9 months post surgery and continue to do my physical therapy exercises daily. My foot is stiff and sore all the time and the range of motion is not nearly as good as before. In your experience, could it ever be as it was pre-injury? Its discouraging to do the exercises when it hurts and I feel like I’ve hit a plateau in terms of improvement.

    Thank you for writing this article and in advance for your input.

    – Elle

  2. Mel

    I just came across your site…so glad to hear there is hope. I have had so little encouragement and this hardware is just a PITA. I am a frustrated runner – who had a tri-mall/ORIF surgery in 8/13 and STILL not running. 🙁 I DID have 5 screws and a plate removed, as I just could not tolerate it anymore. However, I still have screws in the tib and fib and always will. You are an inspiration !!

    1. Pyro Maim Ya

      Thank you! And thank you for finding me. How is your rehabilitation going as far as balance and muscle tone? Is some of your calf starting to come back now? If you have some of your hardware removed, you had to deal with the setback of waiting for those holes to fill back in, which while definitely slow you down on getting bad out there. How long ago did you have them taken out?

      1. mel

        Good day! my initial surgery was August 2013, I had some of the hardware removed May of 2014. Progress had been slow but since some of the hardware has been removed I can see a faster progress kicking in. No pun intended. I was out of work for more than 10 weeks return to light duty for 12 weeks then back to work. It was very painful. I was very fortunate I could return to work on light duty as I was about out of paid benefit leave. I thought my right foot, ankle and calf would never look normal again.I can see it starting to return to normal bit by bit but its still not there. My calf muscles lost all their definition and my muscle mass was gone. I wore one size shoe bigger on my right foot than my left foot. I tripped over my own toes when I walked. when winter went away and it with a safe to be outside again I started walking on a regular basis. It was slow and the bottom of my foot suffered nerve damage. The plate and lateral screws never felt right. I begged my surgeon to remove them. He allowed me to get 5 and the plate removed but said 3 would always have to remain. I was no running or jumping with limited walking for another 6 weeks, frustrating to say the least. I cheated and one week before my surgery i participated in a marathon relay and I walked / ran three miles of the marathon. it was not what my ankle needed but it was what my head needed. SInce the hardware removal, and resuming running , (smile), I have learned to run a different gait. I found new nerves , painful again but I do feel progress faster and my leg doesn’t hurt like it used to with the plate and screws. .I don’t feel the deep ache and pain inside the bone like I used to however, I still feel the ankle screws. My ankle swells like crazy and I have tightness and stiffness. I have to fight everyday because the bottom of my foot feels like I’m walking on glass on a regular basis let alone when I run, but it’s a far cry to being on crutches and not being able to do anything.I finally feel and see progress nearly a year later. My therapist tells me it could be another year. My surgeon said I didn’t even need physical therapy, he was no help at all other than putting me back together. I felt alone and had nowhere to turn I insisted on physical therapy and was already seeing a therapist for ITB syndrome when I fell, so I continued with her. She has helped me tremendously both mentally and physically. My balance is still weak on my right side and I have to do a lot of work for anything on my toes – very painful still. I do see progress though and for that I’m hopeful. Morning and after a period of sitting are the worst. Stretches help quite a bit. I am back to a somewhat of a running routine even if it’s not pretty or good. I run funny I run painfully and I walk a lot but it beats sitting on my butt on crutches wondering what I was going to do next. I run for the release it gives me so other workout options weren’t the same. I am excited to be doing a 10k this weekend as well as a Warrior Dash in August it may be slow but it is wat my head needed and it’s a goal I strive for. Someday, I may even venture back to the rocky Bluffs where it all happened, but not right now. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, someday for sure.

