Resigned to a new normal

I have discovered the only method of pain management that works right now: don’t move. It only hurts if I walk, so don’t walk. This means that I spend my days confined to my home office, leg propped on a pillow, only occasionally taking slow, limping walks to the bathroom and back. We’re getting into Argiope season, though! I need to get out into the weeds and sticks! But no, four walls it is.

I also had to cancel my trip out to Seattle. There was just no way I’d be able to traverse an airport and settle into a cramped seat with my stupid right foot on fire. If I just sit, though, and sit and sit and sit, I can avoid triggering my angry deltoid ligament and pissed off Achilles tendon, and I can almost pretend that everything is OK.

By the way, have you ever really looked at your ankle? It’s a jumble of small bones all piled into a rough structure, tied together with a cobweb of ligaments. It’s like throwing rocks into a pile and then strapping them together with duct tape.

Intelligent design, my foot.

Anyway, there is still some faint hope. I’m waiting to hear back from a podiatrist, there may be some surgery in my near future. Otherwise, I’m planning how to get around to my classes with limited mobility — I’ve got a Boot lurking here in my office, and also some other gadgets with straps and clamps and wires that immobilize the joint. I’ve got three species of spiders living in my lab (four, if you count the wild Pholcus that hide in the corners), so I’ve got a tiny slice of diversity to study.

The good news is that the pain is under control, as long as I’m perfectly immobile. I guess that’s good.


  1. says

    I can completely empathize with you. I used to do some light running to maintain my weight. It was the only thing that kept the pounds off. One day, I had a sudden stabbing pain during a run and had to limp home and actually walked with a cane for a few days. It got better, but my running days are over. That ankle has a large lump on the back that’s apparently scar tissue from a bone spur and my achilles is abnormally tight, according to the podiatrist. But not bad enough they wanted to cut on me. Told me to get a “night boot” that keeps my foot at a 90° angle while I sleep to hopefully stretch it out. Damned thing keeps me awake tho.

  2. Oggie: Mathom says

    I feel for you.

    After I broke my back (lumbar, four vertebrae, five places, as well as three ribs in six places), I was bedridden for two weeks (to the point of peeing in a bottle — I didn’t poop because of the opioids) and I still, six year later, have not fully recovered. My neck injury in ’19 didn’t put me in bed, but, even after the surgery, I had no use of my right hand for six months. I have about 75% use of it now. I hope your injury lasts far, far, far shorter a time than mine.

    So, I understand.

    According to Wife I was getting a book a week off of Amazon (I buy so that it is not coming from a warehouse) and I still needed more books, so I reread the Dune series, the entire Pratchett pantheon, Aldiss’s Helliconia trilogy, and Flint’s 1632 alternate history. As well as many of my paleontology books.

    So read and relax.
    Wife and I hired a neighbor kid to weed for us.

  3. stuffin says

    Over 20 years ago I developed two bones pours on the bottom of that calcaneus bone (heel bone). that is where the main tendon attaches and goes up and connects to the toes. I was with PZ, couldn’t move without severe pain. My job was working in the Cardiac Cauterization Lab standing in a 15-pound lead suit monitoring the patient under mild anesthesia while the doctor performed the heart procedures. Podiatrist told me that was not helping, (gee thanks.) After going through all the treatments in order as requested by my INSURANCE COMPANY, the last two options were customized shoe inserts and then surgery. They took a mold of my feet sent them off and several weeks later I had my customized inserts. Put them in the first day, the next day the pain was non-existent, wore them ever since, never looked back. The point is, I never needed surgery. But poor PZ sounds like that is where he is headed. They might offer a steroid injection first, unless there is too much damage to the tendons/ligament already.

  4. Oggie: Mathom says


    Do you mean one of those carts that you kneel on with one knee and there is a handle bar? That may be a good option for the good doctor. Hadn’t even thought of that.

  5. HidariMak says

    chigau @ 4
    I was about to mention the idea of spacing out chairs along the frequently traveled paths, if the distance were short enough. For example, in my case, I had some lined up in the kitchen so I’d be landing on the knee of the leg with the bad foot, for making and having meals and doing the dishes. It’s a better alternative to crutches if you need at least one arm free in the area.

