I suffer from an incurable illness known as ‘old’.
The symptoms have been progressing gradually for the last few years/decades. I thought a good diet, lots of exercise, and plenty of black-tar heroin was keeping the effects at bay, but lo, it was not to be. The disease has reached a new stage and a major mile-marker has been reached. As of last Friday…I required orthotic inserts.
Yes, orthotics. The insoles your granddad uses so he can hobble from the bathroom to the trampoline. The world’s most boring add-on to your shoes. I required them.
In truth, I may have needed them well before now. I’d stopped deadlifting years ago because of occasional lower back problems. And back in my twenties (*chokes back a tear of fond remembrance*), knee problems brought an end to my running. Bit by bit, I’ve chipped away at my athletic behavior to accommodate the growing aches and pains.
So when my knee, hip, and back pain just got to be too much, I did what any person would do: I googled it. Turns out, one solution might be the laces on my shoes. Shoe laces. Yes, shoe laces. Turns out, there’re more than one way to lace your shoes. More than one way to tie them, too. Apparently my granny knot just might not be the best method. So I did an exhaustive analysis of different lacing and tying methods.
Naturally, I didn’t do this on my own time. No, no. I did this during a staff meeting. A coworker inquired what I was doing and why I had gotten tangled up in sixteen feet of shoe laces. I explained and he immediately suggested insoles. He claimed getting insoles did a world of good for him. Seemed legit, so I shifted gears (after sawing through the knot I had tied).
I came across innumerable different foot problems, but few really seemed to match my experience. I finally decided to just screw the differential diagnosis and just stuff some paper towels into my shoes. I wadded them up real good and stuck them into my medial arch and…voila!
Y’all, let me just say that what I experienced wasn’t miraculous but it could easily have been mistaken for it. I could tell nigh-instantly that something had happened. My back pain slowly disappeared over the course of the workday. My knees ached, but in a totally different way. My damn shoulder stopped hurting! It was amazing.
And this was just with paper towels! Imagine what would happen if I tried real, commercial inserts!
The answer is a lot of bad.
I went to the nearest big-box store and purchased some commercial insoles. I don’t want to get into trouble by naming a particular brand, so let’s just say that they rhymed with ‘Schoctor Dole’. I cut them to size and stuck them in my shoes. Inside of an hour, my hip hurt worse than it has ever hurt. My knees were aching again, both the new way and the classic pain. And the idea of wearing the insoles further nearly brought me to tears. So I tossed those out and went back to paper towels.
I’m now a week out and feeling better than I’ve felt in years.
Cool, great, right? No, that’s not where our story ends.
So, the wad of paper towels shoved up into my foot is working wonders, right? But why? Remember when I said I couldn’t find any afflictions to precisely explain my pain? That proved to be key. Now that I had a treatment that was having a positive effect, and I had tried another treatment that had a negative effect, I needed to work backwards and find the cause.
Knowing that the issue was being caused by an elevated medial arch, but without any of the issues normally associated with that like plantar fasciitis or the like, I had to find a solution. I couldn’t find an explanation until I began looking at commercial versions of the product I was simulating with the paper towels. Turns out, they’re called ‘scaphoid pads’. They’re a thing and they’re usually not associated with any particular affliction, just a general pain and ache associated with needing arch support.
This hasn’t revealed the affliction like I had hoped, but it has revealed another affliction, namely medical naming conventions.
See, some of you with biology or medical backgrounds may have read ‘scaphoid’ and been all ‘wait, that bone is in the hand’. And you’d be right, the scaphoid bone is in the hand (between the thumb and the radius). So what’s the pad doing? Well, the navicular bone in the foot USED to be called the scaphoid bone (probably because it is the bone between the heel and the big toe [not counting the medial cuneiform, but who does?]). So when medical terminology was reconciled between surgeons and physicians way back in the day, they decided to go with navicular. See? Proof that medicine can co-exist?
So then why is Fibula and Peroneal still used interchangeably?!?!
If you aren’t familiar with those terms, good. The fibula is a bone in the lower leg. It also used to be called the peroneal bone, until medical terminology was reconciled. Except this term never was: peroneal artery, peroneus longus and brevis, the terms continue to confound and confuse and irritate. Pick one, medicine! PICK ONE!