  3. Jer

    Thanks for the honesty. I fell off of a 25 ft dam while hiking three weeks ago. Basically shattered my ankle/lower tib fib. Had ORIF and have a bunch of screws now. I’m an avid runner and was just about to do a triathlon in a few weeks. This post gives me hope that I’ll be able to function in the future. If I cant run again I’ll be devastated. And geez. I hadn’t even thought about not being able to wear heels. Well that sucks. Thanks again

    1. Pyro Maim Ya

      Thank you for finding me and commenting! You are at one of the suckiest parts of the healing process right now, and I am sorry you’re going through it. I’m glad you survived that fall with only a shattered leg, but we both know that “only” is an absurd word when you’re about a month into your ORIF adventure. It really is going to get a lot better, and you are going to be a stronger person for it. Please feel free to contact me if you ever need anecdotal answers to random questions about the quirks of the healing process. Good luck and speedy recovery!

  4. Ripon

    I am going to be operated today morning for ORIF and really feel charged-up after reading this with a new spirit that things are not as bad as I was thinking.

    Need Good Wishes of my friends in the Blog

  5. Kris

    I am glad as well I ran across this. I had an ORIF in May left me with a plate and 6 screws. I have a lot of pain, so I am wondering if it’s those nerves coming back. I can just be standing and it hits me like someone stabbed me with an ice pick. Just getting back to the gym and those lunges are not agreeing with me. But what I am interested in as well is you were going to blog about the tattoo and the scar tissue. I am kind of nervous about that. But I love my ink and I want to try to cover up that scar. Thanks!

  6. dannoxyz

    Hi, great site and thank you for putting your knowlege and experience online where it can help others.

    My wife broke her shin a couple years ago and still have issues with one leg being stronger than the other. She loses balance easily and is nervous about falling.

    Could you post pictures of the single-leg barefoot balance exercises?

    Thank you!

  7. Genesis

    I just had surgery on my left ankle last Friday June the 5th ;( and all I keep thinking of is if I will ever be able to lift heavy on squats and do deadlifts and also will I ever be able to wear heels 🙁
    I wanted to join the army but now idk if I can. So many questions!!! And is so frustrating and sad. I’m always depressed regretting of jumping off that stupid swing ? (that’s how I broke it). And I’m just in bed without moving they doc gave me this air cast which I hate cause is so heavy I’m so skinny (5’1, 103lbs) and when I want to go to the bathroom and use my crutches is so painful. Btw I stopped using the pain pills I just hate them they mess up with me pretty bad so I’m just here trying to handle it. Your story is very impressive I wish I had a lot of friends. Do you think I’ll ever get back to normal again? Like it was before I broke my ankle ??????? Or will I suffer for the rest of my life?

    1. Pyro Maim Ya

      You’re going through the worst of it right now, but I promise it gets better. You WILL be back to normal again. It’s a slow process & it’s frustrating, but I promise you will not be like this forever. This will not limit you! Internal fixators do not disqualify you from military service, btw. This is a temporary setback that you will overcome & you will be stronger for it! Please feel free to email me if you need somebody to vent to or ask questions. I wish you speedy healing!

      1. gegsandoval

        Omg thank you. I really needed to hear that lol. (Or read). And yeah is very frustrating ? I am doing the best I can to stay positive and keep me busy but is hard. I’m so bored. Hey did you use the cast or the boot? I have a boot right now but I’m telling the Dr I want it change for the cast cause this thing is so heavy and I don’t like it. Oh! Another thing ? when they took the stitches out did it hurt? I’m having them taking out tomorrow ? I’m so nervous lol. Thanks again for your reply! :)) take care

        1. Pyro Maim Ya

          I had the boot! I hated how heavy it was. Do you have stitches, or staples? I had staples, & getting them removed felt gross but didn’t really hurt that much. It more that the concept just weirded me out, you know?

