Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Don't Rush Recovery: What I have Learned

The photo above is a runner's nightmare. Orthopedic surgery with a three month recovery process. And not to over-dramatize the situation, but a three month layoff to someone who is actively active feels like a life sentence. At least to me it does.

In a time where social media rules everything, it is hard to fight the urge not to exercise. Especially when your friends are constantly posting photos of where they ran, or the miles they just put in. Only the injured know how mentally breaking that can be. While my friends were hitting the roads and trails, whether for races or training, I was literally laid up on the couch. For close to three weeks my foot was propped up to keep the swelling down. I couldn't walk on my own. I was stuck using a walker, being wheeled around in a wheelchair, and stuck on crutches. Even after four weeks, I still needed crutches and a walker to get around.

Heading into the second month, I was able to put some pressure on my foot when walking around the house. Even then, I was not able to wear a legitimate shoe. I had a beautiful orthopedic walking shoe that was on my foot anytime I tried to walk. Slowly, the severe pain started to ease up, and I started getting brave. I proudly woke my wife up in the middle of the night to show her I could walk eleven steps on my own. I actually broke down and cried because I was so happy. I have learned that when you are able to walk with both feet, you take walking for granted. But when I couldn't walk, when I had to get my wife to help carry food or drink, or help me to the bathroom, real depression set in.

That's when I said enough was enough. I made my wife drive me to the C&O Canal so I could try a small walk. Granted, I was still using crutches, but only for balance that day. The next day, which was my birthday, I was on the phone to my doctor. I had broke the toe next to the incision from overdoing it. One step forward, three steps back. I found it really hard to be on social media at that point. Friends were still posting awesome photos and bragging about their pace over certain distances. Not to mention signing up for races. There were moments when I even contemplated deactivating my accounts. I just wanted to run. Heck, I just wanted to walk on my own...and I couldn't. One thing that got me through those rough times, and still getting me through, was all the love and support from all of my friends. I would read, and reread their encouraging words to keep me from breaking. Those of you that have been in this situation know exactly what I mean. Another positive point was being able to put on a left shoe. A real left shoe. I was like a kid at Christmas.

My shoe of choice was the Altra Running Olympus 1.5. With the wide toebox and maximal amount of cushion, it did not hurt my foot at all when putting it on. And even with the toe feeling better, and foot pain easing again, I forced myself not to try anything stupid. I continued to prop my foot up when on it too long. I continued to be smart and not give into the social media postings. I continued to heal the way my doctor wanted me to. On December 17th, I signed up for the C&O Canal 100 mile ultra. It was something to look forward to, and to get my head out of the funk it had been in for the past two months. I was especially stoked when my doctor gave me the green light to start up light walking on my own. I instantly went to our local towpath for a walk. I headed out alone while my wife and daughter waited in the car. A quarter mile in I was feeling good so I started to jog. That jog started for a few steps, then a few steps more. At the end I had managed to "run" an 11:37:49 mile. My wife was not as happy as I was. She knew this could spell trouble.

Fast forward to now, January 6th. I now have a stress fracture of the sesamoid bone, which connects to the big toe on the ball of the foot. This time it was just a freak accident because I was overcompensating to stay off the incision area. I am now taking it easy and stuck in a walking "boot" to be safe. Two days ago, with the help of trekking poles, I was able to walk a mile in 18:03:56. While I know not to overdue it, I plan to at least walk once a week for my own sanity. I was so excited when finished, I posted a photo to my Facebook timeline. So many friends had encouraging words for me. I was really overwhelmed by their kindness. But we all know there's always that sarcastic one that can take it all away with one comment. And whether this person was serious or not, it made me think. "That's a fast day for you", followed with some braggadocious comments. And ending with, "Gotta learn to run hurt lol."

Even in fun, these types of comments could have a negative impact on someone who is already fragile. Rushing recovery and running hurt can have a lifelong negative impact. Future surgeries to fix more problems that you caused yourself. Not being able to run again, or walk right. Running is something I love to do, but it is not my job. I have a wife and two daughters that need me. My plan is to see them both down the aisle when they get married. Regardless of what people tell me to do. No matter how much I want to run. Whatever names they jokingly call me. None of that will force me to run...until I am ready. I have learned that you can run through aches and pains, even broken toes. But you can't run through recovery from surgery. You have to be smart. You have to see the big picture for what it is. Block out the naysayers and thrive on the positiveness of friends far and wide. It's been a rough road, and it's still bumpy. But through the pain, the setbacks, the dark moments...there is a light at the end. The trail will be there. The road is not going to go anywhere. And when I am ready, I will visit them...on my own two feet. This is what I have learned while recovering. Thank you to everyone who has been there to carry me through. And to my wife, who is my everlasting support. I am forever thankful.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Injinji & Morton's Neuroma

(A week after surgery. My little daughter was my big helper)

While the photo above doesn't really stand out to most, there is a long story behind it. That long story is Morton's neuroma. For those that have had this, or still do, you know the pain that is involved. And for those that do not know what it is, I will give you a little insight. The following was taken from Wikipedia.

