Not many people at 27 can say they’ve arthritis. I wasn’t actually expecting a consultant to list a joint replacement as a way to sort out some pain in my foot. He did though, so that was great…
Thankfully, a joint fusion or replacement is the last resort for this kind of thing; do not fret! Over the last 2 years I’ve been running consistently (about 3 times a week) every week. The pain in my foot eventually became a bit too much, though… No one should deal have to deal with Chronic pain at any age, so I was eventually convinced to see my Doctor. Here’s my experience… It may be very similar to yours… or very different!
I have had arthritis in my big toe for around 4-5 years, unbeknownst to me. I assumed the pain was a tendon injury and would get better over time, but it didn’t… I just got used to it. Eventually, as I began running more, and getting better and faster at it, this pain began to interfere. I was injuring myself due to overcompensation. I was cutting long runs short and avoiding entering marathons for fear I’d not be able to do them. This is obviously not right, so I decided to see the doctor. The doctor gave me ibuprofen gel and sent me on my merry way. Great.
One evening, I went to a physiotherapist to look at my knee which had developed tendinitis (Though I was pretty concerned that it, too, was arthritis)…. It got better, though and turns out it was yet another injury caused by my foot pain. The physio urged me to get an x-ray on my foot as I should not have experienced pain and discomfort for as long as I had.
I went to my GP the following week (I know, my Dr Surgery is pretty good with appointments). My GP referred me for an x-ray which I had a month later and was kindly told that there was signs of osteoarthritis and she wanted me to get an MRI. WHAT THE FLIP?
Following the MRI I was referred to a specialist surgical consultant who offered me Cheilectomy. A procedure that essentially shaves off bone spurs that have developed and that are causing me pain and discomfort. Well that of course opened the door to many a question, such as:
Was this my fault?
– No, this is something that would have happened had you been a runner or not
Will it make me completely pain free?
-That’s the plan, though it’s not guaranteed. It might make it better but it won’t make it worse. Over time, the arthritis will come back and it may be that the joint is fused or replaced, but that’s for future Kate to worry about.
How long will I not be able to run for?
-Its different for different people. It could be 2-3 months, it could be 6 to a year. As long as you look after yourself, the quicker you’ll likely get better.
Most importantly, how long will I get off work?
– You’ll need at least 2 weeks, maybe 3?
Wait… Time off work?
Just kidding…. Kind of
Anyway… I eventually got a date for surgery which gave me about 6 months before I’d have to hang up my running shoes for a while. I made the most of my summer, I took part in Endure24, a 24 hour relay race, completing 35 miles over that time (It was amazing… Blog post coming soon) We arranged a beer mile at our local track which was hilarious and I improved my 5k, 10k and Half Marathon times. What I’m most proud of, however, was my half marathon time PB is now 1:40… ONE HOUR AND FORTY!!!?? This was also a week before the op, which was insane. I never thought I’d see the day.
This pain in my foot was holding me back so much, mentally. Once I knew what was wrong, found a solution and was told the running wasn’t the cause, it was like a switch went off in my head!
Day of the op:
So, the big day arrived… First ever surgery, first time put under general anesthetic and I was kind of pooping my pants… I arrived at 6:50am after cycling to the hospital… There was a beautiful sunrise and not a car in sight. Super chill start to the day.
I was whisked into a day ward where I was assessed, given a gown and had the procedure explained to me. I was super nervous so it was like talking to a brick wall, but I remember the anesthetist explaining that he was going to numb my foot when I was under general anesthetic. FUN!
There were 4 of us on the ward, and I was the last to go in. This meant I was allowed a coffee and some toast … SCORE! Finally. after waiting all day and watching people get wheeled away one by one, it was my turn. I was wheeled down to theater. I sat and watched other patients coming round from General Anesthetic which actually soothed my nerves. I had to give my details, sign some forms and tell them my date of birth for the 10th time and then went to the operating room. I remember talking about cycling to the anesthetist and his assistant and then waking up back in the theater waiting room with a freezing cold foot and feeling a bit drowsy.
Once I’d discovered that my foot wasn’t in fact cold, it was just numb I realised I was DESPERATE for a wee(nice) and absolutely famished. Turns out I don’t have a bad reaction to the anesthetic and was fairly fresh once I was fully awake… Lucky me.
I was brought onto a ward where my bloods were taken, I was given my pain meds and was visited by my mam, gran and boyfriend who all brought me chocolate, crisps and grapes. The rest of my stay was uneventful. The little old lady in the corner snored all night and I couldn’t figure out how to use the bed. I watched netflix most of the time and ate my chocolate. Eventually, I got sick of being stuck in the upright position, and instead of buzzing for the nurse, I texted my nurse friend to ask how the electric beds work…. Come on, Kate.
I was then assessed in the morning, given some crutches and shown how to use them and then sent home. I got a taxi with my mam and gran who came to chaperone me, and spent the next two weeks with my foot elevated and food made and presented to me every day…. Thank you, BIG TOE!!
2 weeks post op:
The first 2 weeks following the surgery, I was instructed to stay on the couch and not do anything other than make some tea and go to the loo. This was absolutely fine as the Codeine was knocking me out after every dose, so….
By the second week, I was walking on the most part without the crutches and the codeine wasn’t having as strong an effect on me. I went to my friends wedding which wasn’t a HUGE deal. I sat down mostly, elevated my foot as much as I could, and ALWAYS used the crutches. Still, I found I was putting weight on the outside of my foot which was causing some new discomfort there… Good one, Kate.
4 Weeks post op:
Back to work! I’m managing walking okay, though I’m still placing a lot of my weight on the outside of my foot. I had the dressing changed, and the sutures are healing okay. I’ve been changing my dressing myself now, and have found that the bottom end of the stitches is taking a bit longer to heal… Doubt it’s anything to worry about.
The pain is still there 😦 I’m stretching and flexing my foot as much as I can following the instruction of the Hospital Physio. Ibuprofen has been a huge help!
I have my follow up appointment with the consultant next week so I’ll update after that! Hopefully I’ll get a good idea of how long I have to wait before I can start running again!
I definitely do not regret getting the procedure and it’s very early days. I do have a LOT more mobility in my toe, and despite the stiffness and soreness, I can feel an improvement and can tell the bone spurs are gone! If you’re experiencing any pain, please make sure you rest and take your time. If it continues, you really need to visit your doctor for a referral.