As I’ve blogged here before, over the past couple years my long history as a ballet and folk dancer and more recent work as a Zumba Fitness instructor caught up with me and posterior tibial tendonitis has taken over my life. And that is not an exaggeration. There were times of relief, and I even traveled to Australia last year, but once I was back from that trip ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE. I had been fitted for some rigid custom orthotics and those ended up hurting rather than helping, likely because of an extra bone or “accessory navicular” I have.Since September, I’ve slowed down in e-v-e-r-y w-a-y possible. I stopped teaching at the gym and pretty much stay home whenever I can. I did travel for a quick conference in Denver, to NOLA at Christmas, and recently to Florida to visit a friend, but none of these trips (purposefully) included much walking. In fact, I’ll only consider myself healed when I can go to New York and walk the streets of Manhattan in search of bagels! More in a separate post on how this chronic pain has changed my everyday routine, but first I want to give you a brief rundown about what I’ve learned:
- Find a good doctor. Not one whose visits last less than 15-minutes and who doesn’t even touch your foot or ask you to stand or walk. I put up with one guy for longer than I should have, likely because I was scared of bad news. So while the “no news” and tests to eliminate other causes/issues seemed like moves in the right direction, I wasted valuable months of healing time. For example, once we did get an MRI done last November, which showed some fluid in the ankle and inflammation, I should have been put in a bootcast, but I wasn’t until this April when a second MRI proved that fluid was still there and that there was no tendon tear or degeneration. It could have been the #winterofhealing, but instead, here we are.
- Get a second opinion. Now this seems obvious, but it was only after talking to friends and family that I started looking for someone else, someone who specialized in sports and dance injuries. Getting appointments with these folks took some time and at one point I had a long 2 months of waiting between appointments, but once I did see them and started to get answers, I knew I could put a recovery plan in motion. In fact, while the aforementioned first doctor interpreted the MRI as “your tendon is fine,” the two new ones (separate practices in separate states) both agreed that the tendon sheath was inflamed. That alone, a name to the problem, put my mind at ease, although it’s still a long road to normal activity.
- Try new methods of healing. Other than rest, icing, compression socks, elevation, and ibuprofen (also known as Pills+RICE), I now own a foam roller, a foot roller, tons of Epsom Salts, and have been to countless acupuncture, massage, & ultrasound appointments. Even though there’s no magic fix, these methods have helped me on a day-to-day basis, even if just to get the blood flowing. I know I’ve been so scared of pain or reinjury that at times I freeze and don’t move at all, but that only makes things worse.
- Foot pain is the worst! Well, anyone experiencing any kind of pain will say that about their condition, but I truly feel foot pain is the worst because you can’t get anywhere quickly. (Hell, only now am I beginning to feel comfortable standing whereas last year at this time I was teaching 3 yoga classes a week!) Unless you’ve been put in a cast or wheelchair, the feet never truly get a chance to rest. As a professor, I like to walk around the classroom, but this Spring I sat A LOT, although my students totally understood. I was spoiled in having to only be in one building this semester, with a husband to drop me off right at its front door, but going from a super active lifestyle to making decisions based on how many steps I have to take has been eye-opening.
With that final statement, my next few posts will reflect more on the ups and downs of chronic pain, but I hope you’ve learned a little about what my year has been like.