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How a Physio Will Help Me Travel Better


brooke arms up“You hurt your legs walking?”

“Yes, walking.”

Obviously he wanted to hear the whole story because people don’t really hurt themselves walking. No, he wanted to get to the bottom of it – why I found myself over the previous weekend confined to my bed popping Voltaren pills waiting for my inflamed ITB’s to die down, while in the back of my mind I was wondering if I would even be able to go on my upcoming trip to Bishkek because I couldn’t walk.

It was the third time in a week that health practitioners of some kind were left in a little bit of a “moment” when I told them my current problem. He paused for a second in between his note-taking to evaluate my issues, but he was clearly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

“Ok, well let’s have a look at a few things,” he spurted out in an optimistic response. This guy saw a puzzle and was ready to see more clues.

The Never Ending Story

My entire year has been one thing after another when it comes to my body. It’s bad enough I had to turn one step closer to hitting 30, but to have all of this crazy nonsense going along with it has been difficult to handle mentally. This is what it’s like to age.

I’ll keep it brief (but not really). It started in January when I decided out of the blue that I wanted to be a runner. Really this was a conscious effort to undo the negative effects that might occur when coming off my anxiety/depression medication I had been on for the previous 1.5 years. I decided running would help me get those feel-good endorphins at a natural level. A month later, I was actually running (!) but noticed my feet were hurting big time. So, I bought new shoes… but it was too late. One day I could barely walk because of my foot pain, so I let running go.

My feet and ankle area kept hurting for a while. We spent money on different shoe inserts over the coming months, and nothing seemed to do the trick. In Malaysia, I had to go home from one of our tours because my feet were so sore and swollen! Talk about a bummer!

In between Malaysia and the USA, I made an appointment with a podiatrist who said I had plantar fasciitis. We only had a week between our trip to the USA, so she decided to tape my feet up to help take some of the strain off my arches. The instructions were to wear that for 3 days; I only lasted 1.5 days as the itching got unbearable. Yep, I’m allergic to medical tape.

The allergic reaction was very annoying, and I had it when we left for the USA… and it kept getting worse! In San Francisco, my feet got so swollen on the soles where the tape touched that I couldn’t walk. This resulted in me seeing a doctor who then gave me a shot in the butt and a week worth of steroid pills. I didn’t see San Francisco.

When I returned to Australia, I went back to the podiatrist. Eventually, we decided to go with orthotics as I do have slightly flat feet and pronate. After getting those, my arches improved immensely, but the ankle area did not improve (the ligaments or tendons that wrap around the sides of the leg and connect to the bottom of the feet past the ankle). Podiatrist was confused. We kept making adjustments to the orthotics, but it seemed when we changed something, one thing would improve but another would get worse. It goes without saying that walking around in Queensland for a week was not a pleasant experience.

Eventually, podiatrist thought that maybe a new shoe would help, one with loads of technology and a bit more ankle support. I tried on countless shoes until I found one that felt like it would do the trick; I ordered them from the USA in order to save $70 off the Australian mark-up (and that’s after paying for EXPRESS shipping!).

New shoes rocked. I could definitely see that they were taking some strain off my lower foot and ankle problems, but new problems emerged. My ITB’s started to feel a little sore (up in my thighs), and that worried my podiatrist. She made another adjustment to my orthotics and said that if they did not improve to take out all of the extra material she put on the bottom. The next day, I did just that. A day later, my daily walk felt very funny – my hips were feeling awkward. At home, I noticed my knees were swollen and my entire ITB’s up to my hips were sore, tight and inflamed. I made a phone call, and Podiatrist was very worried; I obviously freaked out. She never had anyone with problems like this before!

My Frustration Takes Over

October is the 10th month of the year, and I had been dealing with these little issues since February. The weekend when I couldn’t walk was just the icing on the cake. I’m human, right? I spent a good chunk of time in tears over the frustration that my feet and now my legs have caused, not to mention the probably up to $2k I had now spent on getting them treated. All my trips this year (Malaysia, Perth, USA, Queensland) have been affected by the issues. Time to get serious.

Enter physio dude. He’s awesome.

Like really good. I could tell by the questions he asked that he had heaps of experience, and I honestly wish I had visited him about 8 months ago.

It turns out my hip is out of whack! My hip, really! That causes me to turn my right knee and do weird things to my feet. Plus, there is tightness in other areas (probably associated to the knee surgery I had back in 2004) and weak muscles in others. Oh, and even the medication I came off of could have played a part!

