Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pain In The Arch

I ran cross country for three years in high school virtually injury-free. Typical minor shin splits that teens often get, but nothing severe or debilitating. And in those days our team would routinely tackle 10 miles in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains in 90+ temperatures. Somehow my Adidas Oregon's served me well for months on end with no harm to my feet or knees.

I took most of college off from distance running, then slowly returned to the sport as knee pain began limiting my skateboard endeavors. You get old, things change. Oh do they change. I had no idea the injuries that runners 25 and up face. And I was to face most all of the main ones almost consecutively in the four years after I began running regularly again. Everything from "runners knee" -- a chronic inflamtion of the knee cartilage which can range from a slight, annoying burning sensation to full-on "stop-mid-run" pain; iliotibial band syndrome --which feels like some some striking your hip and leg muscle with a small hammer every time your foot strikes the pavement; calf tightness--which will have you limping around like an injured snowboarder for weeks, and even bouts of sudden muscle cramps--move a leg in slightly the wrong way and your calf twists and hardens into something resembling spiral stone with icey nerve endings exploding inside.

But all of those are hands-down beaten by my current affliction: arch pain. Its also known as arch strain, and its related to the dreaded and sinisterly named plantar fasciitis (heel pain, or heel spurs). To this I exclaim: oh arches! The thing you non-runners should know about arch pain: it comes on slowly, starting with a slight soreness, or tenderness that fades after activity. But then the bouts of pain increase almost unnoticeably until, arrrgghh, you can't run without a severe "burning poker through the arch" sensation with every step. And it can last months. And there's very little you can do about it other than ice and strecth. says: "There are a number of possible causes for arch pain, but the most common are structural imbalances of the foot, such a pronated foot (rolls inward at the ankles). This is often not enough in isolation to cause the problem, but in combination with other associated with overuse - running, walking, hard surfaces and/or OFAD (on feet all day), usually combined with inadequate or non-supportive footwear. The more common specific causes of arch pain can be:
* plantar fasciitis (strain of the plantar fascia - a strong ligament that supports the arch)
* tarsal tunnel syndrome (a pinched nerve at the ankle that refers pain to the arch)
* foot strain from a pronated foot or flat foot"

While there's nothing funny about foot pain, I do find what I call my "cycle of injury" to be a bit amusing and educational. Its like subscribing to Pain Monthly, as soon as I rid myself of one thing, something else pops up. Imagine kids--a hot new Pain Sensation delivered to your body every month, all at absolutely no cost! In fact, we'll give you two Pain Experiences for the price of one, if you sign up to train for the Chicago Marathon now! Be the first on your block to experience big, bad plantar fasciitis --badder than a prison yard thug, and less discriminating!..

So far I've relinquished--given up all but once-a-week short runs of 6 miles or less, ice everyday and tried to do all the silly stretching/strengthening exercises, such as rolling a frozen juice can back and forth with the injured foot (thanks University of Buffalo medical group!), and using a towel to stretch the foot. Running is great and I always pursue it. And now I know I've checked another one of the Great Common Injuries off the list, with only a few hundred more to experince. What a life.