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How I Learned to Live With a Broken Leg or Ankle Without Losing My Mind

I broke three bones in my lower leg. I required 10 screws, 1 plate, and 3–4 months of rest and rehabilitation.

I broke three bones in my lower leg. I required 10 screws, 1 plate, and 3–4 months of rest and rehabilitation.

About My Injury

Breaking one's leg or ankle (let's just say leg from now on, for simplicity's sake) isn't generally something that is expected. It is usually a sudden, unpredicted event that leaves one at a loss in terms of mobility, freedom, and possibly even in terms of work.

For me, I broke—quite suddenly and unexpectedly—three bones in my lower leg (see my scan above). Which three bones, I am not sure, but I required 10 screws, a plate, and 3–4 months of rest/rehabilitation to bring me back to my normal state.

For many, a broken bone is the result of a sports injury, and my break was no exception. I was playing soccer with my brother and landed funny on my ankle. I heard a snap, and that was that.

Now, I am not going to go on and on about my story. However, I thought it would be useful to discuss the background of my injury because it is through my experience that I can try to help others who might be going through the same thing. Below are my tips and advice on how you can live as best as you can during this time of your life.

Tip 1: Stay Active (Physically)

I chose to list staying active as the first tip because it is, in my opinion, one of the most important things to do while you are down and out. Staying active can come in many forms, and although I will give some tips on how to stay physically active, I am not going to limit my advice to just the corporeal. However, I will begin with the physical. If you are an athlete like myself, you probably hate the fact that you must be subjected to minimal movement and keeping your leg elevated and whatnot. Let me just say this: you are not alone. I thought I was going to go mad when my surgeon told me that I had to stay off of my leg for six weeks. However, I learned to cope physically by employing a couple of methods.

The Gripmaster

One thing that really helped me post-surgery and in the following weeks is this tiny product called the Gripmaster. The Gripmaster was particularly helpful for me right after surgery when I found myself in a lot of pain; it gave me something to help take my mind off of the pain by directing my energy and concentration somewhere else (I squeezed the daylights out of the thing). The Gripmaster also helped in the following weeks when I was not in much pain but still subjected to rest and minimal movement. It gave me a way to build muscle in my hands and forearms without endangering my leg. It may sound silly that such a small thing can help, but, indeed, it lifts the spirits because you feel constructive; you feel like you are actually making some progress in an area.


Crutch walking (assuming you can use crutches) is another good way to stay physically active. Most likely, you will be told by your doctor to get up once every hour or two and walk around so that blood clots won't form. At first, this is quite a chore because one, crutch-walking is tiring, and two, the last thing you will probably want to do post-surgery or post-a-bad-break is get up and walk around, but you should do it if you can. As time goes by, you will heal, and as you do, I recommend getting up to walk around more and more. It will get you out of the chair or bed and moving your body, changing your scenery a bit.

Lift Weights (or Books)

The last bit of advice I can give in regards to the physical aspect of activity is to lift some weights (or anything for that matter) if you can. This was helpful for me because, once again, it gave me the sense, like with my use of the Gripmaster, that I was making progress. I wouldn't recommend doing anything too drastic; just do many repetitions using a light to medium weight object. For me, I did curls with my 1,200-page biography on Winston Churchill, and it worked great!

So, in summary, the above-mentioned tips for physical activity are just a few ideas. The best thing to do, though, is to be creative and resourceful. Think of new ways to stay active, and talk to other people who have been in the same situation. This part of your life doesn't have to be a period of inactivity and depression. It can be great!


Tip 2: Stay Active (Mentally)

Staying as physically active as possible while dealing with a broken leg is very important, though it is not the only aspect of your life that must be attended to during your time of recovery. It is just as important to stay mentally active, because, after all, it is the ability to cope mentally that will help you keep your sanity during this period of your life.

