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Posts Tagged ‘gimpy feet’

Unfamiliar kinds of physicality

For the last couple of months I’ve been having sessions with a guy who’s sort of part physical trainer of the type you would find at a gym, part physical therapist. My sister’s been working with him for ages; I decided to hop onto the bandwagon because (as some of you know) my ankles have been absolute crap for most of my life, but what I’d seen of how C goes about things made me believe he might be able to do something to improve that.

Which he has in fact done. The process isn’t complete, of course — in some ways it will probably never be complete — but for the first time in years, I’ve started to feel like I can maybe trust my ankles. Getting to that point has involved not the familiar routines I’ve been given by every physical therapist I’ve ever seen, but stuff ranging from getting my arches to move again (which they had more or less stopped doing) to balance exercises aimed at reprogramming the way my eyes and my brain interact.

And also weight training. Which is where things get weird for me.

I’ve done very little of this kind of thing in my life. For a brief time I saw a regular trainer at a gym, and she gave me some upper-body stuff to do, but C’s got me doing deadlifts and bizarre variations on back lunges where I do a one-handed shoulder press with a kettlebell before lunging and then lean over to put the palm of my other hand on the floor and so forth. And what I’ve discovered as I do this is . . . my brain just does not have any baseline for processing what the hell is going on.

Sometimes C will tell me to do something and I am absolute crap at it — until suddenly I’m not. This happened with a small exercise where I was balancing a kettlebell upright in one hand: the first day I tried, I couldn’t keep it in position for even five seconds, and then the next day I was doing fifteen, twenty, twenty-five seconds, no problem. It wasn’t that I’d gotten stronger literally overnight; I think that somewhere between Day One and Day Two, my brain went ohhhh, I see what you’re getting at. But what really gets me is that when I’m doing the strength exercises and my heart rate and breathing go up — y’all, it turns out I have no sense of scale there. Not in the context of that kind of work. Ask me to do karate kata or swim 500 meters and sure, I know how to pace myself. I know how hard I’m working and whether I can maintain that for an extended period of time or not. But put a kettlebell in my hands and suddenly I have no freaking clue whether I need to slow down, whether my heart rate and breathing will continue to spike or whether they’ll stay where they are, how many more reps I’ll be able to do before my muscles give out. I’m probably working slower/easier than I’m actually capable of, because something in my hindbrain is freaking out over these unfamiliar sensations and telling me I need to back off before I ‘splode.

I’ll be interested to see how this changes over time. Presumably, as I get more familiar with the physicality of strength training, I’ll get better at judging where I actually am on the effort scale. I’ll also get stronger — but I think that’s a separate thing. At one point C asked me how hard a particular movement was on a scale of 1 to 10 and I didn’t even know what to tell him. Another time he asked me that question, and I realized that while I didn’t feel like I was exerting myself super hard, I also had this feeling like I was about two reps away from Nope Not Happening Anymore. A weird split between my strength, and the endurance that particular strength had.

It’s a brave new world, yo. One in which I am closer to being able to do a squat than I’ve been in my entire life — so that’s something!

It turns out . . .

. . . that when my orthopedist tells me that for my own medical good I should embrace the Way of the Ankle Boot for the rest of my life, and I go on a thirteen-day trip in August, and then six days later I go on a five-day trip . . .

. . . then when I get home and take my boots off, choirs of angels burst into song.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be at home, not wearing boots.

Friends don’t let friends get arthroscopic ligament repair surgery

So the orthopedist I’m going to right now because I’ve been having pain in the arches of my feet says that the common method of arthroscopic surgery for ligmaent repair doesn’t really work. I’m inclined to say he’s right, because of the two anterior talofibular ligaments I’ve had mended in the last decade, one is down to a shred of its former self and the other has gone AWOL entirely.

(Apparently ligaments can just . . . dissolve. Who knew.)

If I could travel back in time, forget about killing Hitler. (We all know that doesn’t work anyway.) I would go back thirty years and tell my childhood self to do ankle-strengthening exercises, and not to sit in certain ways that normal people are allowed to do but for people with ankles as loose as mine amounts to spraining them slowly and repeatedly over a period of years. Convincing an eight-year-old she needs to do daily physical therapy for the rest of her life is easier said than done, but “you’ll save yourself 2-4 ankle surgeries later on” ought to be a compelling argument: the two I’ve already had, and the two I’m crossing my fingers I can forestall.

