This Little Piggie

Posted: January 11, 2013 in Injuries and Owies
Tags: ,

I think God hates me.  Clearly, he doesn’t think I should be running; least of all comfortable.  It’s true!  Now that my stress fracture in my left foot is healing and strong enough to return to running – and not a minute too soon either as I have been turning into something that could easily get mistaken as the Goodyear blimp flying low over country roads given my snazzy lycra running kit – I have now developed another owie, this time in big toe of my left foot.  Queue the sad trombone (click HERE).  Why God has targeted this foot in particular as the focus of his fury is beyond me.

Sunday’s long run (a measly 10.43k) went well enough with no pain or undue stress apart from the usual stiffness, trials and tribulations of starting up on a regular running routine again, but the next day there was this throb in my big toe every time I pushed off.  However, it didn’t start until later in the day.  WTF?  Time to consult Dr. Google again I suppose.

Not long after my first bevy of Google searches, I recognized that my issue was systematic of a condition known as a ‘metatarsophalangeal’ (say that three times fast!) joint sprain, as that’s the name of the particular joint in the foot that connects the small phalange bones in your toes to the actual foot itself.  This particular injury is also known as “Turf Toe”, which, as it turns out, is not a discarded menu option at ‘The Keg’.  Huh.  Whatever you choose to call I’m still not impressed with the situation.

During certain movements of the toes, stretching or compression forces are placed on the toe joints. If these forces are excessive due to too much repetition or high force, injury to the joints may occur.  Duh.  This excessive force may involve damage to the cartilage or a tearing of the connective tissue surrounding the joint. When this occurs, the condition may affect one or more joints in the toes, either the big MTP joints (Metatarsophalangeal) or the smaller IP joints (Interphalangeal). The big toe is the most commonly affected, particularly at the MTP joint.  What’s weird to me is that “Turf Toe” is more common to athletes who play field sports, such as football, baseball or soccer, where the athlete has forcefully jammed their toe into the ground or bends his toe backward, beyond its normal limits and therefore hyper-extends the joint.  Where it can happen on other surfaces, injuries of this type are usually known to occur on a grass or artificial turf playing field which, coincidentally, is where its name originated from.  Imagine a large football player getting tackled at the speed of sound by another freakishly large football goon on the opposing side. His body goes in one direction, while his shoe remains stuck in another and the end result is something that’ll probably be featured on the evening’s highlight reel where his toe is filmed going in an unnatural–and painful–position.

Except, in my case, I don’t believe there ever was, nor can I remember any situation where this might have occurred recently.  Possible contributing factors to this condition may include increased ankle flexibility (thank you, yoga!), flat feet, poor foot biomechanics, foot instability, poor balance or the use of soft, flexible footwear; most of which – in one way or another – could easily apply to me.  Or maybe the overcompensation in my gait this past few months while my left foot was healing from the stress fracture has caused undue stress to my MTP joint in me left toe which was exacerbated during my first long(ish) run since Ironman.  Who knows?  All I want to know is how do I get over this owie quickly and, hopefully, as painlessly as possible as many a linebacker has been permanently sidelined with an injury of this type.  Fuck.  Just what I need as I’m just starting to get going!

Fortunately, it’s a relatively simple recovery process employing the typical R.I.C.E. treatment philosophy: REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, and ELEVATION.  That doesn’t sound so bad does it?  The recommended healing time on most sources I referenced on the Internet is about 2-4 weeks, but I’m going to try and buck popular convention and simply train through it while popping the ibuprofen tablets like they were Pez. ‘Is this smart,’ you’re probably asking yourself, right?  Hell no.  It’s not, of course.  But I figure that with my first half marathon looming just a little over a month away I’m really hating having to sit out another few weeks without running while this latest niggle of an injury cools off.  Thankfully, my delicate little piggie doesn’t look nearly as bad off as any of the images I also happen to find online pertaining to ‘Turf Toe’.  Thank heavens because some of those graphic images nearly gave me the dry heaves.

Bear in mind, though, that if the problem persists and doesn’t go away soon, I will certainly cease my run program and just give into the fact that I am now a Buddhist and will likely just end up walking the Chilly Half Marathon with Kelly instead.  How do you like those apples, God?  But even this worst case scenario won’t be too bad either, will it?  I wasn’t planning on setting a new PB anyway and, hey, I’ll still get my complimentary bowl of chili and beer, and that’s what’s really important.

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