Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fun with splints

As I've mentioned before, I have plantar fasciitis (PF) in my right foot. I had a mild case in my left foot for a little while too, but the right foot is the main issue... the pain has been going on for two years now. Last fall, I went to a physical therapist (PT) about it, and she gave me some ideas, but it didn't help too much... the main thing was that I was supposed to stretch my calf muscles every 2 hours (or less!), and I found that my foot actually hurt more the more I stretched. After taking a long time off of running, I decided that sitting around getting fat while my foot remained unchanged wasn't cutting it, so I took up running again. I did it without first consulting my PT, but after the first couple of runs, I mentioned it to her and she told me that she knows another PT who had PF themself and who, after 6 months of resting with no improvement in their PF, started running and actually found that it helps. See, PF can lead to build up of scar tissue (or so I'm told) and running can cause it to break down (a good thing). So, I started running without guilt once a week... but after running, my foot would seize up and I'd limp for a little while. Also, the day after running, my foot would hurt more than it normally does. But, I was running!! Yay for running! After a while, I picked up the running to two days a week, then three. I've now been running at least three days a week for at least a month. I've lost a few pounds! Yay! My foot doesn't seize up after running! Yay! I've even started wearing shoes other than Crocs when I'm not in my running shoes (which I can only wear when running... my feet kill me if I walk in running shoes). BUT, my foot has been getting bad again. It could be the increased running--not only am I running 3-4 times a week, but I recently started interval training more seriously, thanks to Kirsty--or it could be the use of non-Crocs (aka Dansko Clogs, recommended by other PF sufferers). Or, it could have something to do with my night splint not working as well as it used to. This is what my night splint looks like:

To make this a better story, I'm going to go on a bit of a tangent here. Just over a month ago, I was entering some data in the form of numbers into my computer at work. I have a laptop that doesn't have a number pad on the right like many keyboards, so I had to use the row of numbers across the top. While stretching my fingers from one number to another, I started getting a tingly feeling in my left wrist that was quite uncomfortable. It got worse and worse. It was uncomfortable even while I was typing letters! Which is particularly bad since I'm at a stage in my research when I need to type a lot. It was right before I was going to go to a conference in Colorado, so I hoped that a bit of time off from extensive typing might cure me. It didn't. Turns out Jesse had a wrist splint around from when he was having wrist problems, so now I wear it whenever I type (including now). As uncomfortable as it is, it does help. I can type, and when I'm "bad" and type a couple of sentences without taking the time to put the splint on, my wrist stays fairly comfortable. Here's what it looks like:

Around the same time I started having wrist problems, Jesse started having problems with his right foot! Jesse is also a runner, and even ran a marathon earlier this year. His problems were more with the front of his foot, but that's how my PF started too. Instead of waiting 1.5 years to see a doctor as I did, Jesse waited only a few weeks. The doctor took X-rays and sent him to a podiatrist. In between, Jesse decided to finally try Crocs (since walking barefoot around the apartment hurt his foot). This past week, the Crocs arrived the same day Jesse got the verdict: he has sesamoiditis--one of his sesamoid bones has swelled to twice the size of the other one! Ouch! The only way to help it apparently is to not bend your foot, so Jesse was prescribed a rigid medical shoe. Oh well--he can still wear a Croc on his other foot. So, here's what he looks like now (he has to wear this shoe whenever he's not sleeping, driving or showering... when he's driving, he wears a rigid hiking boot):

Back to my night splint. I guess I need to back up a bit... I finally picked up the frequency of my running earlier this year when I bought a night splint for my foot (the idea of the splint is to keep my foot flexed (~90 degrees), providing a passive stretch through my plantar fascia (and achilles and calf) the whole night). My doctor had recommended I wear one, but the pharmacist at my HMO looked at me strangely when I said I needed to get one and said they don't have anything like that. That discouraged me and since my PT didn't say anything about night splints I didn't try to find one for 9 months or so. But one of my resolutions earlier this year was to try harder to get over the PF, so I did a lot of online browsing and finally found the splint above, which I've been wearing every night for months now. I should say, some nights I wake up in such discomfort, I rip off the splint and chuck it on the floor. But most nights I tolerate it the whole time I'm in bed. However, the straps have stretched a lot, and I have to adjust the splint a lot to get it not to slip down my leg too much... if it's too loose, my foot doesn't stay flexed; too tights and I wake up in agony and rip it off. Lately though, no matter what I do, I wake up with my foot at a 45-degree angle. No good. So, a couple of days ago, I ordered a bigger splint (bigger is better?) that looked like it would do a solid job of keeping my foot flexed. It arrived this morning, much sooner than I expected. I haven't tried sleeping in it, but already I find it mightily uncomfortable. We'll see how tonight goes! Here's a photo of it.

So, dear reader, stay tuned to read more of my ongoing competition with Jesse to be the most pathetic! Will Jesse try to outdo me by upgrading to a surgical boot (if the shoe doesn't work in a few weeks, he'll likely have to do that... and after that comes a plaster cast!)? Will my massive splint heal me finally? Will Jesse get fat from not running? (Poor Jesse--he is worried about gaining weight, but so far he's actually lost weight... possibly muscle). Will Jesse and I ever be healthy simultaneously so we can run together? And so much more...

Thanks for reading about my misery ;-)


Kirsty said...

Oh my! You poor people! But yay on taking up the running again! Whoohooo you! So many people would use that as a great excuse to stop forever, I commend you for your persistence. I hope that you are both healed and splint free soon.

Makes you start to think that living to an old age may be overrated eh?

How are the push-ups going? I find my wrists are getting much stronger along with my arms.

Genevieve said...

When i scrolled through and saw all the pictures I thought this must be a joke, or at least some of those splints must be from years ago. But apparently they are all happening now! That last night splint looks incredibly uncomfortable. I hope it works though! -Goof