Friday, December 23, 2011

The Medical Waltz

My life sometimes feels like one giant medical soap opera with doctors parading in and out on an almost weekly basis.  I sat down to write about my bizarre gait analysis appointment and realized that I completely forgot to write about my equally bizarre ear nose and throat appointment from last week.

Good lord!

So grab your coffee, sit back and prepare to learn all about what's going on in my body - from top to bottom.

First - the ear nose and throat appointment.

For those of you who don't know (or remember) - back in August, when I was running long long distances, I began to experience a weird thing after running about 2 1/2 hours or so.  My ears would begin to plug up and, by 3 hours, I could hardly hear.  By 3 1/2 hours, I was pretty much completely deaf.  I'd stop running and it would go away within 10 minutes or so.

I asked at the diabetes centre but they had no idea so I was referred to an ear/nose/throat doctor.  December was the first appointment they had so I finally got in last week.

The first thing they did was check my hearing.  I immediately got nervous because I have no idea how good (or bad) my hearing is.  With sight, it's pretty obvious if you can or cannot read something but with hearing - it's hard to know what you're not hearing...cause you can't hear it.  So they put me into a silent, tomb-like little room and made me respond to beeps, repeat words and do other fun things.  Afterwards, I was informed that I have above-average hearing in all ranges.  Yay! That might explain why I'm constantly turning down the radio and why I absolutely abhor noisy places of any kind.  And why I can't concentrate on a conversation if there's background noise.  Or why I hate restaurants with televisions.  Or loud cell phones...

It's either my superhuman hearing or I'm just really cranky pants and overly sensitive....

Anyway, they poked and prodded.  They checked my ears, my nose, my throat.  They asked a barrage of questions and, at the end, I was told that they have absolutely no idea why my ears plug up.

The best they could do was say "it's probably a build-up of pressure".  No suggestions for how to avoid it.  No idea whether it was causing any damage or not. They just told me not to worry about it and, as long as it didn't bother me, I could keep running.  Come back in a year for a follow-up hearing test.  So I'm no further ahead other than I now know how well I can hear.

On to the gait analysis.

Dr. Prince, the guy who ordered my bone scan and who told me I had a stress fracture, referred me for a gait analysis to see if they could figure out why I'm prone to shin splints.

I received a letter of instructions in the mail.  Bring comfy clothes (check).  Bring your running shoes (check).  Bring your work shoes (ummm...those are my running shoes).  I showed up with my bag of stuff and slightly elevated blood sugar in case I had to run for a long time.

I didn't run a step.

She had me take off my socks, shoes and stand up.

Aha!  (she actually said aha!).  You have a very pronounced deformity in your feet.

The first thought that popped into my head was "deformity?!? do we even use that word anymore?".

I have very flat feet - I always have.  They had me in arch supports as a child but apparently these things don't fix themselves.  So I have flat feet. Long, elegant, pretty flat feet - with red nail polish!

She checked my flexibility.  She had me lie down and painted lines down the back of my ankles and heels.  Then she made me stand up and showed me how her straight line was now angled. She made me walk and then announced that my deformity was worse on my right side when I stood but then became, and I quote, very very bad on my left when I walked.

Very + bad + deformity = a remediation class in appropriate language.

How about:  your overpronation is much more pronounced on your left side when you walk.  That sounds a little nicer non?  

Anyway, I got over the language and listened to what she had to say.  Apparently my deformity (ok, I didn't quite get over the language) makes me very prone to shin splints and stress fractures.  She prescribed orthotics to help correct the problem.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Not sure I want to correct one problem if it might result in another as I change my gait.  Not sure I want to start wearing orthotics since they don't fix the problem, they just make me reliant on a $500 piece of equipment.  Not sure I want to get them since there's no guarantee that they'll fix anything. Not sure I want to base my decision on the fact that she looked at my feet and painted lines on my heels.  What if my shin splints aren't caused by my feet at all - but by weak hips?  Or tight calves?  Or a myriad other things working together to create the perfect storm.  She didn't even watch me run for goodness sakes!

So I'm taking a few days to think about it.  To talk to my running support team.  To wait to hear back from my blogger friends - what say you folks?

Isn't it funny that a one hour appointment can find nothing wrong with my ears but a five minute 'gait analysis' can completely diagnose the cause of my shin splints?


  1. This could be a ridiculous notion it at all possible that the plugged ears could be from the change in elevation during your runs? On your really long runs didn't you go up the escarpment a bit and come down to 9th?

  2. I don't know anything about your ears, but I would find someone for a second opinion on the gait analysis, and I would make sure that they examine my running too. Walking gait is different from running gait, and since you're planning on running, I'd want that analysis too. I had mine done by a physical therapist at a Sports Clinic.

    Orthotics- Love them and hate them. I have them in one pair of my running shoes, but I rotate between the ones with orthotics and the ones without. I wonder if you could just get SuperFeet inserts for one pair and call it good?..... Anyways, definitely go for a second opinion.

  3. Orthotics - I was prescribed them by a physio for my arches. But she made up a temp set in about 10 mins. Told me to walk on them first. Did so for a.week and it felt good. But running caused complete agony after 2k so I definitely agree with last comment. You can buy pre-made sets, about 40 euro here. Might be better to try that before shelling out......I still occasionally use the temp set physio made, but only after long runs if Plantar very sore.

  4. So I'm late posting this reply, but you're right; we are living parallel lives... minus the whole ear thing.