achilles.rehabPhysioYoga for Achilles Tendon Rupture: The Missing Link in Rehabilitation:

As a Physical Therapist and Professional Yoga Therapist for over 16 years, I am aware of the benefits and use of integrating therapeutic yoga into physiotherapy and some of the limitations of our current healthcare system. However, after sustaining a traumatic orthopedic injury myself, I had the opportunity to be a patient and experience first hand what it was like to go through our health care system.

Even though I was discharged from the ER and told that rehabilitation wouldn’t start for another 2 months, I knew that there were many aspects of my recovery that could still be addressed to optimize healing. I knew I could, and would, immediately start my own form of rehab and use yoga as my therapy….naturally including and using the knowledge, skills and experience I had as a physical therapist as well.

The first few weeks of ANY injury is so important for healing. All of our physiological systems must be given the opportunity and the right environment to function optimally in order to heal to our highest potential. In orthopedic rehab we focus on the physical layer (kosha).  However, the other 4 layers (koshas) of our existence are equally important in the acute stages of an ortho injury (mental, emotional, energetic, spiritual). This biopsychosocial-spiritual approach to all divisions of therapy is essential if we want to treat the whole person instead of the diagnosis.

I felt a responsibility to share this message while recovering from my own injury, as this is part of my life mission: to integrate yoga therapy into our western healthcare system by inspiring, empowering and educating people through wisdom, love, truth and joy.

I had the honour of giving a TEDx talk about “Pushing the Boundaries in Physical Therapy” where I share my story and outline how and why I successfully integrated therapeutic yoga as part of my rehabilitation. There is a 5 min guided body scan meditation that I shared with the audience at the end; so you can enjoy that as well HERE

I started a YouTube Channel that follows my progress using yoga as therapy (in combination with Physical Therapy in the later stages) in the rehabilitation of my Achilles Tendon Rupture on Dec.22, 2013.

I also wrote a short blogpost in “Yoga for Healthy Aging” BlogSpot about the injury and how I used yoga in the acute stages of recovery: “Sudden Acute Traumatic Injury”

Below is a summary of videos from day 7 to 8 months post rupture with free links to the video practices. My intention is to shed light on what ‘rehabilitation’ can optimally look like using a PhysioYoga approach of integrating yoga safely and effectively into physiotherapy practice.

I hope this helps to increase awareness to health care professionals and patients, and helps those recovering from any injury to feel inspired and empowered.

Please share with anyone you think may benefit:

Day 7  PhysioYoga practise in lower leg cast: 7 days post complete Achilles rupture. Demonstrating that rehabilitation is much more than just about rehab of the injured body part

Week 3  PhysioYoga practice in boot cast. Chair & Mat Yoga poses, weight bearing progression with crutches (25%), ankle ROM within restrictions.
Week 4  Demonstrating PhysioYoga rehab session including: standing balance yoga poses, TATD breath method and Pilates mat core exercises 4 weeks post Achilles rupture (non-operative.
Week 6  Demonstration of PhysioYoga used in progressing weight bearing status and gait training activities (post 6 weeks Achilles rupture). Biopsychosocial approach (all 5 koshas) discussed. Including embracing & observing emotional layer.
Week 7  PhysioYoga rehab: Body Scan Meditation of awareness, Mantra Meditation, Nadi Shodana Pranayama (Breath Meditation), Nature Connection (nourishing Anandamyakosha), Physical Therapy ROM and Theraband strengthening exercises for ankle: all part of post Achilles Tendon Rupture rehab. In healing nature of Sedona, AZ.
Week 8  First Physical Therapy Rehab Session at week 8 post Achilles rupture, non-operative approach. Includes standing and supported 1 leg standing with boot cast off for the first time.
Week 11  Demonstrate more advanced gait and balance training and incorporate a holistic approach to rehab by using improv yoga dance combined with appreciation of fresh air & breath in nature: filmed in Okanagan, BC, Canada.
Week 14  Today’s Physioyoga rehab includes: exercises and yoga methods addressing gait training & stair descension, balance, and specific ankle strengthing & flexibility activities. Nerve flossing and MET included. A comparison of gait pattern and ability to descend steps before and after rehab is included.
6 Months  Rehabilitation continues at 6 months post complete Achilles Tendon Rupture (non-surgical approach). In today’s session, I attempt a one legged heel raise and demonstrates different ways to improve strength and function of the gastroc/soleus muscles. Also demonstrate my progress with gait pattern and stairs. Entire session is outdoors today!
8 Months Starting to incorporate plyometrics, agility drills, and I even attempt to jump rope for the FIRST time after my rupture (which was the initial mechanism of injury)!!
13 Months   Return to figure skating!  Demonstrating the importance of gastroc strength and power during one foot corkscrew spin. Skulling (double and single) and jumping also parts of ‘Skating Rehab’.
Lastly, this is a nice resource for anyone that is using crutches and needs some guidance or a few tips for crutch walking and manipulating steps with crutches:
Stairs with Crutches (outdoors in Canada in -32 degrees winter!)
**This article is not meant to act as medical advice, nor to replace your current treatment. Please seek clearance and guidance from your licensed healthcare professional prior to participating in any of the tips, advice, practices or movements mentioned in this article.

I hope this post and these links will help spread the word that YOGA can be used as THERAPY even in the immediate stages after an acute injury, because yoga is so much more than just some of those fancy yoga poses our culture is accustomed to seeing!