The foot that I injured back in the spring has been slower at healing than I had hoped. The joint has healed, but I strained a ligament and managed to keep re-injuring it, including during the last week of physical therapy. In my natural, non-injured state, I walk fast, and what would happen is that as soon as my foot would feel better, I’d start walking faster until recurring pain stopped me, for a while.
I finally recognized the pattern and made an effort to walk slower (“like a geisha”, my foot doctor recommended). I began to have several pain free days in a row. I found a new pair of shoes to replace the old comfy shoes that were much the worse for a year’s worth of daily wear.
In the past week or so, I have noticed a new milestone. I have hours at a time when I don’t even think about my feet.
If you have never had long-term pain or intermittent chronic pain, that last sentence probably doesn’t make any sense. After all, you have days, let along hours, when you don’t really think about your feet. Once the shoes and socks are on and if nobody steps on them, what is there to think about?
The thing about long-term pain, though, is even when it is gone from the affected body part, it’s not gone from your mind. For one thing, it doesn’t go away all at once, like somebody turning off a switch. You have pain free hours followed by the pain coming back. It may be gone during normal activity, but not during more strenuous activity. It may recur when you are tired. In my case, for a while I was perfectly fine walking on the carpet in my house but not on the hard surface floors. So even when the pain is gone, you expect it to come back. After all, it has before.
Even once you are pretty sure it’s gone, you need to be careful not to re-injure the just healed part. So you motor plan consciously and carefully, instead of unconsciously and on the fly. If you had a sore back, you don’t turn your upper body and stretch to reach for heavy objects*, you walk yourself in front of them and turn to face them, and then “lift with your legs, not your back.” If you had a sore knee, you are careful about squatting and running. If you had a sore foot like mine, you walk like a geisha. So, yeah, even though the pain is gone, the injury affects your thinking.
That’s why it is so wonderful to realize that you have spent the last five or six hours thinking about what on earth the Medicare statement you just got means and how fine you need to chop the onions for dinner and what setting to put the dryer on for your jeans, but not about how your foot feels and if it is any better or worse than yesterday.
Life is good.
*and the definition of “heavy” in this context could be as little as five pounds