  6. chigau (違う) says

    Not the wheeled ones, although that might work.
    I was think of something like this:
    Someone I know used one while waiting for their prosthetic. It seemed to be preferable to regular crutches.

  7. submoron says

    My only experience of severe chronic pain was piles and the post operative recovery period on controlled opioid.
    RE the anatomical matter: I’d recommend the two part BBC series ‘The Incredible Human Foot’ and ‘The incredible human Hand’ They don’t seem to be available on line at present.

  8. darrelplant says

    Here’s my standard warning to anyone laid up with a leg injury: if you have even a hint of getting a little winded when you do get up to get around, don’t write it off to just being fatigued from the excess effort, get someone to take you to the ER immediately to get checked out for a pulmonary embolism. You don’t need to have had an injury or surgery to get clots in your leg; the year after I had mine (broken leg + surgery), the news was full of what they were then calling “economy class syndrome” where people on long flight in cramped quarters got clots.

  9. says

    Not a podiatrist, and no idea if my experience applies to you. I used a cane and then a walker for years after breaking both ankles. Finally had the worst one fused. Then no cane or walker – the change was amazing! Now years later with the other one getting bad, the alternative to getting it fused is a molded ankle brace. The fit is perfect, it’s light and reasonably cool. I wear a normal, but slightly stretched shoe over it, and a small insert in the other shoe to make up the height difference.

  10. tacitus says

    Back when I was still playing volleyball regularly, I showed up for a match with tendonitis in my right Achilles. I could barely walk, but showed up because we had no subs and I was a good server.

    After the first game, I was minding my own business in the middle of the court when a regular on the opposing team walked up and asked what the problem was. When I explained, he said: “Do you mind if I pray over your injury?”

    Caught utterly off-guard, I automatically said okay, and right there in the middle of the court he bent down, took hold of my injured heel and prayed a short silent prayer of some kind. He then stood up, wished me well, and walked off, leaving me rather nonplussed by what had just happened.

    Shockingly, after a couple more weeks of rest and treatment with anti-inflammatories, the heel got better…!!

    He was a nice enough guy and I never saw him do anything else overtly religious in nature, so it wasn’t a big deal, except for the fact that it came from so far out of left field.

  11. Artor says

    The torn ligament in my SI joint is slowly getting better, but I still only have about 4 hours of activity in me before I’m quivering from exhaustion. Using a cane and supporting half my weight every step with my right arm is extremely tiring. Worse, I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel, and I have to keep going so it doesn’t take forever. I got the sink installed and functional yesterday at least! I still have another 3 weeks before I can see a doctor. Yay for American “health care.”

  12. raven says

    Intelligent design, my foot.

    That is my frequent reaction to all the myriad things that go wrong with the human body.

    Everything seems kludged together.
    It might have something to do with turning a lobe finned fish into a terrestrial biped.

  13. Matt G says

    Chronic pain is the worst, and can have lasting psychological effects even after it’s under control. Sorry, PZ.

  14. fergl says

    Sprained most of those ligaments in my footy (soccer) days. Funnily, although the outer ankle sprains swoll more, I found the inner sprains more painful. All the best for your recuperation.

  15. submoron says

    Mikeschmitz@16 Yes! I have them stored but don’t know how to share so I’m grateful for your help.

  16. wzrd1 says

    Well, there is one alternative.
    Hop on one foot.
    I’ll loan you my cane to hit my with, rightfully so. ;)

    Artor @ 12, been there, done that today, during my two mile walk to the stupidmarket, occasional market nearby and closed off hours for no reason, denying me of spices for a desired soup, oh well, explore small stores along the way(ish) home, massive pain that forced a final rest stop a tenth of a mile from home.
    And pretty much an entire night of off of my feet, alternative menu for dinner of leftover shit pizza and OKish vegeies.
    Then, a forced nap, annoyed by a phone call to wakefullness.
    From someone seeking intimate relations and well, it’s been a year after losing my wife of over 41 years and well, she’s, erm, unsuitable.
    Good as a friend, not in just that way.
    Still trying to figure out how to let her off easily.
    Christ, but now, I feel nearly like a teen, save tired.

