Friday, September 30, 2011

Work in Progress

Exams and homework have unfortunately kept me from posting as often as I’d like this week…two down, one to go!

Since running on the treadmill seemed to be working for me, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Then on Saturday I decided to go for a walk around my block since I never really get to go outside anymore…and since I felt good, it turned into a short run. Only about ¾ of a mile, and I felt all right the whole time. Even later that night, my feet weren’t bothering me any more than normal.

But Sunday wasn’t the same story. I wasn’t back to square one, or even in a whole lot of pain. But it was worse than before, and I think since it’s been so long and we were finally making some progress it just pushed me over the edge mentally. It felt like a huge deal, and I was so depressed. I started thinking I would never get better (sometimes I still do). Every step made me feel sick to my stomach, not from extreme pain, but just because there was pain—more than there had been. And it was my fault.

It still wasn’t as good as it had been by the time I went to physical therapy on Tuesday. I got a “custom” insert in my shoe. It’s just a piece of foam with a hole cut about where my foot is lumpy, which was supposed to take the pressure off the irritated area. Turns out I can’t feel the hole at all, let alone tell if it’s in the right place…but the squishiness does feel kind of good.

And of course, the day after I went to physical therapy my foot decides it’s better. I even ran on the treadmill again on Wednesday—a whole 8 minutes this time. As soon as I got back to my dorm I stuck a water bottle in the freezer, anticipating trouble…but I didn’t need it! In fact, after my last class yesterday I walked all the way to the pool without any pain at all.

Unfortunately these pain-free episodes don’t last. It did start bugging me again when I left the pool. But that’s okay, because it was only really bothersome—not painful. I guess that’s progress.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jelly Beans, Anyone?

When I went to physical therapy on Wednesday, my therapist took one look at my foot and said it was less swollen. “Tell me what you think,” he said.

I looked. And I was astonished. Because it was less swollen. Usually when the swelling seems to disappear, it’s in the morning. By the end of the day it’s back. I had been walking to and from class all day, I’d “snuck” another run on the treadmill on Monday (is it really sneaking if you tell people about it?), and I’d run halfway home from the Natatorium that morning.

The swelling hadn’t completely disappeared, but it wasn’t, as my physical therapist put it, “popping out.” He also compared it to jelly beans. I thought it was rather bigger (and more painful) than a jelly bean, but to each his own. At least I seem to be making progress.

When I asked about my other foot he said it’s not uncommon to have hypersensitivity in both feet. The “itchiness” I described was apparently nerve-related. He gave me a stretch for the entire nervous system: Laying on my side, I put one leg straight out off the edge of the bed and raise my arm up and back. Then I pump the foot up and down. I can feel it all the way from my arch to my pinky finger. (I tried unsuccessfully to find pictures of this one, since it’s somewhat difficult to describe.)

The best part is I think it’s helping. Yes, it’s slightly painful because I’m not very flexible. But when I got up this morning I put my feet down cautiously and…nothing. Which is great, because on Wednesday after that physical therapy appointment, I ran a whole five minute on the treadmill and even got myself up to 5 mph at the end. I’m starting to feel like running (for real) might not be impossible after all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Am I Just Paranoid?

The outdoor pool closed on Sunday. I am now trying not to be depressed that aside from horseback riding, I now have no outdoor activities. I miss being able to smell the damp trees in the morning and feel the sun and the breeze. I even miss having wet socks after a thunderstorm. But only a very little bit.
For the past week I’ve been having issues with my right foot. Last Tuesday it was a little sore. It felt a bit like it did after I tried running on the track—only then I figured it was because going three miles mostly on your toes is bound to make you sore in weird places. I also figured that if my left heel hadn’t felt ready to explode, that arch would have been sore too. So I didn’t worry about it, and it went away in about a week.

The best way I can describe it is like an itch, only under the skin. Sometimes when I twist my foot around in certain ways I can feel a pull. It’s not really painful as much as annoying—and worrying. I know I’m paranoid now because of my other foot problems, so I can’t tell if I’m making a big deal out of something normal or if I really should be concerned. I guess the best I can do is mention it in physical therapy tomorrow.

As for the left foot, it’s about the same as last week. Although the sensitive spot seems to have moved back toward the heel now, and I occasionally get a pull near the front of my arch. I’m hoping this is an indication that I simply overstressed both feet (although I haven’t done anything different) and it’s just harder to tell in the left foot with all the other stuff that’s going on there.
In the meantime, I’m staying in the pool and on the bike, and waiting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Peaks and Valleys

One of the most frustrating things—if not the most frustrating thing—about this plantar fasciitis (if that’s what it is, since I don’t think my therapist has completely ruled out a stress fracture) is the random fluctuations. At least, they seem random to me. There are peaks where I feel almost normal and then valleys when I wonder if I ever will.

Sometimes the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other in a single day. I walked back from the pool today thinking I must just be imagining things, because I felt fine. But earlier in the day I sat in class, and just raising my heel off the floor and twisting my foot a bit, I could get a little twinge just in front of my heel.

It almost seems easier to walk fast. Maybe I don’t have as much time to register the pain that way. Or maybe it changes the way I bear weight on my feet. Either way, it struck me as odd when I really got to thinking about it.

