Living with Chronic Foot Pain

February 27, 2013

Living with Chronic Pain // Sarah Hearts

I’m about to get personal now and I apologize in advance that this isn’t the most exciting/crafty post here on Sarah Hearts. I’ve learned that a lot of you come here for inspiration to create you own projects but I thought if I share a little more about my life that maybe just one reader might be encouraged by my experiences (or at least smile along with me).

My foot pain started when I was in ninth grade. There wasn’t a particular accident that caused it. I think it was a combination of being slight flat footed and riding horses all the time. I would experience a really intense burring on my heels and arches after riding and just walking around. The first doctor I went to thought it was caused by a cyst or tumor in my foot (which I had removed last year). They referred me to an orthopedic doctor, who then referred me to an orthopedic nerve foot specialist. I had MRIs, CT scans, Cortisone Injections, and a nerve test (have you ever had this done? It was not fun at all. Dye is injected into several places and you have to lie still for a couple hours). They finally concluded that I had loose, extra bones in both my feet that needed to be fused to other bones to prevent them from moving around and irrupting my nerves. My parents thought it was very invasive procedure for such a young person, though we were all considering I have the surgery.

Shortly after that visit I had a serious horseback riding injury that required three surgeries and years of physical therapy so everything with my foot pain got put on hold. The pain kinda ebbed and flowed throughout the rest of high school and college. I think my mind put the pain on the back burner because of all the pain I was experiencing from my elbow injury in high school and later my pelvis fracture that happened in college.

Almost two years ago I woke up and was unable to put any weight on my feet. I went to the local urgent care clinic and they referred me to a sports medicine podiatrist. After several visits, he determined that I have plantar fasciitis and an entrapped (or severely pinched) nerve in both feet. Though I hadn’t received that diagnosis before I was desperate to find some relief. I started with getting good fitting supportive running shoes (which I was told were the only shoes I can wear, I know right?) then physical therapy, custom orthopedics for my running shoes, more injections and still had no relief. I found that my pain was only getting worse so I decided on what was seen as the last option, to have surgery to release both the ligament on the bottom of my feet and the pinched nerve that was near both arches. I had the surgery on my left foot last January and on my right foot last July.

feet-5

I was prescribed Lyrica after my first surgery when the physical therapy wasn’t improving my condition. I was worried about taking a medication with the potential risk of crazy side effects but I was desperate. I still woke up with intense pain even before I stepped out of bed and running errands were so hard to do. I started on a very low dose and worked my way up to a moderate dose. I was extremely drowsy for the first couple of months. I also found that I would occasionally have intense, realistic scary dreams. I hated this. I didn’t feel like myself. But I found a little pain relief for the first time.

Around 8 months after the first surgery I still was having unbearable pain so my doctor referred my to a pain management doctor. Not only was I terrified that having a nerve stimulator implanted in my spine would be my only option but I also thought that they would just want to put me on narcotics. Neither of which happened though I did double the amount of Lyrica I was taking and I also started taking Cymbalta. I was so drowsy for the first couple of weeks that I didn’t feel safe driving and I would fall asleep at my desk. I wasn’t ever a coffee drinker but now I have to have a cup a day to keep me awake. I also found that I have days where I just don’t feel like myself or feel sad and can’t explain why. I’m trying to outweigh those side effects with the benefits of having pain relief.

In addition to the meds I was also “prescribed” to ride at least 3 times a week and do cardio 5 times a week. I made a few changes to my routine and switched from riding english to western and opted to use an elliptical rather than a treadmill and I’m actually feeling the most normal that I’ve felt in years. I’m having more pretty good days than bad ones though I’m still experiencing pain. Yet rather than an intense burning it’s an ache. Most days I my feet still ache before I even get out of bed but I feel like I’m slowly reaching a resolution on how to manage my pain and gain a bit of my life back.

Do you have chronic pain? Or have you taken any of the same prescriptions? I’d love to hear about your experiences. I’ve found that there aren’t many people in their late twenties that deal with chronic pain and I’m happy to answer any questions here or you can always contact me directly. It’s a tough thing to deal with and it’s really encouraging to know that someone else may be going through the same things.

Update:

It’s been over a year since I wrote this post and I have received so many emails, comments, and encouragement from other people living with all types of chronic pain. Since it’s been over a year in my journey, I wanted to provide you with a brief update in hopes that it may be helpful to some of you.

