Monday, December 5, 2011

Past Deadline: Retraining Wonky Ankles

The good news is I no longer feel compelled to cut off my right foot.

The bad news is I still spend way more time thinking about my feet than I would like.

Back in September, I wrote about how my right ankle had basically given up on me.

It all started with nagging pain in August. Over a period of several weeks, despite rest, ice, tensor bandages and elevation, it grew progressively worse. It burned and twinged and throbbed and felt as if someone were squeezing it with a vice. That was when I was sitting down – standing and walking were much less fun. Even swimming was painful.

My doctor referred me to physiotherapy, which became my happy place. My physiotherapist took my poor, swollen, red-hot appendage and, over a few weeks, got it back on speaking terms with the rest of my body.

“Baby, you were born this way,” she said with a smile, while marveling over the fact I actually ran on those feet. I credit good shoes.

Turns out I had posterior tibialis tendonitis in the right foot, which is a fancy way of saying my tendon was very angry. My arch had collapsed onto said tendon, which is as painful as it sounds. The ligaments were none too pleased about the situation, either.

Inflammation, much? Ice became my best friend.

My physiotherapist explained I have “severe biomechanical failure” in my feet. My ankles tilt in. Things aren’t lined up properly and probably never were. It seems it is a miracle I have not had foot problems before now.

How do we fix these wonky ankles? Custom orthotics!

I am now the proud owner of an expensive set of casts that not only produced inserts for my shoes, but can also be used as weapons or a dandy set of paperweights.

The inserts are now busily retraining my feet. Although I have been told by many that orthotics are just the bestest most awesomest things ever (or as my son would say, “epic!”), I have also been suitably forewarned they take some getting used to.


Basically, orthotics position your feet so they work the way they should, which feels weird when you’ve been walking on them the wonky way for 40 years.

The process makes your feet a whole new kind of tired as you find all sorts of little muscles that may never have been used properly before.

In fact, when my orthotics specialist explained how to ease into the wearing of them, he said I would need double the normal time. I am just that special.

So instead of wearing them for one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon on the first day, then two and two on the second, etc., I had to do each increment over two days.

How could I have lived so long with such crazy feet without knowing it? It makes me wonder what else I don’t know about myself. (I know about the crazy hair, at least.)

After a couple of weeks I am pleased to report that, despite the onerous process, I think I am starting to notice a difference.

My ankle still yells at me sometimes, but it’s not as violently angry. Both feet get tired, but that matches the rest of me.

My orthotics guy said that after a few months I will suddenly realize the bad days are much further and farther between. I look forward to it.

Not only that, but both he and my physiotherapist have suggested I may be able to run again – someday – as long as I don’t rush it. No worries. I am happy that I can sometimes walk without pain now, so I have no plans to hinder progress.

Oh, but I sure miss my head-clearing runs.

Even though I embraced cycling as a means to get around town without having to put weight on my foot, I have had a hard time getting past the “I am going to die” feeling that set in after I flipped off my bike in Grade 12 and landed in the hospital.

I’ll keep working at it, but so far biking doesn’t do much to clear my head – and concussions don’t count.

Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 10/11

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