Yeah. My ankles continue to suck, and their suckiness is now starting to cause arthritis in the arches of my feet. The good news is that the cartilege in my ankles, which is the big point of concern for my doctor, is apparently pristine; that means I don’t have to have surgery right now. We are in “wait and see” mode: I have PT to do not just short-term but in perpetuity, and I have slippers that will help stabilize my feet when I’m walking around the house, and if I’m very very good and a little bit lucky I might get to skip the part where they have to put cadaver ligaments in my ankles to replace what isn’t there anymore. Which, given the recovery for that and my tendency to form keloid scars if something sharp looks at my skin too closely, is good.

But if somebody could provide me with a time machine, eight-year-old me and I need to have a chat.

The Perfidious Ankle: A Play in Three Acts

Dramatis Personae


Assorted other characters including a HUSBAND, a NURSE, a BOX OF PAPERS, a STAIRCASE, and GRAVITY.

Act One

YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER is in the process of loading her car for the purposes of moving house. She is carrying a BOX OF PAPERS down a STAIRCASE. Six steps she navigates without difficulty, but on the seventh and final step, YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER’S RIGHT ANKLE declines to perform its assigned duty, pitching YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER headfirst onto the landing.

GRAVITY, which has been present in the scene since the beginning, takes center stage.

The BOX OF PAPERS is the first to receive the impact. (YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER is still holding onto this BOX; she will, when she has leisure afterward, take a moment to be grateful that she is wearing braces on both wrists already.) By some miracle and mercy of Providence, the ANKLE does not take any of the weight GRAVITY has sent careening downward; it survives this entire drama with no perceptible damage, which is most unusual for our heroine’s life. The remaining weight falls upon YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER’S RIGHT KNEE.

After a moment of shaken relief that she was not at the top of the staircase when she was so cruelly betray’d by her ANKLE, our heroine picks herself up and completes her task, carrying the BOX OF PAPERS to the car.

Act Two

On her way back from the car, YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER notes that the right knee of her jeans is stained with blood. Grumbling in annoyance at the small split in the fabric, she goes upstairs. Here she grouses to her HUSBAND about the treachery of the ANKLE, then washes out the larger split in her RIGHT KNEE, which so nobly sacrificed itself for her. She places antiseptic ointment and a bandage upon it, puts her stained jeans to soak, and goes about her business.

Four hours later, it comes to her attention that the wound is continuing to bleed — not copiously, but enough to draw attention. She concludes it would be wise to change the bandage and renew the antiseptic. In the process of doing so, however, she notes that the skin around the wound does not move in the fashion she expected; its behavior implies greater depth to the split than she had originally estimated.

With trepidation, she asks her HUSBAND whether he concurs. He does. She, in a state of great vexation, gathers her belongings and goes to the hospital.

Act Three

We shall not try the reader’s patience, nor their fortitude, by recounting every detail that transpires at the hospital. Suffice it to say that a friendly NURSE cares for the valiant RIGHT KNEE, straightening the edges of the wound and putting in seven stitches (the split is not so large, but as YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER scars easily, she takes extra care in closing it). She contemplates putting our heroine in a joint-immobilizing support, but ultimately settles for an ace bandage and instructions for YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER to remain off the leg as much as possible for a while, because standing, let alone walking/going up and down stairs/lifting heavy boxes would put strain upon the stitches. And so, suitably chastened, YOUR HUMBLE BLOGGER goes home.


So that’s where things stand. This . . . puts an annoying spike in the process of moving, as getting to the car (or even moving around within either the source or destination residences) requires navigating stairs — which I can do, but toddler-style, step-together step-together. I am deeply annoyed at my ankle for deciding to stop ankling, and simultaneously relieved it didn’t happen at a higher elevation. My wrists are fine; my ankle’s fine; it’s just my knee, which has a little red smile, now sewn shut.

This is not how I wanted to spend my Thursday afternoon.

Who knew you could buy sanity on Amazon?

So as many of you know, my husband had ankle surgery recently. He’s on crutches, putting no weight on the affected foot . . . for 8-10 weeks.

That’s a long time.

And while I can’t rightly compare my own difficulties to his, it’s going to be a long time for both of us. All of a sudden, I’m carrying most of the household on my own shoulders, because he can’t. Many tasks that I’m used to sharing with him (laundry, taking out the trash, etc) are now mine alone. Things that didn’t use to be tasks suddenly are: I have to be available when he goes to bed, because while it’s possible for him to drag his crutches and the pillow we’re using for his leg up the stairs as he slides up them — they’re too narrow for him to crutch up — it’s a pain in the neck, and much easier if I carry those for him. Some tasks that I would normally let slide for a little while now have to be kept 100% up-to-date; the ant infestation plaguing this entire city isn’t related to his surgery, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have to wash the dishes right away or risk finding a conga line of ants making their way across our kitchen to whatever I left out, and I have to keep the living room constantly tidy or he won’t be able to cross it safely on crutches.