Learn Something

Learning something new is a crucial part of staying mentally active. When you learn something, not only are you stimulating your brain and causing it to work, but you are also accomplishing something. This is similar to what I mentioned above, in the staying physically active section. it doesn't matter what you learn, as long as it is something, because learning will give you that sense of accomplishment, the sense that you did something worth while even though you find yourself in an undesirable situation. For example, you could begin to learn a new language, or relearn an old one; you could browse through some of your past class notes, or you could even take a new class and learn something completely different. If taking a new class appeals to you, I would suggest looking to iTunes. On iTunes there are numerous lectures available for free; they are under the section within the iTunes store called iTunes U. You can learn anything from Russian History to Molecular Biology, and, once again, it is completely free!

Create Something

If learning something new was never your strong suit or preferred pastime, then perhaps creating something will be more suited to you. Creating something gives the same sense of accomplishment as with the above-mentioned ideas, but It also gives you the ability to use a different part of your brain. Creating something could mean anything, really, you can create in the traditional mediums by painting or drawing, you can create a new website, or you can even create a completely new way of thinking about something all together! There are no limits, this is life, it is meant to be lived, not suffered through.


The act of writing stems from the previous section, but It deserve its own space. Writing is a good way to express your thoughts and vent your anger. That expression can come in the form of a blog or just a personal journal. Writing is a good way to pinpoint your feelings (in general, but particularly in regards to your situation) and then express them in a manner that is both positive and effective. If you feel inclined to write, I would suggest that you, at the very least, keep a journal, writing in it as often as you feel necessary, and as often as powerful thoughts enter your mind. I would also suggest that you create a blog, or continue an old one that you have since neglected. Writing for yourself is a good pain reliever, but it is not a panacea (nothing will be) because it doesn't make you feel like you have a voice amongst others. I would suggest blogging, because feeling like you have a voice is important when you are going through a tough time. It makes you feel like you aren't living unnoticed.


The last way that I would suggest to stay mentally active is to read. Reading in general is a good way to stay mentally active because it provides the mind with material to process and learn about. Reading fiction in times of trial is particularly helpful, however. Fiction helps by giving the mind intellectual stimulation (hopefully) and by providing an escape. During this time of your life, I would suggest reading a book that both stimulates you intellectually, but is still able to hold your attention and take you on a journey of some sort. This book could come in the form of a classic such as, Journey to the Center of the Earth, or it can come in the form of something more contemporary such as, White Teeth by Zadie Smith; there are ample possibilities. It may be tempting to just sit and browse the internet all day, trust me, I know, though, I can assure you that it is both rewarding and alleviating to read.

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Just an Example of What You Will Find on iTunes U

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


gee on November 22, 2019:

i broke my leg last week and tore my acl . A freak dog accident. Doctor said 3 months no weight bearing. Its been 2 weeks. I might loose my mind. LOL . Had someone take me christmas shopping yesterday with a wheel chair just to get out for a while. going to be a long winter

Bmum on July 31, 2019:

I broke my tibia/fibula 4 weeks ago. I have a rod and screws in my right leg. Currently using crutches. It is extremely hard for me because I have a 2 month old. I feel confined just sitting and nursing. Being outside is what makes me feel the best. Just a change of scenery is nice. It is hard having other people wait on me hand and foot. I like staying busy and being active. It is hard not to feel sorry for yourself at times. I cry at the drop of a hat. I hope this experience will make me stronger.

anon on June 21, 2019:

Just broke my ankle earlier today after a skateboard accident. Fell on my right ankle and ended up with fracture - I guess I was lucky enough that it wasn’t too bad and I’ll be able to have my cast taken off in August, but this means I’ll have to spend the rest of the summer indoors. I broke down in tears in the hospital because this was my one break as a college student and I really wanted to spend my free time out and about, but seeing this article and reading the comments from others I feel a lot better. I’m worried about my physical activity because I gained some weight in the fall and was hoping to exercise and drop that in the summer, so i’m just hoping I don’t gain more until I’m free of my cast. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll have all the time in the world to read, binge netflix and learn something new :)

