Well, if you’re reading this then you have broken either your leg, ankle or foot and have ended up in a cast. Depending on how severe your injury is will determine how long you must be in that cast and most likely you aren’t allowed to put weight on the injured side.
Long story short, I was in a car accident and shattered my right ankle! I broke my tibia, fibula and talus, which are all 3 bones that make up your ankle. I also tore muscles and tendons and damaged a lot of nerves throughout my ankle and foot. It took a 5 hour surgery, 2 metal plates and 19 screws to put my ankle back together. Tomorrow will be 3 weeks since the accident and the surgery. I have learned a lot during this short amount of time and I’d love to share it, so that maybe if you break a bone similar to the ones I broke, you can use the little tips and tricks that I have already figured out! I will be in this cast for 3 months or longer and will probably figure out more tips, if I do I will add them to this list!
1. Pillows are going to become your new best friend! You may need a few of them to make yourself comfortable. Since you can’t put any weight on your injured side, you will spend most of the time in bed, in your favorite recliner or on the coach! Load it up with pillows and blankets and make it as comfortable as possible because you are already going to be uncomfortable enough!
2. Elevate your injured foot/ankle/leg. Use your pillows to prop up your injured side high enough that it is above your heart. Doing so will keep the blood from rushing to the injury, so it will help with the pain and keep the swelling down!
3. If the doctor prescribes you some pain medication, use it as directed! You want to stay ahead of the pain! If your directions say to take one every 4 hours, but you wait 6 hours and are in a ton of pain, it’s going to take the medicine time to kick in and take over! So remember, stay on top of the pain, don’t wait until your in a ton of pain. You can also take over the counter pain medicine, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, in between your prescribed medication times unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
4. Take any help that is offered! Your first week or two home will be the hardest. You will no longer be able to do normal everyday things that require standing or even walking from one room to another. You will need help from family and friends, even if you don’t want their help. You’re going to need help to even go to the bathroom, until you figure out how to do all of those things on your own.
5. Borrow or buy some big basketball shorts or big sweatpants. You will want and need something big enough that will slide right over your cast. Now is not the time to worry about what you look like!
6. If you can afford to do so or your insurance will pay for it, buy or rent a knee scooter or wheel chair. Make sure you measure your doorways FIRST so that you get one that will fit through the doors in your home. If you can’t afford to do that, get an office chair that has wheels on it! Crutches can be hard, painful and scary to use. Rolling around is much easier and safer and it will make you feel a little more independent.
7. Creating your comfy place. You need a place where you will be most of the time, in my case it is my bed, but it could be your couch or where ever is most comfortable to you. You should make sure that you have a place for your phone charger, tablet/iPad/laptop chargers and anything else you need or want that needs to be plugged in. You should make sure that you have as much entertainment as possible. Books, movies, Netflix, TV, music, video games, apps and/or anything you enjoy doing because time will go by very slowly and you want to try and keep your mind busy and your spirits up as much as possible. I, as an adult, even had my hubby go buy me some colored pencils and coloring books!
8. Depending on the severity of your injury is how the doctor will decide how long you should be getting up ONLY to use the bathroom. In my case, that was two weeks! Those two weeks felt like forever, but I made it! While you are stuck in the bed, do ANYTHING that will keep your mind busy. Once you are allowed off of bed rest, usually when you get your splint replaced with a real cast, you are allowed to be up and out doing anything that doesn’t require walking. If you want out of the house, go to Walmart or somewhere that has wheelchairs that you can ride around in. Do things around the house that don’t require standing, like folding laundry. If you don’t get up and do something, no matter if it’s just moving from your bed to the couch or washing dishes (if you can reach the sink while sitting), just anything, you will start to feel down!