  8. Mommy of 3

    I’m so glad I found this & how other people are recovering from the ORIF surgery. I had surgery 5 days ago and I’m in so much pain! I had a metal plate & screws put in, plus I developed Arthritis on my foot as well from bone being broken for so long! I’m just wondering how long if will be before I can actually walk again? ?I’ve been without being able to walk for 3 months already before this surgery. Long story short: I fell down the stairs when I was 7months pregnant broke my foot pretty severe in 2 places dr said. But couldn’t get surgery till I had baby due to the risks. So yes I even delivered baby with my broken foot. Lol…So 3wks after having my baby I finally had the surgery but in so much pain! I can’t keep the painkiller (hydrocodone)down they gave me, so I have to cut it in half & only take that. As for the any other painkillers I can’t take because I breastfeed. I know it will be a long recovery but I also wonder when will I be able to actually walk, run or will I be able to workout like squats or weights? Wear heels? I think for now I just will be content to be able to finally chase & run with my toddlers because I also have a 2yr old & 4 yr old plus my newborn that need a walking mommy. ?
    Any advice would be appreciated! I’m so lost!

  9. Debbie Echols

    Thank you for posting! 3 months ago an auto accident broke tibia and fibula. Tibia orif was 10 weeks ago, fibula 8. I’m hurting and want to get better! I’m a runner of all distances so this is so hard mentally as well as physically. I know it is supposed to hurt to do range of motion exercises, will PT help make this easier? Should I still need pain meds? Searching for answers beyond what the doctor tells me, it’s awesome to see you are being physically active after being told it won’t happen. Encouraging news!

  10. Patricia McCullough

    Hi there. It’s crazy how we all have similar stories. But here’s something unexpected… It’s been 6 whole years since my ORIF (broken ankle, 7 screws). It took me almost a year for “full recovery” but for 5 years I was only minimally impacted by this. My Dr. also challenged me to become an even better athlete. Then BAM, as of 2 months or so my ankle starts to bother me, where screws are, and lately my heal hurts ALOT. I’m very active (like you, even in better shape than before, I love weight training, and also competed in my first tri’s post surgery). I haven’t changed a thing, so I’m puzzled why all this is happening now. Just starting to do research to see if this is common – then I guess it will will be time to schedule a doctor’s appointment. I have a high tolerance for pain, but this definitely impacts me now. I am limping for the first time in 6 years! I remember my orthopedist saying I will definitely get arthritis due to ORIF, maybe this is it? Any insight you have is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much and great job on your blog!

  11. marlysteck

    Hi Pynk! I just ordered some Hoka Bondis (3)! I am doing my first half since ORIF this October (it will be 2.5 years since the accident). I am up to 5 miles, but I needed new shoes because the ones I have been using are both falling apart and not really meant for road running (Merrill trail runners that actually FIT around my ankle). Thank you so much for your advice! It is so good to hear from an avid runner that had ORIF like me =.)

    1. Pyro Maim Ya

      I hope your training is going well! I just started training for my 3rd full marathon in a brand-new pair of Hoka Clifton 2s and I am LOVING them. 😀 I really need to write a separate blog soon on the Hoka models I have tried!

      1. marlysteck

        Yes, please do! The Hoka Bondis did not work for me… they actually dug into my good ankle (?!) I tried the Cliftons at my local running store and liked the soles a LOT, but I ended up getting the Brooks Glycerin (12 I think – whatever is out now). Got some blisters on my first 5 mile run, but that was my own fault. I really need to start upping my mileage… 10 weeks to race day =.@

        1. Pyro Maim Ya

          If you tried the Bondi 3, I’ve heard that the ankle comes up too high on it! After I wore out my Bondi Bs, I tried the Conquest, Stinson & Clifton. The Conquest is a bit clunky for me, but the Stinson was perfect for long mileage – I ran my first marathon in the Stinson. I really prefer the Clifton (and now the Clifton 2) for anything under 16 miles, though! They are so light & comfy.

  12. Andria

    I’m so happy I stumbled across this blog. 6 weeks ago I dislocated and fractured my tib/fib backpacking the backcountry of Yosemite (had to wait 17hrs overnight for airvacked rescue). Hiking/backpacking “saved” me from a downward spiral in my life 2 yrs ago. I find it beneficial physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I was devastated that I can’t get out there and hike for a long time. It gives me hope that if you and others can run, I should be able to hit the trails in the near future. I’m so excited and nervous to start PT this week!!!

    Best of recovery to you and others who came across this post.