Josie Jean on October 12, 2017:

reading saved me while I was in the hospital, I've more or less given in on physical activity for now, as tempting as it is my body needs wayyy more calories than I can possibly consume in a healthy way in order to heal. 3 months ago I was hit head on while driving by someone with no insurance and have 57 fractures in my right leg.. the first words out of my mouth at the scene were Im not gonna be able to go to work tomorrow, what am I gonna do? ... I've been doing everything myself for so long the idea of not being able to take care of myself instantly struck me with panic. I had a physical job and an active lifestyle and I've been going somewhat insane, but the accident constantly reminds me what we all should remember; it could be much worse. and I think it's important for anyone's recovery to remain thankful it wasn't. after a month in the hospital and 2 surgeries I'm still stuck, no weight bearing until nearly December and there are moments I just break down and cry but the truth is it's because I'm thankful it wasn't worse and that I had an amazing surgeon who was willing to put his whole heart into saving my leg.. it was a possibility of amputation because of the state of my bones and possibility of infection or bleeding since my tibia came through the skin next to an artery... while I was in the hospital I had all these plans to start working out again right away but with all the medications my stomach is a mess, and my body needs all the calories it can get for healing so I don't want to push my luck and be stuck like this any longer, today is my second day with no pain meds and I'm grateful for that but it seems next to impossible to feel normal, I know it will take the time it takes and 3 months has actually gone by pretty quickly, when I don't think about the time and focus on healing, I know I can build my strength back when I'm better but I haven't had this little muscle mass since I was a born and it's frustrating to think of all the work to come and to wonder if I will get back to where I was .. a humbling experience to say the least. Hoping the next 3 months goes by quickly maybe walking on my own two feet by spring ... could always be worse. Try to remember to be thankful

Sharon on September 07, 2017:

Fractured my talus bone in ankle almost 3 weeks ago. Struggled at first with crutches as they were an older set we had in the garage and first day getting full cast I stumbled on crutches and fell backwards onto my neighbours fence. This fall and the crappy crutches really made me so anxious and dreaded getting up for bathroom breaks. Finally persuaded my other half to bring down my office chair which has given me so much freedom. Can actually make myself a cup of tea and wheel myself back to my pile of pillows on the settee carrying my cup. Have borrowed another set of crutches from my sis which are so much better. Using my office chair I can wheel myself to my patio doors, open them, grab another dining chair which I stand outside I then pull myself up using the door frame and shuffle across to the static chair. All for a few mins of some fresh air but it is with it. Managed to wash down all the base cupboards in my kitchen shuffling on the office chair. The wall units will have to wait. Started using small dumbells to gain more upper strength as I haven't done any physical exercise due to physio on 6 month problem with my neck. Have taken up knitting poppies for our local council as I did last year to make a huge poppy carpet for the Remembrance Day commemoration. I have also just subscribed to a knitting magazine and hope to knit the bobble hat in time for my holiday in Vienna. I had many tearful days at first and the total dependency on others is awful. We are allowed to get tearful and cranky at times. I was so gutted having to cancel my holiday to Rome a few days after accident and today I should have been travelling with my sis to the Lake District. My husband has been brilliant trying to work and look after myself and the house. My wheelchair has just arrived today and I can't wait to get out now instead of getting excited visiting the fracture clinic.

machelle s on September 06, 2017:

I am 3 weeks post surgery for a broken ankle. I am in a cast, on crutches and completely non weight bearing for 3 more weeks. Ugggg!! I keep telling myself its not forever, but it sure is hard keeping spirits up. I will progress to a boot 25% weight bearing, then 5o% and so on. My question does anyone have experience with the boot and physical therapy that is to come. Thanks and good healing to everyone!

Jersey girl Jaye on July 29, 2017:

Broke my ankle a week ago and in the cast only 2 days. Yesterday being home alone I found I did way to much and so very sore. I'm using a combination of a walker and crutches. Both hurt in different ways. So far I'm back to crocheting but as a CNA for hospice I miss my work terribly and can really see what some patients deal with. Your blog is so encouraging and I think it's time to get the hand weights out and keep positive

Lorraine on July 23, 2017:

Very good advice - hope I can follow it well -

Julie on July 22, 2017:

Thank you for this post. Been in casts for one week now and its nice to see how others have coped.