Anyway, since Saturday I really haven’t had an entire day that felt good. Although while walking on the treadmill yesterday, I got to thinking…I’m only going 4 miles an hour…if I just change the way I walk so that I was actually kind of running, would that really count? So I did. Actually got up to 4.5 mph. The treadmill was on a fairly steep incline, so I think that helped. And I wasn’t really running. But at least it wasn’t walking, biking, or swimming either. I called it quits after three minutes. I still remember what it was like after I ran on the track last month. I hope I never have to do that again.
I had physical therapy again today. We worked on balance exercises and some strengthening stuff. A lot of walking backwards with my heels off the ground. I know how I’ll be getting to the bathroom for the next week or so! It’s just a good thing Penn State’s dorms have an “acceptance” policy—I’m pretty sure people who walk backwards down the halls are in the minority.

Hoping to climb out of this valley soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Wrinkly Foot

I got on the stationary bike this morning and felt…nothing.

Ever since my therapist mentioned the possibility of a stress fracture on Thursday, I’ve been paranoid. I felt a delayed sting every time I stepped down on my heel a little harder than usual. I imagined the pain was different than it had been at first—not the burning, pulling of the muscle but a deeper ache. I was afraid that we’d been wrong the whole time.

I was on the bike last night, and could feel it if I pushed the pedal at a certain angle. Then, suddenly, this morning I was fine. When I got done I immediately took off my socks and started poking the bottom of my foot. It only hurt if I pressed really hard (which I only did once). And the best part? My foot was wrinkly.

That’s definitely better than the taut, swollen lump I had before. I’m hoping this means we’re doing something right. Just walking around the house today felt pretty good. The best way I can describe it is a twinge or pinch when I lift my heel off the ground. And the weird thing is, I can do heel raises just fine—it’s only when I walk.

This whole thing really boggles my mind. But I definitely have a much greater appreciation for how complex your feet are—and how much you need them for everyday life!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wet Socks

One more thing to add to the list of things I hate about plantar fasciitis: Wet socks.

Since the pf showed up, I haven’t worn anything except my Asics Gels (I have two pairs and I rotate them). I used to have these cute pony rain boots for walking to class when it rained, but I cringe just thinking about walking any distance in them. I need my orthopedic Crocs just to get to the bathroom!!

Anyway, with the massive amounts of rain we’ve gotten these past few days, my feet are permanently wet—and cold. So much for only going through one pair of socks per day since I’m not running! Just walking back from the Nat yesterday morning—couldn’t have been more than 5 minutes—I soaked my favorite pair of shoes in a river/lake that was running across the sidewalk. They’re still wet.

Just another reason to get this cleared up ASAP, I guess. I went to physical therapy this afternoon, and this time I could actually say that I’m feeling better! I do kind of feel like I’ve hit a wall, though; I wish I could have kept improving, but seem to have stopped just short of feeling ready to get back to it. My therapist mentioned getting an MRI if it doesn’t keep getting better—he was suspicious of the swelling and thought it could have been a stress fracture, even though I had been running on it for a couple months. I think he was almost relieved when I said I felt better than last week. I can imagine this whole thing is frustrating for him too! Oh well, I guess every small step counts! Keep hanging in there!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Just Don't Think!

Doesn't sound like good advice for a college student, does it? Maybe I need to qualify that statement.

I woke up this morning and walked to the bathroom without even thinking about it. I noticed I’ve been doing that a lot frequently—I’ll get up and walk a short distance, get wherever I’m going and then think, Wait, did that hurt? And I can’t remember that it did. I’m not sure if this happens because I’m so used to the pain, or if it really is getting better. Either way, I’m taking it as a positive sign that it doesn’t bother me when I’m not thinking about it. Maybe that’s the key.

I’ve been walking around (and stationary biking) all morning almost comfortably. My foot almost seems determined to make me a liar. The whole time at physical therapy on Tuesday, we experimented with forms of heel raises and toe walking that didn’t cause me pain. The only versions that fit the criteria involved me clinging to a pole or leaning on a flat surface for dear life, supporting most of my body weight on my hands. It was really more of an upper-body workout than anything for the feet/legs.
But now, feeling slightly foolish, I can do them without holding on to anything. Yesterday I did 60. (I got way too excited over that little accomplishment.) In fact I was doing them without support the day after my appointment. I don’t quite know what to make of it.

I’ll mention it when I go back on Thursday. So far, I think this is the best I’ve felt, at least since trying to run again. (I don’t remember too well before that.) We did try a different taping method this week, so maybe that has helped. I’m trying to keep it on until I go back, but I tend to swim right out of it if I kick hard. We’ll see how things go, I guess. I go to the doctor on Wednesday, so it’ll be interesting to see what he says, too. Although I’m starting to feel like I’m becoming the kind of person insurance companies dread.

In the meantime, I try not to overthink it—I just get more frustrated! Sometimes I wish I lived in Star Trek, with those whirring thingies that heal broken bones in two minutes. Or Harry Potter. Oh, excuse me, now I want to go read the whole series…again….