Last fall, my pain seemed to come back stronger and I was having more bad days than good. I felt like I hit a plateau with the Lyrica and Cymbalta as the burning pain came back strong. I asked my doctor if I could try going off both medications as I felt like they weren’t helping at all. I wasn’t happy with the mood swings and the twenty pounds I gained while on both medications. So with his supervision, I slowly tapered off both medications. It was rough. Really rough. I got intense headaches around the same time every day for over a month and my mood was all over the place. Once I was finally off both medications, the pain in my feet was both an intense ache and a burning sensation, not that much worse than with the medication. I went about 3 weeks without any medication and went back to my doctor after enduring a painful few weeks. He prescribed Mobic (the generic is Meloxicam) which is a prescription strength anti-inflammatory drug. I had never tired anything like this since my pain was always diagnosed at nerve pain. I now take a low dose daily and have found more relief than I ever did with other drugs.

I’m still trying to ride and exercise several times a week, as I found that it’s be great for my overall health and mood. There’s something so rewarding in getting back to your daily routine when pain has previously prevented you from doing so. I have also found that keeping this foot massager under my desk to be so, so helpful. I just use it whenever I’m sitting at my desk and it’s provided a lot of relief. I feel like my pain is much worse the days I don’t use it. I also have found some great (and stylish) shoes that provide enough support of my achy feet. I still never go bare foot for longer than necessary and wear supportive slippers around the house.

Though I’m my feet aren’t pain free, and morning are really rough, I am finding ways to reduce the pain and that gives me hope. If you’re also living with chronic pain, remember that you’re not the only one.

22 Comments

This was such a great read! I’ve struggled with horrible GI issues for over a year and still have no relief as doctors are stumped as to what is going on. I can’t even drink water without severe pain. Chronic pain is so draining both mentally and physically since it really takes a toll on your entire body. It’s also difficult since others can’t always see your pain and therefore they assume you are fine. Props to you for covering a tricky topic that most people tend to avoid talking about!

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Laura @ LauraLikesDesign

I think it’s so inspiring that you shared your story. I couldn’t imagine your pain and you are so brave to share this. I know many people will come across this post and it will touch them in a perfect way.
I had Melanoma (skin cancer) last year and was, and still am, a little shy about sharing my story but you’re right.. someone might need to hear about it and feel touched and supported.

Cheers to you for sharing!!
Hugs!

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Melissa

Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is very corageous of you to share your story as well. I have no experience with chronic pain, but I hope you continue to find some relief in your daily life.

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Kimberly FitzSimons

Like Laura, I have GI issues also and after a frustrating and scary year of several doctors and numerous tests, they had no answers. I’ll be 28 next month and it’s rare if I go a day without some sort of discomfort or pain. Now that I’ve put that into words and read it back, it’s scary to think I probably won’t ever feel “normal” again. But the silver lining has been helping a woman I work with who has similar symptoms as mine maintain a healthy diet and avoid foods that trigger discomfort. So I guess going through this hasn’t been for nothing. I’ve been able to help someone else cope with their pain. And I think that’s what your experience has done also. Thank you for sharing!

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Heather

I too have had foot pain since high school and I’m 24 now. I’ve always had a difficult time finding pain relief, and I also hate the idea of having to wear good running shoes all the time just to prevent extreme pain. I’ve started wearing comfort shoes like Born, Aerosoles and Clarks which have helped, but I still can’t have long days without being in extreme pain at the end of the day. Thanks for sharing your story, Sarah!

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Jackie

Sarah, thanks for sharing your story! You are strong, girl! I will keep you in my thoughts.

I just turned 29, and I agree that it seems like there aren’t too many young people out there dealing with scary health issues. A year ago last month I started having episodes where my heartbeat would jump to over 200 bpm, and I had no clue why. One day I passed out in the shower, and I was rushed to the ER. They had to reset my heart, which was the scariest experience I’ve ever had in my life – the only time I’ve ever really felt like I was going to die. Four days later it was determine that I had atrial fibrillation, and three months after that it was FINALLY determined that my a-fib was just an electrical issue, not coinciding with a structural problem. My world was upside-down for almost four straight months. I’m now on medication that keeps my rate and rhythm under control (for the most part) and hopefully will never have to have a procedure done. Unfortunately I can’t exercise all that much because once my heart rate gets up, it stays up and starts going bonkers.

My husband (also 29) was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when he was in college, and takes 6 pills a day to keep it under control.

I hope my story gave you something to relate to. Everyone has something. To keep things in perspective I try to remember how blessed we are that our issues aren’t very serious. If this is the worse health issue I ever have, I’m SO VERY LUCKY.