9. If your injury is similar to mine and you damaged any nerves, tendons or muscles, you will feel many different sensations around your injury. I injured my ankle, but also damaged nerves and tendons in my foot and my foot is where I feel all of my sensations. It is normal to feel these things. Some of them will be painful while others just feel uncomfortable or odd. Mine are painful, but there really isn’t anything the doctors can do about it. Sometimes the sensations come and go and other times they are constant for hours. There isn’t a way to make them stop, but I just rock my leg/foot back and forth, left to right, and try to breath through it. Sometimes it helps, other times it doesn’t! You may also move your leg/foot/ankle a weird way, too fast or try to stretch your leg out on accident and it may give you an odd or painful feeling in the injured area. You’ll probably think that you moved something that wasn’t supposed to move or wonder if you messed something up. I went through those feelings my first two weeks home. Every new feeling/sensation scared me to death because I feared breaking it or messing it up again. Trust your doctors and trust me when I say that you would have to do something really damaging or try to walk or stand on it for you to mess anything up. They make sure that your splint and/or cast is on tight and secure and your injury isn’t going to move or mess up, even if it feels like you moved it wrong!
10. The doctor will tell you to just keep it elevated. Well, that helps during the first week or two while you still have swelling, but after that it can become a little uncomfortable. All the weight is being put on the heel of your foot which can become painful after a while. Once you have your HARD CAST put on, you can try laying on your right or left side to give your back and heel a break.
11. If your injury is similar to mine, you will have a splint put on for about two weeks before you get your hard cast because they have to make sure the injury is done swelling before they put it in a cast. You will be pretty miserable in the splint. The cast is much more comfortable compared to the splint, but you will still have a level of being uncomfortable and you will find your own ways to deal with it all.
12. Make sure that you follow the doctor’s orders! You want your injury to heal as quickly as possible. The faster your injury heals, the faster you start physical therapy and the faster you get back to a new normal life.
13. You can do other things to help your broken bones heal. Vitamin D, Vitamin C, High Protein foods, High calcium foods, and Vitamin K all help in healing broken bones. Lysine also helps by helping your body absorb more calcium from high calcium foods.
Good Foods To Eat To Help Heal Bones:
Non Fat Yogurt Almonds Skim Milk
Peanut Butter Fish Yeast Products
Soy Products Apples Beef Jerky
Green Leafy Foods Collard Greens
Bad For Healing Bones:
Sugar Salt Alcohol
Caffeine Red Meats Tobacco
14. Be your own advocate! If you are scared, worried or just have questions, call your doctor’s office and ask to speak with your doctor’s nurse. Call as many times as you need to. They may get frustrated, but REMEMBER they deal with broken bones everyday, you do not. So it’s normal to have questions and concerns! My first 2 weeks home, I called my nurse 5 different times for 5 different reasons. Everything I was feeling turned out to be normal, but I wouldn’t have known unless I called! You know your body better than any doctor, so if you are in pain, feeling depressed or just worrying yourself to death, talk with your doctors. Not just your orthopedic doctor, but your regular family doctor too. If you feel like your doctor isn’t taking your concerns serious or you just want to, you can get a second opinion from another doctor and/or switch doctors completely!
15. Showering with a cast is difficult. Your splint or cast can NOT get wet. There are many different ideas out there on the internet, but I’m just going to tell you what I do and a few other ideas. My cast is on my right side which makes it a little more difficult because the right side of my bathtub is the wall. Thankfully I have an amazing man who helps me. FIRST I cover my cast with a trash bag and then I use duct tape to seal the trash bag right above my cast and onto my actual leg. You do not want water to get in there! My hubby then helps me lower myself into the bathtub backwards, so that my right leg can hang out of the tub. He holds my injured leg up for me while I wash as fast as possible. Then he helps me raise myself out of the tub and back to my bed. Another idea is to put a shower chair or a regular plastic patio chair in the shower for you to sit down on, just try to keep your covered cast out of the water’s way as much as possible. There are many ideas out there, but most are better if you have one of the shower heads that can be handheld. I do not have one of those, so I had to find another way!
16. WOMEN.. Your injured leg is going to get hairy. There’s nothing that you can do about it. It is better to just have a hairy leg and cover it with pants/shorts when you go out than to try and shave the area not covered by the cast and end up getting water inside or on the cast. Yes, it sucks, but once the cast comes off, you’ll be able to shave it all away. Just remember, it’s only temporary and a small issue compared to the bigger picture, so just deal with it. When it comes to shaving everything else, do it yourself if you can do so SAFELY, if not ask your husband, friend, mother or whoever you feel comfortable with to help you!