  13. michelle

    Im a 58 yr old grandmother who slipped on some rocks last June and shattered my ankle, twisted my foot 90 degrees right, and generally made a mess of myself. Had ORIF to fix a trimalleolar fracture. I am not physically active, more the paint and garden type, but even I found comfort in your encouragement and have read so much that is helpful to me from your experiences. Thank you for sharing this. I wish I had blogged my own experience for the sake of the older crowd, because there isn’t much out there to glean from. Your encouragement and instruction has meant a lot, thank you so much.

    1. michelle

      What I really need is a good pair of walking shoes to wear and I am at a loss as to how to choose them. Im in PT and limping still, have one spot on the outside of my ankle that still isnt healed and I am 4 months post surgery. At night i get swelling, stiffness, and stabbing pain in my heel when I try to walk bare foot. I miss being bare foot! What complicates things is that my artificial joint in my large toe was messed up too in my accident. I do wonder if I will ever be pain free again.

      1. Melanie

        Hello everyone, I posted about a year ago, and I guess, it is good to see what I said back then….because today, many changes…and I want to share…hopefully it will help others, and perhaps, others can help me. Since the last posting, I have hit PT HARD, and any kind of physical training I could get my hands on (errr…FEET on!) I found out my sesmoid bone (under your foot, just below big toe) was throbbing for a reason, it has also been cracked, and ultimately…yup…splintering in pieces due to the fact i was trying to return to running…so this summer has backtracked BIG time…and the ankle suffers. I will recommend this: get all the PT you and/or your insurance will give you. Follow it to a T and them some. massage, massage, massage…with a ball, ice packs, whatever. it hurts. A little over 2 yrs later, I still can’t put my heel down so steps and UP hill with heel down…just not happening. I work on it, a lot. You will have to as well. There is hope though; I have gone a long distance (no pun intended) since day one, but I’d be kidding if I said I crossed the finish line….people don’t quite get why I am still so slow…and why it “still hurts” but it is really, it is, much better. Doc told me it would take about 5 yrs for it to be “where it will always be”…so that’s 3 more years to go. He did tell me PT was not needed and to stop running…so not sure how much I listen to him (ok, I don’t anymore!) My PT is wonderful and she encourages me…that is what we all need most…encouragement. I use little balls to roll my foot…BOSA ball, and general PT on my own.
        Hang in there, ORIF folks…
        and THANKs Pynk !! you inspire me !

  14. Ashley C.

    I found this while generally searching ORIF surgeries and man does it make me happy. You honestly sound like you’re in my boat recovery wise although WAY farther out.

    At the end of August I was hit by a car while cycling, thrown off the bike and shattered my left hip socket by falling so hard that I punched the ball of my femur through the socket. An ORIF and revision surgery later, at 4 1/2 months out, I’ve been able to return to cycling and running but significantly less running mileage than before. I had been training for marathons before I was hit. I, too, have a “hateball” on my left hip which I have named “Grapefruit” thanks to its size. It’s the result of them using a sledge hammer to put my femur back in th hip socket during the second surgery (thanks guys). Ortho surgery is gruesome stuff!

    Anyway, I have somehow managed to recovery significantly more quickly than anyone expected but as you said, a lot of it has to do with how much pain/discomfort you can push yourself through. I regained probably 70-80% of my balance on that side but still find that toward the end of a run, I’m wobbly which then puts my gait off on that side and causes grapefruit to spasm. Fun stuff! Also, thank the lord for yoga.

    I just wanted to say that I’m so glad to see the perspective of someone else in a similar situation with a similar attitude. It’s true that this type of injury changes your life and the way you view things whether you like it or not. My first couple times back out cycling I almost had a panic attack when I realized I had run out of trail and needed to be on the road to connect for all of half a mile. Just that 2 minutes of potentially going up against cars put me in a mental tail spin. I also may not be able to play ultimate frisbee again because of the sprinting and constant direction changes but I’m still here, breathing and fairly well functional considering the circumstances. How can I really complain too much (although grapefruit can go to hell)? I can also predict rain like nobody’s business!