Stay healthy and positive! Have a great weekend! xo

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Jordan

I have Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune disorder – diagnosed at 25 years old. Those were the days when I thought doctors had ALL the answers,and people under the age of, oh, 65, should just be healthy. But I’ve learned over the years – as all the drugs fail, as I cut out all my fave foods (turns out I’m allergic to dairy, gluten, and eggs – and can rarely tolerate alot of other foods too! argh!), as I deal with the drug side effects and the doctor’s telling me things I don’t believe, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve met soooo many other people who have their own diseases and pain issues. I’ve learned the hard way that in actuality, I think it’s rarer to find someone who IS just plain old healthy. It seems like everyone has something wrong with them. So seeing you share your story – and the comments of others dealing with issues too, feels right. We’re all in this together, right?
I’m glad to hear you’ve found things that are helping you – I’ve found just a little bit of optimism goes a heck of a long way!
And it’s so nice to see you sharing this on your blog. I’ve spent many weeks so sick I could hardly blog, but felt like I shouldn’t say anything, because it can be such a downer. Kudos to you for sharing and staying positive!

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Mari

Although I cannot relate to your situation, I can only imagine what you are going through. You are such a strong person to be able to stay so strong and together after years and years of agony. Go you!

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Emily

Sarah, You are such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing this story with all of us. I couldn’t have been more lucky to have you as my Alt roomie. You’re such a talented designer and to think that you get up in the morning every day and still produce wonderful work for your readers & clients while dealing with this is just amazing. I’m so excited to follow along as you keep moving forward in this awesome journey of yours! xxo

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Angela

I started having foot pain too. My feet would hurt very badly when I would get out of bed in the morning. My fiance and I both believe it is the plantar faciitis as well. I swam all through high school and tried to do track for conditioning when my knees started hurting horribly. I was told it was because my arches had fallen. It pulls on the tendons in the back of my ankle which pull on my knees. I ended up getting special inserts for my running shoes. A couple years ago the pain started in the mornings and I think it was because I had been wearing crocs. Very comfy on my feet at my chocolatier job where I stood and ran around all day but not very supportive. I am blessed to have a caring fiance that looked into it when I started telling him about it. He found special athletic tape and learned how to tape my feet for support when I was at work. I am very lucky that the pain has gone completely away in one foot. One is still sore but the tape really helped strengthen my other foot so I am hoping it will still help. I know I am very fortunate to only have a mild issue with it, especially after reading other stories. Love reading this blog. :)

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Jennifer

Thank you for sharing something so personal. I had no idea the pain you have been dealing with. The fact that you deal with this type of pain and still produce such beautiful posts is inspiring! I have been dealing with a lower back/hip pain in my right side for about 10 years. It hurts mildly while sitting and when I stand it can hurt badly to walk. Almost like the hip bone/rear bone feels “stuck” until I make an effort to pop it. I look crazy bending strangely every time I stand but otherwise every step I take will be painful.

The first time I went to my Dr, she didn’t even LOOK at my back. Didn’t lift my shirt, didn’t take any X-rays. She told me maybe I was too skinny (even though I fall in the appropriate weight range for my age and height) and there wasn’t enough meat on my rear and that I was “too young” to have back pain. Two years later, still pain on my right side so I saw a new doctor. Turns out that yes, my low back/hip/rear area on the right side is showing bone deterioration on X-rays and that I have mild degenerative disc disease. There isn’t much to do about it except for physical therapy. It is a daily pain that hurts worse some days than others but it is not to the point of debilitating pain or anything requiring surgery, thankfully. I did learn my lesson though, to always listen to your body and your intuition about these things. I hope and pray you find some relief! Thank you for always being such an inspiration to others. :)

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Laura

Hi Sarah,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. As others have commented, I am so amazed at all you do in spite of your pain! I suffer from chronic pain as well and am 28 years old. I get 12 migraines a month–not all are “debilitating” but even the mild ones are painful and I get the nausea, light sensitivity, etc. Also, I have a chronic nerve pain syndrome that affects my lady parts (sorry, TMI, but since we’re baring all…). It is a mild dull itchy pain that is usually in the background, but prevents me from being intimate. I can’t wear pants for more than a few hours at a time and have to wear thigh highs or else cut a big hold out of the crotch of stockings. In addition, I have TMJ syndrome, wake up clenching most nights, and have very limited jaw movement. So while I don’t have pain every single day, between the three of these things there is usually pain in one part of my body or another, and it is a drag to say the least. I have had the migraines since early childhood, and the other two conditions began in my early 20s. I have to work part time because full time is just too much, and even so I always end up maxing out on sick days and have lost two jobs as a result.

BUT, the news is not all bad. I have had many treatments for the migraines which has reduced the frequency and severity (they used to be much worse!). In the past two years I have been able to start having “a life” again, I can go out and make and usually keep plans. I also do a lot of crafting at home and just recently became motivated to start my own blog! Which is why I felt compelled to share my story–I am so inspired and encouraged to hear that there are others who have found ways to do what they love in spite of their pain. Of course, I wish that you DIDN’T have these pain issues–but know that you are not alone!

