Apr 30 2012

Cause & Effect

Published by superluminal51893 under Uncategorized

Now that I’ve shared my story, I’d like to go over the cause of this injury, why certain people are susceptible to it, and why most have never heard of it.

Genetically, there are individuals, such as myself, who have a predisposition to this injury. Specifically, there are those of us that inherit rather bony heels that are shaped in such a way that a shoe’s fitment can catch the back of the heel just right during activity. Over time, this can encourage a bony growth at the back of the heel. The bony growth itself, causes no pain but eventually, the condition reaches a slippery slope where major inflammation and bursitis can occur due to the Achilles region trying to protect itself from the unnatural¬†friction. This is the source of the debilitating pain caused by activities such as running, walking, lifting, etc. Often, such as in my case, much of this downward trend can be symptomless or of minor discomfort until the damage is actually done and the case becomes chronic. Although conservative measures can be effective in some cases, often nothing short of ceasing the activity that is the catalyst for the pain and inflammation is successful in the long run. For those of us who choose to pursue active lifestyles and exercise, this is an unacceptable endgame and thus surgery is the terminal solution.

The key to correcting this condition early on is to use a shoe that is loose fitting, provides a proper gait, and is made of soft material. I’ve found that minimalist footwear works best, as often these shoes are fabricated from light, flexible materials that don’t irritate the heel and encourage a more natural running gait with a forefoot strike. I discovered this style of running to be the only way I could put in miles as a traditional shoe caused severe discomfort. Unfortunately, I became enlightened to this trend far to late in the game, as I had already succumb to the chronic pain and discomfort manifested from the bony growth irritating the tendon.

My surgical procedure will commence at 9:00AM EST tomorrow. I will keep everyone updated. Cheers!

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Apr 26 2012

Going Under the Knife

Published by superluminal51893 under Uncategorized

Hello bloggers. This is my first blogging experience, as well as my first surgical intervention. I hope to share my experiences with you in the coming months as I muster through the operation and post-operative challenges. Let me briefly describe myself, my activity style, and the events the leading to my choice in the surgical alternative.

About 2 years ago, I was a very avid runner. I was putting in about 50-60 miles per week in addition to hitting the weights. Strangely, I had never had any indication of major injury or complications, aside from the normal soreness that is typical in distance running. I would occasionally have some tight calves, knee soreness, and some minor iliotibial band discomfort during hard long runs, but I had never had problems with my feet before. My last quality run (2 years ago) consisted of some trail/terrain miles in the rain. Due to the ground being wet and unpredictable, the run turned out to be very technical. I completed the run (10 miles) without much discomfort aside from my left heel being a bit sore. I thought nothing of it, took a shower, consumed some calories, and retired to bed. The next day, I found that my heel was stiff, and a bit swollen. Only in the morning did it give my some problems. I did some minor stretching and figured I’d take a day off to give my heel some rest. Most of the day was pretty uneventful, but I started to have more lingering soreness towards late afternoon. Again, I thought nothing of it and went to bed that night thinking I’d be ready to go out for another run the following day. Unfortunately, the following morning was much worse. I had increased pain around my left heel and I had developed a limp. At this point, I thought about seeing my general practitioner, just as a precaution. I scheduled an appointment for the following day. It was all downhill from here. The next morning my heel become extremely painful and swollen, to the point where I could barely even walk. I ended up limping like a cripple into my general practitioners office and he gave my the diagnosis. Retrocalcaneal bursitis.

For the next year, I spent copious amounts of time and money trying to alleviate the problem. I saw 3 different doctors, all of which misdiagnosed the root of the problem, and instead insisted on inflammatory patches and cortisone shots (the later of which I rejected due to the increased chance of tendon rupture). After some useless physical therapy, that did nothing but put a dent on my wallet, I took matters into my own hands and spent hours doing internet research on the topic. I reviewed all the causes of retrocalcaneal bursistis, along with patient and doctor testimonies. I devised a series of stretches and exercises that proved to be mildly effective at relieving some of the pain and discomfort. I was about 3 months until I could walk and stand, albeit painfully for periods of time. I took about 4 months before I was able to crosstrain painfully on a stationary bicycle. Some of the swelling did subside, but much of the bursitis remained, resulting in an ugly looking bulge between my Achilles tendon and the heel bone.

Heel view from the outside:

Heel Outside

Heel view from the inside:

Heel Inside

A little over a year after my heel flared up, I picked up running again. This was a very painful experience, and although I was able to get up to about 30 miles per week, most of my downtime was spent nursing my heel and barely being able to walk the day following a hard run. As a last straw, I tried ultrasound and electric shockwave therapy to help with the pain and discomfort. The ultrasound did nothing. The electric shockwave therapy helped for maybe 2 months.

I finally made an appointment with a reputable orthopedic surgeon who specializes in athletes and runners. We did some X-rays and devised a surgical plan to address the problems I’m having with my heel. The plan will be a lateral incision to remove any bony growth (Haglund’s deformity) and to rescind as much of the bursitis as possible without violating the Achilles tendon. This surgical approach is supposed to have a much quicker recovery time than one that involves tendon removal or debridement.

I’m due for surgery in a couple days (May 1). I’m hoping for the best, and I will blog periodic updates during my recovery.

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