But. My friends, I had a stroke of genius, and it already promises to do wonders for my sanity.

We’ve been making extensive use of stools and folding chairs in various places so he can kneel on them(1) while he showers or washes his hands or whatever. I found myself wondering whether it would help to put one of those in the kitchen, too — and then I thought, no. What we want in the kitchen is one of these.

It arrived this afternoon. Today, for the first time since his surgery, my husband scrubbed some dishes. He loaded the dishwasher and emptied it, too; he put dinner into the oven and took it out again. He can’t do everything; kneeling for too long is uncomfortable, and he has to be careful that it doesn’t roll out from under him and drop him into an unexpected split. But he can function. He can probably manage to bake some brownies if he wants to — and if you know my husband, you know how much that means to him.

And me? I was giddy with delight. The sheer fact of knowing that I don’t have to do everything kitchen-related is a relief all out of proportion to its actual size. Sure, I’m still facing another two months of having to carry his plate to him and then carry it back when he’s done, because you can’t really do that on crutches and the stool doesn’t transition well to carpet. But he can make his own sandwich for lunch without having to balance on one foot while he does it, even if I’m the one who carries it to the couch. He can wash dishes, which is a task that normally falls about 70-80% in his bailiwick instead of mine. He can prepare simple dinners. All of these are things I expected to have to do myself for weeks to come and now . . . now I know that he can help.

I’m well aware that the situation I have with him is business as usual for a lot of people. If you’re a single mother with a toddler, you’ve got to carry every bit as much weight, without the compensation of a charge who continually thanks you and can at least accomplish tasks that don’t require standing. And they don’t sell products on Amazon that will magically turn your toddler into more of a functioning adult. But if you ever find yourself dealing with a similar situation, remember the merits of a simple, flat-topped, caster-mounted stool. It can work wonders.

(1) Some of you will now be thinking of those kneeling scooters you’ve been seeing around lately. We rented one, but they don’t corner well at all, and our place is too small for him to easily navigate indoors on that thing. It’s useful only for when he leaves the house; the rest of the time, it’s crutches, which are far more maneuverable.

Free at last . . . .

According to records, on February 13th of 2014, I started physical therapy.

It felt a little ridiculous: I had a sprained toe, which is not exactly a major injury. But hey, if you can’t really bend it for months on end . . . so I went to PT, and it got better.

Then, in April, just as that was drawing to a close, I found out I needed ankle surgery. Since I wasn’t going to do that until after the karate seminar in Okinawa, my orthopedist advised that I go to PT beforehand to stabilize the joint as much as I could. So I did that for three months, and then I went to Okinawa, had surgery, got out of the boot — and went back to PT.

And it dragged on. And on. And on.

But as of today, I am free — ish. My remaining issue is mobility, rather than strength, and in some ways the strength work we’ve been doing at PT has been hampering improvement in mobility, because of the way it puts stress on the muscles. The biggest things that help now are heat and massage, and I don’t need to go to PT for a couple of hours every week to get those. So my therapist told me to cancel my remaining appointments, and to check back in with them in a few weeks. For the first time in just shy of an entire year . . . I do not need physical therapy.

It’s about goddamned time.

shoe shopping for the podiatrically challenged

I have bought a new dress for the World Fantasy banquet. I am sitting here trying to remember the last time I bought a dress that wasn’t a historical costume I paid somebody to sew for me.

I am failing.

As long as I’m on a roll of doing things I haven’t done in hmmmm let’s be conservative and say ten years?, I think I should also get new black heels. And this is where I turn to you, O internets, because I don’t like high heels (but I recognize their uses), and if there is any maker of heels who makes some I would actually like, I want to know about them.

My criteria are as follows. Each one should be footnoted with the caveat that I know I may not be able to get what I want, or at least may not be able to get all these things in one shoe. But I might as well try.

