Over the years, I have had a lot of problems with my left foot/ankle – ankle pain and swelling, instability, and an annoyingly persistent case of plantar fasciitis. Fed up and frustrated, I started going to different doctors. I went to ankle specialists. I got orthotics, AFOs, dorsi-splints, functional electronic stimulation devices, and even went a neuro-orthopedics specialist at the University of Pennsylvania. I visited many a podiatrist in the D.C. area where I live. One doctor stood out above the rest (or shall I say, below?)
I went in and told him my ankle and foot have hurt for years. In our 5 minute visit, he said:
“It’s ironic that you got MS since you’re a Pilates teacher, don’tcha think?”
“Well, there’s definitely plantar fasciitis, but there’s really no point in treating that. Since you have MS, you’re just going to keep getting worse.”
“Here are some stretches you can do at home.”
He and I had already had a conversation about how I am a Pilates teacher, and I referred to all of my foot and ankle issues knowledgeably, using bone, muscle, and tendon anatomy that admittedly, impressed him. Yet, he sent me off with a “I won’t help you” and a couple of stretches that a high school trainer would know. These were the stretches. I can personally give you at least half a dozen ways to stretch the calves more effectively (or at least more creatively) than his handout.
At this point, I feel the need to point out a couple of things.
1. This man has a medical degree. From a university.
2. Being a Pilates teacher doesn’t mean you are immune to multiple sclerosis.
3. Multiple sclerosis doesn’t necessarily progress or “get worse.”
4. Plantar fasciitis is not a typical symptom of MS. It is caused by a strain in the ligament that supports the arch of the foot. Yes, this can be caused by poor walking mechanics, but I also could have had it because I am a part time ballet dancer (I’m not, but that’s not the point.)
5. I told him that I do calf stretches everyday.
6. The doctor in question is a jackass.
7. I had to pay for that appointment.
Sadly, I have to say that although he might be one of the most notable cases of dismissive doctors I’ve come across, he certainly isn’t the only one.
My point? If you have a medical condition or are just a person with a body that might get sick or broken or jacked up at some point in your life, you need to be your own advocate. You need to be able to know your body and walk out of an appointment able to say, “you might be a doctor, but you are wrong.” And then keep looking until you find someone who can help you.
How did the story end? A month or so later, I had an appointment with my neurologist. I asked him to give me an order for an ankle MRI because, I said, it’s not just foot drop; something’s wrong with my foot and ankle. The results? Tibiotalar joint effusion and moderately severe joint synovitis, as well as a type III accessory navicular limiting range of motion. In English? Chronic ankle swelling and an extra bone (genetic) that are both potential culprits in preventing my ankle from moving correctly.Which makes me right, and the doctor, still a jackass.
So, I’ll leave you with this “much better than his stretch” courtesy of the amazing Katy Bowman (one of my favorite bloggers). Roll up a towel or find a small half foam roller. Step onto it with the ball of your foot, and step the opposite leg forward (further forward = greater stretch). Keep your weight back in your heel of the same leg that is being stretched. Feel that stretch? Awesome, isn’t it? Maybe I should email this blog post to that doctor so he has a better stretch to pass along to the next person who is “only going to get worse.”
In health (and sometimes with attitude),
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