17. Once your injury begins to heal, it will start itching. Doctors warn us not to stick anything down in our cast to try and scratch the itch. One reason is because you may scratch your actual injury, sores, stitches or pull a wound back open. Another reason they warn against it is because whatever you stick in there could break off and get stuck. Now, I got to see where all of my stitches and wounds were when they took my splint off. So, when something starts itching and I know it’s not near my stitches or wounds, I stick the handle part of a fly swatter in my cast and try to just rub the itch away. I am NOT recommending this, I am only telling you what I do. Most itches I just wait out, even though it drives you crazy, it’ll go away in a few seconds and it’s safer to just wait it out!
18. Your whole body is most likely going to become restless from not doing anything all day everyday. It is an irritating and frustrating feeling because you just want to get up and walk around to make it stop, but you can’t. Buy a heating pad! Laying your back on a heating pad will help your body to relax some and since you will be laying on your back most of the time, the heating pad will also help with your back pain. You can put the heating pad on your legs too, to try and relax those muscles. You can put it on the parts not covered by the cast on your injured leg. DO NOT PUT THE HEATING PAD ON THE CAST! You can also buy one of the big back massagers so that you could massage your back yourself. I make my hubby rub mine when it starts to hurt!
19. Depending on your injury, this could be a very long and hard time. My injury could result in it being a year or maybe more before I am walking again. During this time you will feel many different emotions and depending on how you got your injury, it may be a traumatic experience similar to mine. It is okay to feel sad, angry, frustrated and like you just want to give up at times. I’ve felt all of that and still do. But, if you start feeling constantly depressed, full of anxiety, full of fear or anything extreme that just won’t go away, talk with your doctor! Don’t be ashamed about it!! There are medicines out there to help with those feelings and help get your spirits back up! I personally was already taking medicine for anxiety and depression after a separate traumatic event that happened only 5 months prior to this injury. I was having a hard time and my doctor increased the dose on my medications and it helps more than you can imagine. Now I can focus on getting better instead of being too sad and angry to do anything!
20. Exercise. You need to exercise your other uninjured muscles because you are going to need them through this journey! There are plenty of exercises that you can do while sitting or lying in the bed. Use Google or your preferred search engine to search for:
Non Weight Bearing Exercises
Exercises To Do While In Bed
Exercises To Do With A Broken (insert injury here)
Find the ones that work best for you. Just remember not to do too much with the injured leg. The time will come for that once you start physical therapy!
21. If, like myself, you have stairs in your home or stairs that you have to go up to get into your home, your probably worried. Well, don’t be! Sit down on the steps and if your cast/splint is light enough for you to hold your leg up in the air, then do that. If it’s too heavy, have someone else hold your injured leg up while you scoot up or down the stairs! I can promise that this will save you a lot of energy, worry and pain! Using crutches to go up or down stairs just seems too dangerous and scary to me!
22. Get outside! You are going to be stuck in the house most of the time as long as you have this cast on because it’s easier to just do nothing. But, if you don’t push yourself to get up and get some fresh air, you’re going to start feeling sad, isolated and bored out of your mind! Even if your only out there for 2 or 3 minutes, I promise it will make a difference! It is below freezing where I live and is supposed to snow today. That didn’t stop me from scooting down my steps and having my hubby help me crutch to a chair. I was only out there for 5 minutes because I was freezing, but it made me feel a little better having a change of scenery!
22. It is going to difficult to wash or do really anything with your hair by yourself. The first few weeks will be the worst and your hair will be the last thing on your mind! But, you’ve got to do something. I have long, thick, curly hair and it gets tangled and ratted up very easy. While I laid down on the couch, with my head on the arm rest, I had my mother brush my hair out. I then had her put some non-frizz oil in it and a bunch of leave-in conditioner! It will feel gross at first, but it’ll be worth it. I then had her braid all of my hair into medium sized braids and then rapped them nice and tight into a bun. I didn’t touch my hair for two weeks and when I finally felt up to washing it, it was so much easier than if I wouldn’t have done something with it. So, ask a friend or family member to help get yours put up because I can promise that you will be in too much pain and discomfort during those first few weeks to try and figure out how to wash your hair!
I will continue to update this list as I learn more along my journey! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will answer the best I can!
Thanks For Reading!
-Wife & Mother & Friend