"Symptoms include: pain on weight bearing, frequently after only a short time. The nature of the pain varies widely among individuals. Some people experience shooting pain affecting the contiguous halves of two toes. Others describe a feeling like having a pebble in their shoe or walking on razor blades. Burning, numbness, and paresthesia may also be experienced. The symptoms progress over time, often beginning as a tingling sensation in the ball of the foot."

While this sounds like loads of fun, I can assure you it is not. I have had many injuries since I started running. Injuries that have included muscle tears, small breaks, etc. Nothing...and I mean nothing, compares to the pain of having Morton's. It is an excruciatingly painful nerve disorder that can take the joys of daily life from you. And as any orthopedic doctor or podiatrist will tell you, there are quite a few ways to contract it. I was lucky enough to contract it from wearing ill fitting shoes while logging many many miles on the road and trails where I live. In the very beginning it was somewhat tolerable at times. But as time wore on, I went from running upwards of 100 miles a week to zero.

When enough was enough, I sought medical help. I was told that surgery was the last option, and that cortisone shots were the first. When speaking with my orthopedic surgeon, he told me that I was doing something right. I was wearing toesocks. Instead of bunching my toes up in a traditional sock, I was letting my toes splay out naturally, like they should. And with Morton's, that is exactly what you want your toes to do. From there, I was given two cortisone shots over a years time. But the neuroma was so excessive that the shots did not work. That's when we decided that surgery was our best bet. Again, I was told that I was helping my foot out by wearing toesocks. Granted, they were not curing the overall shooting pain when I put weight on it. However, they were helping relieve the serious soreness in my toes by keeping them in their natural position.

I am forewarning you now. To show you why the photo above is so monumental to me, I have to show you exactly where the surgery was performed. No blood or guts, but stitches. This was taken a day or two after my surgery. (The yellowness is from the iodine)

As you can see, the surgery was right between the third and fourth toes. It started at the bottom of the medical tape, went up and between the toes, and finished on the backside. It was very painful. Because of the size of the neuroma, I was to stay off my feet for a week. I had my surgery on the 19th of October. My recovery time was 10 to 12 weeks. In that time, I would be confined to a wheelchair, walker, and crutches. Slowly, very slowly, I would begin to put pressure on it and try some steps. When I tried that, or any standing in length, my foot would swell up fast. I was forced to stay in an orthopedic walking shoe. And because I had no real traditional socks, my foot would stay wrapped in a ace bandage. Finally, on the 44th day after surgery, I tried to slide an Injinji Toesock on.

And that's when the above photo was taken. It was a great feeling, that's for sure. The mesh top lock, arch support, and padded cushion felt great. It also helped by keeping the blood flow going, which kept it from swelling as much as it had previously. Another key feature is how the toesock is made. The top of my foot, and also between the toes, were not bothered by any ill placed stitching. It fit like a worn in glove, even though it was brand new. Everyday since, I have slept with a left Injinji on to keep it from overly swelling. I have also worn them each day since so my foot would heal properly.

I am now on the road to full recovery, albeit, a few minor setbacks. Two stress fractures due to my foot being weak from being off of it so long. In the long run, that is small potatoes compared to what I went through. I'll be back to logging miles sooner than later. In closing, I wanted to write this blog because a new friend on Twitter reached out and asked me about the benefits of wearing Injinji's. He told me he is also suffering from a mild case of Morton's.

As I tell people when talking about proper footwear, there is a reason podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons trust Injinji. It's because they work with proper toe alignment and keeping the foot balanced. And although I am an ambassador for Injinji Toesocks, that is not the reason I am writing this blog. I am writing this to let those that suffer from Morton's neuroma know that wearing proper fitting footwear can help alleviate some of the pain associated with Morton's. Just as wearing the proper shoes can help. You want your toes to splay out naturally. You don't want to shove them in an ill fitting, or improperly made shoe. That will only cause more pain.

So if you suffer from a mild form, or a more severe form as I did, please try a pair of Injinji's. If you need help selecting the right style, feel free to contact me. I am more than willing to help. And if you are wearing a narrow toeboxed shoe, check out Altra Running. They make everyday styles, as well as running and hiking models. For those that suffer, I wish you the best. And hope you get the relief you deserve. Thanks for reading.