sherlock on March 25, 2017:

broke my ankle 28/2/17. had no idea the problem it as caused, you are totally dependant on fanily, friends and everyone, not been able to weight bear for 8 weeks, thats 2months, could not use crutches as deemed unsafe so got a zimmer frame, still hard, got srews and plate in, borrowed wheel chair from RED CROSS for a donation, been good, as can get about the house, but i am doing as i am told elevated leg and no weight bearing as like all the others here i want to get better and problems afterward, Thanks been good reading every one,s experiences, and all have the same, Here,s to everyone,s full recovery,

Yvonnewils on February 14, 2017:

Hi I broke my ankle 3 weeks ago and after the first week the consultant said I needed to have a plate fitted which has put me back to square one. Now one week after the op and I'm determined to elevate and rest so that when I go back to hospital this week it'll be good news and no further complications. I'm trying to keep my days structured but it's difficult. 'It's only a broken ankle' I keep telling myself! Why do I constantly feel tearful and fedup! Reading all your comments have made me feel normal. I've already read three books taken up adult colouring and I'm thinking of knitting!! Not forgetting lifting weights and trying out resistance exercises.


Anna on August 03, 2016:

hi, thank you for this post. I broke my foot yesterday and as an extremely active person I am already going insane. This morning I cried thinking about how long it will take me to "walk" from the bedroom to the bathroom (2 meters apart). iI had so many plans this month including a skydive and a holiday. I know it is all about your state of mind therefore I searched for tips online. This post has been exactly what I was looking for and although the things you have listed are probably things I have thought about anyway but it is good to have them in front of you to read. Thank you!

Jessica on June 25, 2016:

Thanks for posting this, it's giving me hope. I know a broken ankle isn't that big of a deal but it's my first break, abs it's summer. I hope these tips will help me stay active so I don't give into depression :( it already hurts and it's hard not to feel sorry for yourself. Especially when all you want to do is go outside.

Susy on May 25, 2016:

So glad to have come across this blog. I just broke my ankle last Thursday, leaving the veternarian office, of all places, slipped on a wet floor. I think today is the first day I haven't cried, I didn't know what I was going to do this next 5 weeks of non weight bearing, but I got a lot of good ideas on this blog. I miss work, I miss getting up and getting a shower by my self or helping myself to the bathroom. Oh and the never ending negative thoughts I will get a blood clot or infection. I started to adult colour today, and that is helping. Thank you for all your good suggestions.

Barbara on May 15, 2016:

Broke my ankle and sprained my wrist and knee 2 weeks ago in a sporting accident having just literally returned after 2 months in and out of hospital with a horrible virus. I am so fed up now entering my third month of inactivity ( other than 1 short week pre accident post virus) I am usually very active, ambitious and gregarious but feel currently like everything is hard work, can't focus and am particularly short tempered. In the nicest way possible it's good to hear others experience the same feelings.

Tammy Two Two on April 08, 2016:

I can't sleep at all. I'm wide awake and reassessing my situation constantly. I find I don't have an appetite. I showered today but hit my cast a little damp do now worried about that. I hate being stuck in bed. Bored and super feeling sorry for myself.

Colin on February 19, 2016:

Today is Friday and broke my ankle on Monday! Up and around a bit, had a shower no problem and not taking any meds so far today! More discomfort with the cast than anything. Can't seem to relax that leg at all! Always feels like it's tensed, like I am afraid to let it relax. After going through this I feel like burning my hockey equipment, seems now I have broken ankle, two collarbones, several knuckles broken in my non paying career! Lol

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 15, 2015:

I'm back with a report on my progress. I notice that I posted a comment 15 months ago. It appears that my damage is going to haunt me all my life. I think I had more damage than the x-rays showed. My break was on the fibula just above the ankle, but the ankle itself is enlarged on the inside bone. At least 20% of the time I start to walk, the ankle collapses and I have to catch myself from falling. The flesh and muscle around the enlarged part of the ankle feels like it needs stretching. I try to stretch it myself, but it never seems to work. Most of the time I am in pain when I walk, and sometimes it hurts when I am sitting. I can now predict the weather through my ankle. My neighbor, who about the same time shattered her ankle and required surgery, pins and a plate, is running around now like nothing happened to her.

