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Cycling as Therapy for Achilles tendon repair??(5 posts)

Cycling as Therapy for Achilles tendon repair??Buzzy
Nov 11, 2001 4:05 PM
Looking for comments from others that have benefited using cycyling post/op from Achilles Tendon Surgery

I am 54 and have not ridden bikes for 3 decades. My last major ride was a century to celebrate graduation from San Jose State. I rode from Santa Clara to Modesto CA over 5,000 foot Mt. Hamilton. I hit the wall about 10 miles from the finish and crawled in.
I ruptured my achilles tendon this summer and had surgery repair. Recovery has been slow, due to swelling and related nerve pain caused by swelling. [The foot version of carpal tunnel, called tarpal tunnel]
My Therapist suggested cycling to add to other routines.
I lost my old Schwinn of my youth in one of my wife's famous garage sale (Lost a tuba that way, too!), so patched tubes in my son's MTB and hit the neighborhood.
After several pain-free rides, I went out and bought a bike of my own. Found a 2K Specialized Crossroads A1 Sport. I put fenders on it. You serious bikers probably think it likes like a buick, an old man's car. Dream bike now has become Specialized Sirrus.
I was really out of shape, but after a short time I am doing 25-28 miles every trip out. I live near a large rural area, so am driving out to avoid busy and nasty traffic to areas where I can ride and not see cars often for 15-20 minutes at a time.
I maintain a cadence of about 80 spins a minute, so figure many of my trips are 7,500 to 10,000 spins of the old injured/repaired ankle. The good news is that the swelling is starting to go down more, and I am getting relief from the pain.
The therapist says I need to find an activity that will allow me to work the tendon. With the surgery, it is probably about 2-3 inches shorter than what it used to be.

I had hit a wall in my recovery and now credit the bike mileage with helping.

I want to move to clips or shoes later, but for now am still getting into shape. I notice when on an exercise bike, that when I relax, my cadence improves. I think I am still too tight on my upstroke return. Moving to clips will require new technique.

I have been reading your posts for several days. Many of you have helped fill in the blanks. I have missed a lot of changes being away from bikes for so long.
re: Cycling as Therapy for Achilles tendon repair??Starliner
Nov 11, 2001 5:14 PM
I ruptured my right AT playing basketball some years back. Operation, non-walking full leg cast for several months, etc. I became an expert at driving a car with my right leg draped over the seat and my left foot working all the pedals.

Cycling is good for the recovery process IMO. It is low strain and offers continual movement, and helps restore leg muscle mass. However, you're working both legs equally, so although the weakened leg is getting stronger, so is the stronger leg. You may never equalize the strength of both legs through riding, I know I haven't. But you will get stronger.
re: Cycling as Therapy for Achilles tendon repair??Buzzy
Nov 11, 2001 5:38 PM
I just started at a Gym, and do specific calf-strengthening exercises for the injured leg. I learned in therapy that when I thought a certain exercise was difficult, to try it with the good leg. When I started, I was about 50% strength in my right calf. Now I am lifting body weight + 150 lbs. doing one-legged calf raises on the injured leg.
The summer was really a bummer, having to keep the injuried foot "higher than my heart". I was biking before I could even walk decent. I finally ran for the first time just 3 days ago. But I have been out moving on the bike for nearly 2 months. Great for the soul.
Achilles and CyclingBrooks
Nov 12, 2001 9:29 AM
I tore my AT 2.5 years ago when I was 41. After surgery, I had an adjustable, removable "boot" (no leg cast, that is a thing of the past). After about a month I started with Physical Therapy to increase range of motion and begin strength work. As PT progressed, cycling was suggested as a non-weight bearing exercise that also helped in range of motion and stretching/strengthening the AT. I started in a Spinning class and also had a trainer set up at home (this was in winter where it snows). No out of the saddle work for awhile, as with everything I gradually worked up to that. You really have to work on stretching the AT, and yes, that hurts a bit. Now that you are riding regularly, every now and then get out of the saddle and stand or find some easy climbs. Doing this kind of work generally drops the heel and stretches the AT and calf. I have no after effects from my surgery, other than the lovely scar. I ski, play basketball, and put in a couple thousand miles this year on the bike. Glad to hear you renewed your youthful enjoyment of cycling. Have fun and take care.

Achilles and CyclingBuzzy
Nov 12, 2001 2:12 PM
Thanks Brooks - I am about 20 weeks post op. I do stretch a lot, even on my bike trips; stop, get a drink, stretch, move on. I am just this week getting past a nerve pain issue - The swelling around my ankle pressed on nerve and caused pain spikes. The bike riding provided the much needed motion that has greatly reduced the swelling.

I have yet to do much standing in the saddle other than to stretch on some downhills. I live in an area of many rolling hills, so a long flat stretch of road is hard to find.
I am very much enjoying the cardio-rush of just felling so much better.