Closer to healed and a revelation…

The Boot for my broken footI strapped “The Boot” on my busted foot and headed out to a client meeting in Carefree, Arizona.  I had just been given the news the day before that my right foot had suffered a double stress fracture of the 3rd and 4th metatarsals.  The soft tissue stress reaction associated with the injury had me in pretty intense pain with a very swollen foot.  I put on my best “good attitude” and down played the pain I was in so we could go about our business.  The younger guy at the meeting, always one to bust my balls any chance he gets, said, “We’ve been working together for what…10 years now?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen you where your foot wasn’t hurt.  What the hell do you keep doing to yourself?

Could he be right?  I know it’s an exaggeration but could this really go back that far?

The first time I went to the doctor with pain in my right foot I got no answers.  It could be a stress fracture, it could be a bruise, it could be a chronic condition like gout or arthritis – was the report from the non-committal doctor.  The X-rays showed nothing.  They put me in a boot back then too, but the pain was even worse in the boot so I didn’t wear it very long.  That was over 10 years ago.

I know I have a protein sensitivity and occasional problems with gout.  The pain can be intense.  The pain can be so intense it can feel like a broken bone, sometimes worse.  It can cause swelling and mobility issues.  So here’s the problem: How can I tell the difference?

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the injury I sustained over a decade ago was a stress fracture.  A bad stress fracture that needed a lot of time to heal.  Could it be possible that I’ve been chasing the same recurring injury for 10 years because I never gave it enough time to heal properly?  I’m pretty stubborn, and I’ll work through pain as long as I can if I don’t think it’s a serious injury.  I do try to listen to my body, let it tell me when I need to slow down and when I need to stop…but a little pain isn’t reason to stop.  Not usually.

Physical TherapyTalking to the doctor, it seems this is exactly the case.  And the reason why it became a double stress fracture this time.  The original fracture never healed completely and created a weak point allowing the crack in the adjacent metatarsal.  The worst part about this news is that it feels very much like my current problem was brought on by my own stubbornness and stupidity.

Four pivotal weeks out of commission this Summer, and at least two more weeks of restriction before I can really start using it.  Plans have been cancelled, time lost, my fitness has suffered and my cameras are collecting dust.  The good news is the pain is gone, there are more plans on the horizon and I can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Time to dust off the gear and make plans to get outside.

I have to let this injury heal properly, I can’t afford to do this again.  I want to hike, I want to climb, I don’t handle the down time well.

I’d like to hear from you guys.  I’d like to know who has gone through something like this before?  How did you handle it?  Do you still worry about re-injuring yourself?  Has it changed how you pursue physical activities?

Dave Creech is a successful business owner and entrepreneur based in Phoenix, Arizona. He shares his personal story and lifelong passion for travel and rugged outdoor adventure through his blog at WildernessDave.com. David’s focus has been on trip stories, gear reviews, Wilderness Medicine and a series of articles aimed at introducing Yoga to hikers and backpackers as a path to staying fit, healthy and injury free.

Comments

  1. I keep tearing or straining my left hip flexor.. all because I continue to up my running mileage too quickly. Thankfully I have not done this in the last 18 months, although I constantly worry if I will wake up the next day and be in terrible pain. Kept the mileage increases low, done lots of rolling, and aside from racing, trying my best not to push myself. Every time I damage it, I have to be off it for 6 weeks, then it takes about 3 months to strengthen it again. Not worth it :\

    • Nicole,

      It is SO not worth it. I hate the down time so much. Do you ever think the injury will make you quit running altogether? Glad you haven’t had problems with it lately.

      • Dave,

        Probably not. Damaging it a few times was simply stupid because I knew that the mileage increase was too much.. but sometimes the brain and the legs don’t want to do the same thing. I love to run. Now that my asthma is controlled (exercise induced), I feel like I am trying to make up for lost time which means sometimes it gets away from me.

        As long as I keep reminding myself that I need to keep my increase less than 5% per week (vs the typical 10) I’m usually alright. It also helps that I remind myself of how painful the injury was every time I get the “Oh, another 2km won’t kill me..” thought. I don’t like being able to not even put on socks without being in agony.