My niece, a physical therapist but out of state, said that doctors rarely ever prescribe PT for broken ankles. She said that I could request PT, and I may after I get over more pressing physical problems.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on September 14, 2015:

Great idea to keep one's mind occupied.

Allison on June 26, 2015:

So glad I googled how to keep sane w/ a broken ankle, this popped up, and I've actually started making a list of things to keep myself from being depressed, just generally not a unstressful environment right now though and I have limited access to wifi, but definitely will keep these things in mind. The exercise one really helped me, as I play rugby and want to be able to keep myself in shape as much as feasibly possible :/

Wendi on March 15, 2015:

I just broke my ankle on Tuesday night while at work, so thankfully, a workers comp deal. Slipped on black ice while bringing out garbage just before clocking out. I have a spiral fracture and torn ligament which did require surgery for screws and a plate. I have been training my body physically for the last 6 months and I'm already feeling the need to get to the gym, even though I can't. I was happy to find this page and I do plan on listing weights while I'm down and out. I just hope the pain eases soon. Just had my surgery on Friday(2 days ago) so I expect it to be sore for a few more days, but I'm still up and about every hour with my crutches.

Thanks for the advice!

Azulsurf on November 19, 2014:

I am very grateful to find this information. This is very helpful. I too am very active and broke my ankle while playing ice hockey. It is so hard to lay or sit for so many days. I have kept positive and have done your recommendations.

I do highly recommend getting out, like PatDances suggested. When I can, I watch my hockey team behind the benches, and while I can't wait to heal and get back out, I enjoy the commradery.

Thank you.

Justin Stellrecht (author) from New York on August 03, 2014:

Thank you for the comment and advice! I'm glad my article was able to offer a little insight! :)

PatDances on July 31, 2014:

Thank you so much. My new mantra is Move, Learn, Create, Write, Read!

Particularly helpful was counting crutch walking, grip master, and weights as physical activity. I was not considering these 'simple' things physical activity, and it was affecting my attitude. I am allowed to use a knee walker, so I am planning short outings now. I also can do a few yoga stretches either sitting or laying on the floor.

I would like to add one to your list: Socialize. All my after work social activities revolved around physical activity (dancing, biking, hikes, sailing, yoga, zumba, the gym), so my immediate response was to not go to any of these activities. Now I go and sit on the beach and chat with my sailing friends as they get the boats ready. I go to a lot of the dances, because they involve food and socializing.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 11, 2014:

I am really glad to find this hub, and I’m sorry that you haven’t had any comments even after seven months. I am recuperating from a broken femur just above the ankle, so I can commiserate with you. I slipped on the ice in the parking lot at work (not workers’ comp, unfortunately), and my break didn’t require surgery. The ortho doc said it healed clean, and he didn’t prescribe physical therapy. Now nearly six months later the ankle is still swollen, and I am still in pain and hobbling around on a cane yet my family doc says I’m making great progress. I am beginning to wonder about this.

Walking while in a cast and on painkillers, ya gotta be kiddin’. I had to be waited on hand and foot. The first three or four weeks every time I got up to go to the bathroom, I fell. Once while my husband was gone, I fell flat of my back on the floor and decided to lie there until he got home.

I did exercise with a set of 2 lb. weights because I knew I needed to build up strength to use the crutches. I bought and downloaded the 5 volume set of Game of Thrones on my Kindle and read them while I was self-incarcerated.

The worst part was that three days after my break, we lost our water and had to have our house replumbed and a new water heater installed. We decided on an on-demand tankless heater. We were out of water for a week and out of hot water for two weeks because the first heater they sent was an outdoor heater and had to be returned for an indoor heater. We had to procure water from an outside source and heat it on the kitchen range for sponge baths. What fun!

Anyway, I had plenty of ways to stay busy, all while staying high on hydrocodone. I couldn’t post on Facebook, much less write a blog or a hub. Thanks for a good read. Voted you up++

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