Medical Therapeutic Yoga for Achilles Tendon Rupture: The Missing Link in Rehabilitation


Medical Therapeutic Yoga for Achilles Tendon Rupture: The Missing Link

Todays guest post is by Shelly Prosko, a Physical Therapist, Professional Yoga Therapist, Certified Pilates Instructor. Read more about Shelly.

As a Physical Therapist and Yoga Therapist for over 16 years, I am aware of the benefits and use of yoga therapy 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 approach to all divisions of therapy is essential if we want to treat the person and NOT the diagnosis.

So, 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 started a YouTube Channel that follows my progress and how I used 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”

Here is a summary of videos from day 7 to 8 months post rupture. My intention is to shed light on what ‘rehabilitation’ can optimally look like, to increase awareness to health care professionals & patients, and to help those recovering from any injury to feel inspired & 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 & 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 & 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 & supported 1 leg standing with boot cast off for the first time.
vlcsnap-2014-10-02-15h55m43s6Week 11  Demonstrate more advanced gait & 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 & yoga methods addressing gait training & stair descension, balance, and specific ankle strengthing & flexibility activities. Nerve flossing & 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 & demonstrates different ways to improve strength & function of the gastroc/soleus muscles. Also demonstrate my progress with gait pattern & stairs. Entire session is outdoors today!

8 Months
 Starting to incorporate plyometrics, agility drills, & I even attempt to jump rope for the FIRST time after my rupture (which was the initial mechanism of injury)!!
Here is a 20 minute clip of a ‘montage’ of some of the footage:
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!)

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!



About the Author

Shelly Prosko, PT, PYT, CPI

Shelly Prosko, PT, PYT, CPI

Shelly Prosko, PT, PYT, CPI

Shelly is a Registered Physiotherapist, Yoga Therapist and a Certified Pilates Instructor. She received her Physiotherapy degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 1998, her Yoga Therapist training through Professional Yoga Therapy Studies in North Carolina (www.professionalyogatherapy.org) and her Pilates certification through Professional Health and Fitness Institute in Maryland (www.prohealthandfitness.com).She has treated a wide variety of musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory conditions while working in private orthopaedic clinics and long term care facilities across Canada and the United States.  Shelly was the physiotherapist and clinic manager at The Morris Center For Sports Medicine in Watkinsville, Georgia for 7 years. In 2006, she relocated to Alberta and continued to work in the private orthopaedic clinic setting and was actively involved in the occupational rehabilitation programs at CBI Health.In 2009, Shelly settled in the Okanagan and continues to follow her passions at Sun City Physiotherapy by offering private Physio-Yoga Therapy sessions and by incorporating Yoga Therapy and Pilates into her physiotherapy treatments (www.physioyoga.ca) She also teaches specialty Physio-Yoga Therapy classes in the community. She believes that bridging the gap between Western and Eastern healthcare philosophies is essential in order to achieve optimal health. Consequently, her treatments are individually based and are a unique blend of both approaches.  In addition to her many skills as a health care practitioner, Shelly is also an accomplished figure skater and has traveled the world with many professional ice shows. She is also passionate about music, dance, acting, trapeze, and spending quality time with her family and friends.