Cut. It. Out.

Since my car accident in 2002, I’ve been walking on the permanently dislocated 2nd and 3rd metatarsals of my right foot, creating pain with each step.  If I walk too far, i.e. more than a couple of blocks, the tissue around the bones gets severely inflamed for a couple of weeks, making any walking nearly impossible due to pain.  For the last few years, I’ve been on a quest to find an orthotic that will increase my mobility. I’ve gone through several attempts, without much success. A few months ago I received yet another orthotic. The new podiatrist told me it would have a cutout for my toes to relieve the pressure. I was excited about this new possibility and hopeful it would increase my mobility. However, when I received the orthotic in January, the “cutout” turned out to be a barely distinguishable indentation which did nothing. Well, it did one thing, it gave me an idea!

What if I actually cut out the pressure points on my current orthotic? Might having no pressure on the bones increase my mobility? I took an old orthotic with pressure points clearly marked and cut out the small area around those marks. I had no clue what would happen. I didn’t know if the structural integrity of the orthotic would fail. I didn’t know if no support would make things worse. But it seemed like a reasonable test, given that the orthotic at this point was pretty useless. I started with a small hole. It felt better, so I increased the size of the hole. It felt even better! I increased it even further and cut out secondary pressure points. Bingo! I’m now walking without any pressure on my deformed toes.

So my problem is solved right? It’s never that easy. While I’ve been able to increase my walking distance from a couple of blocks to over 1/2 mile, my overall pain level (mostly in my back but some in my legs) has also increased, sometimes to severe levels. It’s been bad enough I’ve had to wear my TENS unit at times. And then there’s standing. Standing has always been more difficult than walking. It may have something to do with constant pressure vs. rotating pressure through each step. I asked my rheumatologist about it once. He agreed that standing was difficult, and told me not to do it. That wasn’t much help. Part of the problem seems to be deconditioning from not having stood for more than a few minutes at a time since 2002. A couple of years ago I went through another series of PT to try to increase my mobility. It didn’t help much, in part because the basic exercises, such as bridging, significantly increased my pain and muscle spasms. I guess it’s time to try again, to figure out how to do basic reconditioning exercises without increasing my pain.

Despite the pain, I have been walking and standing more. I’ve reached the point of being mostly independent of my scooter for social outings. The major exception right now is going to the theater. Every few weeks I usher in exchange for free tickets. To be independent of my scooter at the theatre, I’d have to be able to stand for 30 to 45 minutes. I’m definitely not there yet. Along the same lines, I’ve found that having to wait in line is still too much for me. I walked to CVS to pick up a prescription the other day and had to stand in line for almost half an hour; I thought I was going to pass out from the pain by the time I got home. It really is two steps forward and one step back. There are so many places I can now walk to, but once I get there, I can’t stand in line. This means I continue to be scooter bound for just about all errands.

Of course, I still haven’t shown my solution to any medical providers.  I’m hopeful they’ll approve and won’t have concerns.  If all goes well, I’m hoping my makeshift solution will provide providers with a template towards making my next pair of orthodics.

My current goal is to be able to stand while ushering. I’m currently doing a combination of sitting and standing, but to fully reach my goal, I think I’ll have to go back to PT. Reaching this goal would not only make me completely independent my scooter for social outings, it should go a long way towards independence of my scooter in general.  Complete independence from my scooter is still a long ways off though.  I figure I’d have to be able to walk two to three miles and stand for a few hours before I could be declared completely independent.  As far off as that seems, I remain hopeful and continue to work toward that much larger goal.

Despite progressing at a glacial pace, I’m grateful, amazed and thrilled that after 14 years, I am still recovering!  Changes can’t be seen from day to day or even month to month, but look at me every six months or so and there’s almost always some improvement!

UPDATE:  Duh!  I’m unsure how I forgot this…For the first time since my car accident, I’ve been regularly going down stairs step-over-step!  After 14 years of either going down sideways or looking incredibly spastic attempting to go down step-over-step, the last form of “looking disabled” (at least when I don’t have my scooter) is hopefully a thing of the past.  I’d been told all along that my difficulty going downstairs wasn’t just about my foot; it was also about my knee and hip that were also injured in the accident.  Yet mysteriously and magically, after eliminating the pressure on my bones, I’m now going downstairs without a problem.

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