  17. wzrd1 says

    darrelplant @ 9, had a DVT after a transatlantic flight years ago. Came home on vacation just to experience that.
    Yeah, it totally sucked. Thankfully, I avoided a PE. Those kill a ridiculous number of people, largely because of confusing symptoms, as pretty much everything goes haywire and generates confusing, even contradictory symptoms.

  18. Paul K says

    I have chronic back pain, after four back surgeries. I know they can be a waste of time, and even destructive, but my ailments that led to them were untreatable by other means: degenerative disc disease and arthritis of the spine. The former has led to me losing three inches in height over the past 7 or 8 years, as my discs have simply collapsed all along my spine; and the latter has, twice over the same period, led to my spinal cord being squeezed dangerously, to the point of permanent damage.

    I live with constant pain, partially as the result of nerve damage, caused either by my ailments or the scarring from the surgeries themselves. But it’s mostly controlled, and I can live with it. Before my second surgery, I had to take breaks as I crawled to the bathroom in the middle of the night, to rest and cry. People who’ve found out that I’ve had surgery, and see me walking bent and using a walker if I need to walk more than a few dozen meters, are often open to observe that my surgery must have failed. They are often strangers who mean well (I hope), but sometimes they seem to be almost a bit gleeful, as though it’s one more proof to them that Doctors and Medicine are, as they knew all along, just a scam. When I explain that, no, the surgeries have been absolutely vital to keeping me as active as I can hope for, I’ve definitely seen disappointment. People are weird.

    Anyway, I’m commenting because, as I’ve read all the other commenter here who also have had major pain issues, I’ve really sympathized with you, and with PZ. I hope for all of you that the pain is tolerable enough that you can stay active enough to live well. I know that my own issues are not going to get better, and almost certainly will get worse. People who know me have asked how I can stay as positive as I do, knowing what’s to come, and remembering what I was like not so long ago. I respond that, first, you aren’t inside my head; I’m not always positive, especially at the worst times. Second, what’s the other choice? Being crotchety and bitter? I can see that outlook as reasonable, but maybe I’m ‘lucky’: I had a terrible, abused childhood that I’m still not over, but now I have a loving family and am surrounded by a very caring circle of good people (I include this place as part of that; you keep me hopeful.) Also, I have no written plan, but I’ve looked for and found ways to stay centered on what I still can do, and try not to think about what is no longer possible. This is something every aging person has to do, though I didn’t think I would be as young as this when it started being necessary (I’m 62).

    In threads like this, I really do wish there was something to prayer: I wish all of you the best, and lives as painless as possible, though I know my yearning won’t be of much help.

  19. wzrd1 says

    Paul K, my wife had the same problem, minus the surgery, as osteoporosis made surgery impossible for her.
    Got a blown disc myself, already bulging, it failed when I ignored that which I trained hundreds of soldiers to not do – catch a falling patient.
    So, day surgery goes well, she’s in the day room, collapses and I caught her, 440 going down both cheeks to the balls of my feet. No profanity, gamma rays emitted from my mouth.
    OK, not really, it just felt that way, but I do know that such was the shock that I was silent. And desperately trying to figure out how to put her down without hurting both of us more.
    Now, I’m in a defective feedback loop problem, low proprioception on one leg, spasms and due to the loss of sensation, using a cane to walk.
    A 5 mile walk leaves me in significant pain for a few days, where previously, 20 – 30 km walks were just another walkathon.
    And that’s back burnered, as there are things that literally can kill me going on, much to my huge annoyance.
    Intelligent design, my balls.
    Hell, PZ’s issue, I said at the design meeting, way too many moving parts, the foot will never work properly. ;)
    Well, at 61, I’m feeling that frigging old at times. The rest of the time, I leave 20 – 30 year olds panting in the effort of keeping up, mostly limited by barometric pressure…
    Although, getting off of the floor, that’s an adventure in science and engineering.
    OK, and loads of profanity. Little survives that fast neutron storm.