        I have to learn to quit while I’m ahead, and it seems to be working for me lately.

  2. I hurt my back in college, was in PT for about a year, and never really recovered from it for a long time. I wasn’t doing what I should have been doing, I had bad posture, I didn’t workout right, etc. etc. Finally I started a fairly aggressive lifting routine and after a few months of that I had built up my core enough to not be in pain anymore. All the stuff I had done before that just aggravated it more and more. It was tough, I felt like I was old and I was only 19, it took about 3 years to get it right after that.

    • Holy crap…three years is a long time. I’ve had some back issues too but have luckily gotten past most of them. I had a shoulder/bicep injury from lifting a while back and I still can’t bench the kind of weight I used to. Even with training.

  3. Take it easy and rest up my friend. I’ll be looking to you for another crazy day of adventure once you’re healed!

  4. I have some recurring soreness in my left foot, and I’m prone to ankle sprains. I’m like you: stubborn when it comes to downtime. I don’t do inactivity well at all. With the sprains, I aggressively treat them, and that seems to work. The foot issue is working itself out as I tinker with running form. I’ve got a whole lot of other little nagging issues from banging around through the years. I try my best to listen to my body. Get healed up soon, man! You’ve got gear to test.

    • Thanks Bob!

      I DO have gear to test and adventures to be had. I was doing really well with running there for a while and then the foot started acting up and when I tried to muscle through it (thinking of course it wasn’t anything important) it broke down. It had been acting up for months, with me ignoring it. I ran a local race here when it hurt too bad to walk. Then limped through several hikes ignoring the signs. Lessons learned I guess…

  5. Veronica says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It is SO hard to do the right thing sometimes!!!

    In February, literally as soon as I stepped through the Start line onto the course I got the worst pain in my right ankle. I walked the whole thing (about 4.5 miles), came home and was told it’s a bone spur growing and pressing against the base of my gastro soleus. Thanks to the location, I was also informed that surgery is not an option. Shots will only provide temporary relief…Every step I take hurts a little. The podiatrist also informed me the spur will only continue to grow and the pain will increase as I age.

    My next event is in a month and it’s a distance I have not been able to train for because of an injury on the same foot (from April) which is still visibly bruised. My PT gave me clearance only a few weeks ago to walk more than a mile and to try a light, short jog. Needless to say, part of me is thinking “hell yes, let’s do this” and take the next event on no matter how long it takes…and part of me is thinking “screw it, get the next one.”

    Still debating…

    • Veronica,

      Man, that’s a tough one. My dad had a similar issue in his foot but was actually able to have a surgeon cut the nerves so he wouldn’t feel it. I ran a race (4.2 miles) on my broken foot before I knew it was broken. I muscled through it and completed the race, but that may have cost me much more recovery time with this injury.

      I would say (as much as friendly unsolicited advice can allow me to say) skip the race, focus on your PT and training to get stronger so you can race again. I have to swallow my own advice there as well. It’s tough, but smarter…..so I’m told. ;)

  6. Freshman in college I was sledding with the boys on a hill with a killer jump. Hit the jump. Landed sideways and murdered my ankle. Just so happens I was taking a PE class which was 75% running. I was not running. I had to crutch across campus for a month or so and wasn’t able to run until the end of the semester. A major portion of the grade was a 1.5 run at the end of the year. My only concern was beating my original time pre-injury. It was ugly but I did it. I do not recommend this rehab process … as there was none. :)

    • Sounds like my previous rehab process….just do it!

      I am trying to be good this time. I’m very done with this foot being a problem. Luckily I’m not being graded, but it DOES put a damper on what kind of stories I can write here. :)

      • That’s a good idea. Let it heal.

        Here’s bad idea: I also almost completely ruptured my Achilles playing hoops. I didn’t go to the doc for a month. At that point it was healing back enough that he said no surgery. Otherwise I would’ve had it repaired. I was in the boot for awhile on that one and had real rehab. It’s still significantly weaker 12 years later. I’m dumb.

