If that’s the scenario you’ve been dealing with long-term too it could help you to read the following articles I’ve linked to, and if you haven’t had an ultrasound on your feet to diagnosis plantar fasciitis and your doctor is relying on X-rays alone as proof of the condition, urge them to send you for an ultrasound—a much better tool for diagnosis as the second article explains.
* Is Your Plantar Fasciitis Pain Not Going Away? It's Probably Not Plantar Fasciitis
* Study: Heel Pain, Very Common and Debilitating, Often Misdiagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis Use of Diagnostic Ultrasound Leads to More Accurate Diagnosis
Over the past year and a half I’ve done some blogging about my health issues because they’ve been pretty impossible to ignore. I’ve had slowly worsening heel pain for much longer still, but my situation became debilitating in March/April 2014, to the point that it was difficult to get down more than a single aisle at the grocery store (the shooting foot pain!), descending stairs was often torture (weird electrical pain cutting across my kneecaps) and waiting in line at the pharmacy for five minutes felt like gravity was pummelling my heels into the ground. In short, there wasn’t a lot I actually could do.
For the longest time I was told I had plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral syndrome. I went through several physiotherapy sessions (which made the pain in my feet and knees exponentially worse) beginning in January 2014 and had foot and knee X-rays which were spectacularly unilluminating. Next I was referred to a sports doctors who watched me walk, prodded my heels and arch a bit, then suggested custom made orthotics, a foam roller for my legs, rolling the arch of my feet over a frozen water bottle twice a day, a Strassburg sock (the sock equivalent of a plantar fasciitis night splint to keep your fascia from shortening while you sleep), gave me a prescription for heavy duty pain pills that I couldn’t take because they were too hard on my already ailing digestive system (pre-existing problems), and said the only thing she could really do was give me a cortisone shot. Her diagnosis: severe plantar fasciitis which had affected my whole kinetic chain and caused my knee issues.
Desperate to make headway and get my mobility back I relegated the custom made orthotics from hell to the back of my closet and in late August 2014 I began radial shockwave therapy, a treatment which supposedly helps 80% of chronic plantar fasciitis cases but instead rocketed my feet into a new level of pain that lasted for five days after each of the four treatments before ultimately returning me to my previous baseline level of OUCH.
Nothing worked for me. Nothing. Not the radial shockwave therapy treatments. Not physio. Not the daily stretching exercises for my feet or strengthening exercises for areas around my knee. Not the foam rolling. Not the hellish night splint sock that only seemed to destabilize my knee further so that sometimes I’d have to hold the kneecap in place when I got up from a seated position. Not the massage therapy I went for at the local hospital where the massage therapist admitted she didn’t believe she could help me and mentioned that my feet didn’t feel to her as though I had plantar fasciitis. In fact, she told me if I hadn’t given her any explanation, from the feel of my legs she would’ve thought I had fibromyalgia rather than plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral syndrome.
Instead of feeling better over time things got odder, strange sensations—weakness, numbness, and pain up and down my legs, not just in my feet or my knees. All through this, over months and months, I was constantly revisiting my GP who sent me for bloodwork, more bloodwork, yet more bloodwork, a nerve conduction study and EMG, and a vascular study. And all through this it was difficult to stand for any length of time but nearly as difficult to sit—a strange tightness would build up at the back of my legs after awhile and I’d have to get up and start moving again only to sit down when that became too much for my heels. And all through this it would hurt my knees to bend. Low cupboards became a problem. Stairs were my arch-enemy. Picking things from the floor required careful consideration. I took to wearing knee braces which at first seemed to help provide support and then felt unbearable.
|Using the torturous night splint sock on my trip to Dublin in April/May 2014|
Despite these measures, the strange sensations at the back of my legs is constant now, just not as severe. And I’m STILL like a Jack in the Box who has to keep popping up. I can stand and sit for longer than before, but not anywhere near a normal duration. I need to move. Then stop. Then move again. Never for too long or too far mind you. Not nearly long enough to do a full time seated office job and, well, if I manage to amble around a shopping mall for an hour and a half (with seated rest periods to break up the time) I’m doing well and feel extremely pleased with myself. I often used to walk for hours at a time without thinking anything of it and miss it terribly. Now all but the shortest strolls are a thing of the past, as are concerts that require standing or things like art gallery or museum visits. Even movie watching at the local theatre can be a challenge and requires that I have enough room around me to allow me to fully extend my legs at regular intervals. This is life in the sloooow lane!
I joined a wonderfully supportive plantar fasciitis sufferers group on Facebook and traded horror stories and treatment regimens with other folks who couldn’t seem to shake their plantar fasciitis. The group helped my morale quite a bit (misery loves company), but why the hell were so many of us still suffering after following medical advice to a T and after undergoing not just one but multiple PF procedures?
And what about my blood work and the various medical studies? Well, time after time my blood work came back as perfectly fine. No sign of vitamin deficiencies or any other underlying conditions. My vascular study results were normal but my nerve conduction study results were not. The January 2015 nerve conduction study showed I have polyneuropathy that the neurologist said an older person might have without a cause but at my age there would be a reason for. However, at the time of my study he didn’t believe that my polyneuropathy was responsible for my foot and knee pain. Since then I’ve had a knee MRI which showed nothing more than very minor degeneration of the menisci, but nothing out of line for a woman my age and certainly nothing, I’m told, that should be causing the degree and wide area of pain and unusual sensations at the back of my legs. Since then I’ve also seen a rheumatologist who sent me for a feet ultrasound theorizing that I don’t have plantar fasciitis at all and that my neuropathy (which so far after, masses of blood work, is of unknown cause) is causing the vast majority of my issues.
|one of my knee X-rays|
The rheumatologist wants me to see a neurologist, which will be the next step, but my GP warns the wait could be six months. They’re thin on the ground, unfortunately. And I can’t help but feel angry and short-changed by that sports doctor who pushed a cortisone shot that I didn’t need and who didn’t bother to send me for an ultrasound even though she said she’d never seen a case of plantar fasciitis that had lasted longer than a year, and I was at a year and a half and counting when I walked into her office in April, 2014.
For the moment I don’t know what’s really wrong with me, what’s given rise to the polyneuropathy that’s apparently caused—and continues to cause—me so much trouble, but it isn’t plantar fasciitis. If you, too, have been suffering for a long time and keep getting the term ‘plantar fasciitis’ hurled at you, go get that ultrasound. Print out the two articles I linked to at the start of this post and hand them to your doctor if that’s what it takes to convince them you need one. Because it just might be that plantar fasciitis isn’t what you’re suffering from either, and that no amount of rolling your foot on a frozen water bottle or stretching your calves will make one teensy bit of difference.