  1. Not too high of a heel. You may recall I had ankle surgery less than three months ago. My ideal would be maybe 1-1.5″; anything above 2″ is Right Out at present. And in general I prefer lower heels, because . . .
  2. Padding beneath the ball of the foot. I can and do use inserts to help with this, but it annoys me that we have an industry built around providing something I think the shoe ought to provide in the first place. I end up with a lot of foot pain if too much of my weight is on the ball of my foot for too long; it’s like my body is saying “we stopped doing this shit when you quit ballet at the age of eighteen, and aren’t going to put up with it anymore.”
  3. Arch support. Does this even exist in high-heeled shoes? If so, tell me, because my god do I need it. I have stupidly high arches, and wearing shoes that don’t support them gets painful quite fast.
  4. Allowance for a high instep. A lot of those strappy shoes put straps right across the top of my arches, which, as mentioned before, are quite high. Result: I feel like my foot’s being cut in half by my shoe. This one’s more of a stylistic thing than a characteristic I’m likely to find in a specific shoe manufacturer, but as long as I’m describing what I want, I ought to include everything.

Is there anybody who consistently makes shoes that match this description? Or even parts of this description? I could go to the store and try on shoes randomly until I find something that works, but I’d like to be more targeted in my shopping if possible. Seven years of dancing on pointe left me with an absolute lack of tolerance for badly-made or ill-fitting shoes, and a desire to avoid spending hours trying things on if at all possible.

“The next day Mr Earbrass is conscious but very little more”

The problem with being in physical therapy is that even when I’ve declared a Day Off From Everything, I still have to do that.

I mean, I could skip it. But since my happiness is better served by recovering as quickly and thoroughly as possible, I’m still going to put myself through my paces. Other than that, however, I intend to spend today having lunch with a friend and reading on the couch and maybe going out to celebrate a bit when my husband gets home from work. Also on the celebratory list: last night I slept without a brace on my ankle, for the first time since the surgery. It was an experiment, to see if it would complain at me when I turned over or whacked it against my other leg — and it did, a little, but not enough to counterbalance the sheer joy of being able to fully relax. I have hopes this will help with the problem where the tendons and muscles that kept cramping while I was in the boot are actually giving me more pain than the bit that got surgeryified.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll work on “The Unquiet Grave” tonight. Because it isn’t work if I decide to do it of my own free will, right? 😛

Oh there was joy in Wapping when the news flew through the land

As of a few hours ago, I am officially Free of the Boot.

The boot is dead; long live th — wait, no, it can die in a fire.

I’ve graduated to a mere brace: a complex arrangement of laces and straps and velcro designed to make sure I don’t re-injure myself while I get my strength and mobility back. I suspect, though I can’t be sure, that I’m already off to a better start than I was last time, owing to all the PT I did beforehand. Stepping on my unbooted left foot is still mildly scary (and my heel hurts like crazy, it’s so tight), but it doesn’t feel as pathetically weak as I think the right one did post-boot.

Either way, I’m not going to waste any time. My first PT appointment is tomorrow morning! At this point I could probably do the relevant exercises in my sleep, but it’s good to have someone helping me pace myself, plus they have nice things like the electical stimulation machine that will speed my recovery along.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be over here curling my toes and rubbing my heel and generally rejoicing in the fact that I am free, free, FREE.

I want my body back.

I’m at the stage of surgical recovery now where the thought that keeps going through my head is, “I want my body back.”

When I take off the boot to let my skin get some fresh air, my ankle is still swollen, still discolored from the skin irritation, and scarred. It doesn’t look like my ankle; it looks like somebody else’s. In the early days of recovery, taking the boot off was scary, because I need to keep my foot in a flexed position and the post-surgical weakness made me afraid that I would accidentally move it too far. Now? I’m not afraid at all, because I couldn’t move my foot too far if you paid me. With every passing day, it stiffens up more, my ankle petrifying into a single position. At this point I’d feel pain from the muscles before I felt it from the repaired ligament. By the time I get to physical therapy, I’ll have nearly no range of motion at all.

I recognize that in the grand scheme of things, it could be far worse. I’m young enough, and the surgery was minor enough, that I expect to recover fully. I could be stuck with the sort of injury you never get over, the kind where you have to learn to live with the body you’ve got now, rather than hoping to regain the one you had before. But it’s still alienating. And I have cabin fever, not only for my house in general and my living room in specific, but for my own physical existence: my body isn’t moving very well, so I’ve got this increasing and pointless desire to somehow crawl out of it for a little while and go running around in the sunshine.

Clearly, I need to learn astral projection. 😛

Fortunately, I’m near — well, not so much the end as a turning point. Unless something has gone horribly wrong, I’ll be out of the boot next week. Which won’t magically transform my ankle into its old self, but will mean I can do something other than just sitting around being patient. I made some physical therapy appointments yesterday. I’ll be able to walk without my legs functionally being two different lengths. I’ll put on jeans for the first time in a month. All of these are Good Things.

In the meanwhile, I sit here and keep thinking, “I want my body back.”