    Thank you for writing this. It’s good to have kindred spirits out there.

  15. KAllen

    I stumbled across this site after looking for information about wearing heels after ankle ORIF. Anyways, I had surgery 12/30/15 on my right ankle. I can’t drive or do much of anything. I do have crutches and the knee walker but even still, I am very limited in terms of what I can do. As of now, I am confined to the house. The first week post-op was horrible and I was in pain meds around the clock. Now I only take them as needed. Stitches were removed last week and I thought the pain near the incision would cease as a result. Doesn’t seem that that’s the case for me. (BTW I am in a cast.) This is my fourth cast to date and I try to have fun with choosing the color or colors of my cast. In 4 wks I will be placed in a boot, but all I hear are horror stories about that.
    I am nervous and excited about what the future holds for me after ORIF. Best of wishes to everyone!!!

  16. Kristin

    Hi! I too came across this website while I was looking for more information! I fractured my tibia fib on 12/19/15 and had ORIF surgery 12/21/15 which included a 35cm titanium rod and 4 screws. I am in a walking boot (yes it’s heavy but more comfortable than a cast), using a walker, and can put 50% weight on the injured leg. Now the funny thing is, is that I am not an athlete, runner, or derby skater. ..I am an occupational therapist who is very familiar with such injuries when it happens to other people! :-/. I agree that the situation does suck! But there are a lot of tools that can make it easier…. For example, if it’s difficult to get to the bathroom, get a bedside commode. …A lot of times using a walker is a lot less stressful on your arms than using crutches. I had a chairlift installed temporarily to get me from the first floor of my house to the second floor where my bedroom is…
    I have already had the staples and stitches out.. And have a surgery follow up on 2/2.
    Of course it’s important to remember that yes the accident happened and we are frustrated…But we all have been lucky enough to have the repairs done…it could have been worse!
    Thanks for creating this blog! I look forward to hearing of people’s progress!

  17. Jenna

    Wow!! So much here and it’s amazing … I’m feeling pretty slothy but also inspired! I’m 8 months past a random accident caused by an office chair and resulted in 2 plates, 14 screws, and a loy of time off my feet. Last week I had some hardware removed due to continued pain and tension across my inner ankle bone. I was browsing online for symptoms like mine (burning ) post hardware removal and stumbled upon your post. I think what is most affecting me about this injury is how much I have taken my mobility and my body’s potential for granted. I’m looking forward to getting back to a point where i can walk thru the sand to the shore with little pain and just be able to function without the constant nagging presence of pain. But I honestly don’t know if that will ever happen. Pain is inevitable; suffering is a choice. Thanks for proving this. I admire your journey.

    1. Pyro Maim Ya

      Jenna, I am so sorry for what you’ve been through! Having to have another surgery has to be frustrating, but I hope that it improves your mobility & decreases your pain. You WILL walk in the sand again without pain & you will treasure it, because you know how precious our bodies and our potential are! Some people never realize that – it’s a weird gift we’ve been given, isn’t it?

      I want to thank you for taking the time to comment, & I want you to know how deeply I appreciate the timing. I just got my bib # for my 3rd full marathon (Big Sur) & I was freaking out a bit as I thought about the hills ahead of me. The timing of your comment was perfect – you reminded me of how far I have come and what I am capable of. Thank you so much for that!

  18. Wh1tz

    Thank you for posting this! I am 2 weeks post ORIF and broke my ankle and dislocated my elbow during scrimmage. I have been down a bit thinking that I won’t be able to play again. I know it will be a long road but knowing that it’s possible makes me very happy!

    1. Pyro Maim Ya

      I am so sorry for your double whammy injury! You will heal & you will come back better than ever. Please feel free to email me or post here any time during your recovery & comeback! I love to hear about other athletes’ journeys & successes.

      (PS – I just ran my 3rd marathon on Sunday & my metal leg feels perfectly fine – it is actually be the strongest & toughest part of me now!)


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