I wish you more success with your remedies! Be well!

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Marlene

P.S. I am a horse-back rider too! :) (Well, I WAS until I became too old for my parents to finance it, haha).

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Marlene

Thank you for sharing your story! I’m 29 yrs old and have had a chronic pain illness (fibromyalgia) for about 4 years. I have taken Lyrica before, but wasn’t able to handle the side effects. I felt like my doses kept having to be increased. It was like my body would crave it, so I go off that and now I take a mixture of meds including Cymbalta. I have doing well on it. I also take Exalgo which is a small dose of morphine. That has greatly helped more so than any other med. I also do acupuncture every two weeks. If you haven’t tried it I strongly recommend it. It has been the best alternative treatment I have found. I wish you all the best in your chronic pain struggle. It’s a process. It seems that one day something works to relieve pain and the next day nothing seems to work. We can only take one day at a time. It seems that that seems to be just enough.

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Elizabeth

Hi there, Sarah!
I came across your blog via reddit.com
I must say, it is BE-YOU-TEE-FUL!
Anyway, I found your post about chronic pain. I wanted to let you know, I can relate. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and a myriad of other problems. I recently began chronicling my journey with it over at my website, PositivityInPain.net.
I was wondering if you had a button that I could put on my blog, I’d love to share your page! (I also run a facebook page, and we have over 16,000 fans) I was wondering if it was okay to share your page there as well? I think alot of our fans there would love your site!

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Jennifer Corter

I empathize with your story! I have a genetic nerve disorder that causes chronic pain. It’s a management nightmare. I take gabapentin for daily pain relief. I just got medicine for sleeping- Ambien, and I realized that I haven’t been sleeping well for years. Changing meds or adjusting meds is no fun. I send good wishes your way for pain-free days (we can wish :))

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Lenka

Sarah,
Thank you for sharing your story.
I too have chronic pain. I have type 1 diabetes, a connective tissue disease (an autoimmune disease that causes severe pain throughout my body), and was diagnosed 7 months ago (after suffering for years) with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is an inability to digest my food…so essentially everything I eat causes pain, nausea and vomiting, and malnutrition….yuck!!
I am also a full time artist.
It was so encouraging to find your blog. I was attracted to your blog for your DIY articles….all the while thinking how great it is that you do so many great things that I no longer have the energy or strength to do much of anymore. To stumble upon your post about pain has given me newfound hope!!! It has shown me that others also suffer from chronic pain and accomplish so much!! It is hard some days to know that I can not accomplish as much in a day as I used to. I told this fact to my dr who very gently told me that I have to find my new normal. Thank you for reinforcing what he has said….you have such a lovely blog, and do such beautiful work! Since you shared your story, and others have commented and shared theirs I know I am not alone!!

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Joanne Grant

I, too, have chronic foot pain! I have all sorts of problems: accessory navicular bones and flat feet that have caused me problems all my life, and the last two years I’ve been struggling with plantar faciitis, bone spurs and achilles tendonitis. I know, right? I have done all the shots, boots, stretching, prednisone and now wear custom orthotics. I’ve been advised against surgery because there are no guarantees. I am 43 and overweight, but it’s like a double edged sword. I’m gaining weight because I can’t exercise, and I can’t exercise because my feet hurt. My next avenue to explore is weight loss surgery. I figure if I can shed 50 lbs. it might help alleviate some stress on my feet. Hope your feetsies are feeling better. Thanks for letting me vent.

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sedley abercrombie

I come across your blog searching on how to make cupcake picks, see the mention of chronic pain on the side, and click to this post. So in case it could ever help, I have to write this comment. You might have one of two hereditary faulty foot structures that could be the root of your pain. Although these foot structures are very common, almost no one knows about them. I have one of these foot structures and have endured the pain and bodily chaos it can cause for many years. I am in treatment now. I suggest you look at http://curingchronicpain.com/abnormal-foot-structures-that-cause-chronic-muscle-and-joint-pain. I would be glad to share my experiences with you if it would help!

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Heather

I can completely understand your pain, I am a 35 year old that has just been diagnosed with big tears in my plantar fascia. This has been miss diagnosed for a couple of years. I have days when I feel really depressed and unhappy and not sure how to cope and other days its just OK. It is hard to do the things I want to do, hard to even do the mundane jobs like housework. No one seems to understand what its like to live with foot pain day after day. I have hopefully now found a good podiatrist and hope to be finally on the right track to managing this pain. I just wanted to write to say your not alone and good luck.

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Tammie

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