        • Dude! That sucks…I don’t go to the doc unless I have NO choice. So I probably would have done the same thing. That sucks though, when an injury heals poorly. I’m kinda worried about this fracture seeing as how it’s been a problem for 10 years and I’ve never let it heal properly. I had a buddy a long time ago who broke his hand and didn’t get it checked right away and it healed wrong. He had to have it re-broken and set so it could heal properly. He was not a fan of having it broken purposefully just to get it fixed.

          • Um, yeah… no thank you on breaking the hand on purpose. I’m sure you’ll be good though. Keep up the smart healing process.

  7. David,

    At about 12 years old, I noticed my right knee would give outta times, the scariest of which I was loading laundry into the washer and I fell off the platform and almost brought the washer down ontop of me. My knee would give out, make loud popping noises, hurt, but feel fine in about a week and I just never said anything to my parents.

    Fast forward 4 years and my first lacrosse game of the season, and it goes out with the worst pain I have ever experienced. I couldn’t walk, it was swollen like a grapefruit under my kneecap. I was out for most of the season and the doctor was considering surgery. I did ab 5 days of PT, wore the expensive hinged knee brace, and started getting physically active again. Now I feel it at times, but it hasn’t “subluxed” in the past 6 or so years. I do worry about it happening again, but I’m keenly aware now what feelings are “normal” pain, and what is on the verge of dangerous. I think you will be at that point after all this, and over time you will re strengthen.

    Wishing you a quick as possible recovery!!

    Hansen

    • Damn dude, that’s bad. Glad It’s done giving you trouble. I’ve had some knee issues but so far I’ve been able to avoid the DR and knee surgery while many of my less active friends have had knee surgery already.

      I hope to be able to learn the difference between normal pain and bad pain…

      • I’m like you in the sense that I avoid the doctor as much as possible, and honestly it wasnt until I really messed it up when I discovered what normal pains and the dangerous pains were. While I’m not a doctor, your current affliction could definitely be caused by prior injuries- I feel like my knee problem that I’ve had was primarily caused by continued activity on an already compromised joint. I think after you heal completely you’ll be more in tune with what is right and wrong in the sense of pains you feel.

  8. I’ve been battling about 15-20 extra pounds for years. I finally got into a routine and I was at optimum weight, but more than that, I felt fit and capable. I looked, and more importantly, felt good. Then one day, while doing stair repeats, alternate with leg lifts, I was floored by stabbing back pain. On my back for two weeks and in PT for several months, it was called an acute muscle strain. 4 years later and still in chronic pain, I finally got an MRI and it showed a slipped disc. I entered the third round of PT and MT and it was determined that my psoas had affected everything. After 6 months of PT, my back feels better. Still some pain here and there, but the recovery time is better. The pain moved all over and now I have chronic pain in my left thigh joint. No one can tell me what it is, or if it’s even related. The good news is that all my pain goes away when I am hiking, about 30 minutes in. Perhaps it’s just age combined with a lot of miles on these legs, much of them carrying a pack. We’ll see. It’s not going to stop me from seeing as much as I can see before they quit altogether. Hopefully, your issue heals and you can get back to exploring your own way. Sorry to hear about no JMT this year. I am aiming for 2015.

    • JMT 2015 eh? Hmmmm….

      Same here, battled weight and other factors, finally got it under control and got fairly fit again and then this happened. I’m glad its not my back….back injuries suck.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Broken foot or not, we did hike.  It wasn’t far and it wasn’t difficult, but we hiked.  Even with a full campground and a tourist packed National Park we found and hiked trails that had few, if any, other people on them.  We found places along the South Rim with epic views and quiet solitude. [...]

  2. [...] my foot injury kept me from flying off to California to tough out two weeks on the JMT, we decided to spend her [...]

  3. […] years I’ve ever had, the whole thing was a huge, painful struggle.  Last May I found out I had a double stress fracture in my right foot that sidelined me for the better part of 3 months.  As soon I recovered somewhat […]

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