It all makes sense. Even the little things like how I always stand with my left foot slightly in front of my right. When I’m relaxed, I walk totally funky to compensate for the hip issue; when I focus on walking properly, I feel it in my hips and ITB’s. The good new shoes I bought actually helped me to walk more normally, but my body was not ready for it.

Finally, a reason. I can breathe. Now, I can get better (I have a focused set of stretches and exercises) and get better prepared for future travels (which I can tell you are looking HUGE – keep an eye for April 2012).


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9 Responses to How a Physio Will Help Me Travel Better

  1. Tony October 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    As a bit of a distance runner, I find myself in the physio at least once a month. It’s a good move to see one these guys as they often get you back on track.

    For managing ITBs, I’d also suggest getting a foam roller for about $30 (eBay) – you can massage your ITB area in front of the and they’ll feel way better. I should know – I have a similar issue with them and own a roller 🙂

    • Brooke October 11, 2011 at 7:08 am #

      Heck I just want to be able to WALK. I am glad I went though, very glad. I thought for a while that something might be off with the way I walk… I even mentioned this to podiatrist but she dismissed it. Argh. I had seen the foam rollers and was told about them when I went for a leg massage last week. Will add that to my to-do list 🙂

  2. Amanda Kendle October 10, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    Ouch – and how frustrating. I’ve got similar ITB problems but they were brought on by pregnancy so I didn’t have them when I was travelling full-time – thank goodness! I would have been so frustrated (as I imagine you are at times!). What Tony suggested about the roller is a good idea. Hurts like hell though. Hope it improves with physio treatment!

  3. Erica October 11, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    Physios are the best!! I had nerve pain down my arm a few months back and I went to the physio once and was cured. Turns out my ribs in my back were impinging on the nerves that ran down my arm! ONE visit = cured! The Aussies know their stuff!!

  4. Emily October 11, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    I know exactly how you feel!

    A few years back, I injured my knee (figure skating, of all things.) but after a few weeks, it seemed to get better. About 18 months later, it flared back up while I was living in the Czech Republic. I was heading home a few weeks later, so I suffered for a bit and went home. Went to a specialist who recommended physical therapy because I had a misaligned kneecap. After a few weeks at therapy (with still lots of pain) my PT decided to try something out. Turns out, my knee wasn’t my whole problem (oh, it was misaligned), I had limped so much on my right side that my hips were over-rotated and my right leg was about 3 inches longer than my left. Meaning that I walked, stood, ran, sat and did everything uneven. It had stretched my ITB and caused the inflammation in my kneecap (which caused the misalignment). After 2.5 years and two separate, 6 month, bouts of PT, I was mostly healed. I thought. Last summer I thought I was feeling good enough to run again (at the beginning of PT they told me I’d never be able to run again, but biking was okay.) About 2 months into running, in the middle of a run, I had a sharp pain shoot from my lower back to my knee. I could barely walk. A friend of mine (who’s a massage therapist) suggested I see a chiropractor, since the problem with my hip was *most likely* tied to a lower back problem (since she knew I’d had the problem for so many years). At first, I saw my chiropractor twice a week. Now I see him every 3 weeks. With a combination of yoga (I have a set of moves I’ve developed that stretch my lower back, hips and knees), ice/heat (after running, I still have to ice my knee and hip. But I’m able to run), and visits to the chiropractor to make sure things are in alignment, I can finally stand up straight. With weight on both legs. Evenly. For the first time in over 6 years. Seeing a chiropractor didn’t fix my problem overnight (in fact, sometimes, it hurt worse, because we were retraining my muscles and bones how to interact. Ouch.), but I am able to travel and run mostly without pain. Hiking is still hard for me, so I take it slow, with lots of breaks.

    Good luck with everything Brooke!

    • Brooke October 11, 2011 at 7:01 am #

      Ugh, Emily, that sounds very similar and so frustrating! And it is crazy how everything is connected. Part of my routine now is to target some back muscles, too. I go back this Friday to see how things are going and hopefully get some more magic exercises. I feel like a new person after doing my 20 minute stretch session; can’t wait to take it further and get better!

  5. Linds October 11, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Yikes! I can’t imagine traveling with that kind of pain! Glad to here a physio is doing the trick.

  6. Valerie Hamer October 11, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Ouch I feel for you. I see someone else already mentioned a chiropractor – I second that. They really are miracle workers, and acupuncture helps too.

    Having damaged my tendon when travelling in Cambodia I know how miserable an injury is. Eventually everything gets thrown out of whack. Hope all is 100% soon.


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