html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Like the Little Mermaid.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Like the Little Mermaid.

This is a completely sincere question, and I would love to hear your answers:

Are you in physical pain all the time?

I questioned Margie about this rather relentlessly at lunch today, but all of her answers are consistent. No. She does not hurt all the time. I was asking specifically about her feet, because my feet always hurt. I figured that was normal. No, she says. No, her feet do not hurt every time she stands or takes a step. The first few steps in the morning are not knee-bucklingly painful (without the actual knee buckling, because one expects it and is prepared). Her feet do not hurt her unless she has an abrasion. She does not live with a constant deep ache in her feet that blazes into sharp pains when she put weight on them. Her feet do not hurt as a matter of course.

This was very interesting. My feet always hurt. I figure it is the legacy of all that tkd; the hours practicing barefoot and kicking hard things with feet. When I was actually doing all that tkd, the first steps of the day were literally knee-buckling, holding things to stay upright and stifling gasps of pain. It has been much better since I quit.

I assumed everybody has something that always hurts. My sister's knees always hurt. But Margie's information suggests that that is not the case. I am very intrigued. Do your feet hurt you all the time? The possibility that feet do not always hurt gives me resolve. I will tend to my feet and see if they get better! I will rub them and try Epsom salts (because I like olde remedies) and wear shoes with real arches. The clear implication of all this is that I should add 'foot fetishist' to my boyfriend specs, so that the process becomes enjoyable. Fortunately, Craigslist suggests that those are readily available.


Blogger Megan said...

If you are in constant pain, is it from former athletics? Or an injury? Or something else?

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Cryptic Ned said...

No, not in constant pain all the time.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've injured both my ankles several times playing basketball, so they'll hurt from time to time, sometimes from walking a lot, sometimes I just wake up with them hurting.

My knees ache at times, I'm assuming from the years of mogul skiing, and playing basketball outside on concrete courts, they just took a lot of pounding.

Now, with all the climbing I have almost constant pain in my elbows, shoulders, neck, back, and hands. All from different things, some of it is muscle imbalances, some of it is just general fatigue. Some of it from carrying excessively heavy loads in my backpack. I wake up most mornings with my fingers curled to nearly a fist, and the joints so stiff it hurts when I first use my hands.

And, when I'm actually back to working out hard, I'll have mornings where I wake up so dehydrated I have trouble seeing, and I literally fall down my first step out of bed from dizzyness.


2:30 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Justin understands.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Capella said...

I don't have any constant pains in the sense of being present 24-7, but I have chronic ones. I have a headache much or maybe most of the time (I don't know why, but caffeine is what helps most). I have wrist pain (high school colorguard and too much typing). In the winter I have back pain (because, I don't know, I'm crooked). I have stomach pain or at least discomfort, especially when I'm stressed (um, food?). Now with all the running I have permanent abrasions on my skin that hurt when anything touches them (I appear to be unusually sensitive to nylon and/or sweat), and a toe that usually hurts for no particular reason (because it hates me).

Damn. I don't usually list those things. I'm getting old.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I have brief intervals of non-pain.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Oh, yeah. Also, mostly from former sports, sports injuries.

When I'm actually working out regularly, I actually don't mind the pain. It is qualitatively different and much more bearable.

2:52 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Nope, no constant pain.

Although my feet DO get mildly achy quite a lot. I'm more likely to massage than to BE massaged, but footrubs are nearly always welcome.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous D said...

mmm, yes... things you don't want to hear from an ortho when you are 18: "well we can fuse your back here, and it will hurt, or we can do nothing... and it will hurt" ah the pain threshold increases... yes and sometimes the knees, and others...
So? do you have edema? or gout? that's be first joint of the big toe with an ice-pick most often... etc... but yes, there are many ways to hurt every day. it is most ammusing when I beg friends to walk on my back, because it seems like a paradox that crunchin' the vertabra actually relieves pain, and they are quite afraid they will hurt me...

Potentially a homeopath could also take a gander. I use a couple of things to keep everything working, but they are mostly counteracting a couple of food allergies that make my joints stiff...

the other thing is those lovely nerve endings that end in your feet... there are times when they can ball up and hurt like there's no tomorrow, but actually point to another part of the body actually having problems. An interesting offshoot of this is if your hand hurts in the same place on the same side. that would be your body whispering... it might be helpful to find a reflexology chart, and dial your feet in, to make sutre the pain isn't coming from somewhere else... and that the person massaging your feet does it well, and includes the tops and esp. sides of the ankles. That is, if you are interested in having anyone rub there. There are a couple of spots that can make you feel all sorts of happy.

Personally I prefer pepermint oil since it makes both the feet and my hands smell good, but there are many other oils, and other things that'll make you feel good.

Heh, maybe alls you need is some TLC.

also? I can swear by these, I have them in every pair of shoes I own...
Birkenstock insole

and no I don't own stock in the company ;)

3:25 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Tom, I totally love the pain of being sore from a workout. That's a different, familiar and very welcome pain.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's see, feet hurt all the time from HS basketball and running, big toes and hands are a constant aggravation from climbing, left knee is a reliable presence of discomfort from 3 knee injuries (basketball and baseball), and lately have been developing some serious soreness in the hips from, I think, the years of heavy physical activity. I stopped running marathons last year and that helped to dial down the pain in the feet from teeth-gritting to merely irksome, and a friend has convinced me to try yoga to help with the hips (too soon to tell). Still, I'm not even 35 yet and I already run like an old man because of all the aches, and some mornings I can concentrate on nothing else but the pain.

I really fear for what I'll be like when I'm 50. And 70, forget it.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it plantar fascistis? I have no idea how to spell that. Dave knows all about it if you wanted to ask him.
I get constant grief from my neck/shoulders AND my sinuses. Sometimes they're tied together. When it gets particularly bad (i.e. can't ignore it and can't focus) sometimes I take Advil, sometimes I go crying to my mom, who is the only one who can fix it on a semi-permanent basis until I f*ck it up again. Right now, my chest is all tight so it hurts when I lie on my side and it's been that way since November.
I think this is why I'm tired so much.
Good luck with your feet! I hope somewhere in the world of reflexology (as d mentioned) or somewhere else there is a solution for you because constant pain is a drag!!!

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have constant back pain, fluctuating but usually very mild. From some combination of innate crookedness and years of bad posture (trying to be better these days; I'm in my late 20s). But the stuff Megan and the other former athletes here are describing sounds mind-bogglingly bad to me.

3:58 PM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

Huh. I don't hurt at all, but I'm a big strong sturdy reasonably fit person who's never done any sort of intense athletics (I jog and lift weights some.)

Is the constant pain thing common in people who do serious tkd? Because my kids are taking classes, and really enjoying it, and I'm now wondering.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


I don't think it is pf. It is just that the bones ache.


I wouldn't worry about your kids unless they get into competing, and stay with it for many years. (I think we talked before about how their master shouldn't have them breaking bricks until they're 16, right?) Honestly, though, this is confirming what I suspected. You get this from all the sports if you do them intensely enough.

Swimmers, are your shoulders better than my leg joints?

Are there people who were/are serious athletes who don't hurt all the time? That would be super good to know.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Is the constant pain thing common in people who do serious tkd?

Yes. It was true for all the martial artists I knew, although I didn't hang out much with those Tai Chi folks. We were ALWAYS hurt, from a hard work out, from being kicked and bruised, from an injury. The most shocking thing about quitting tkd was that there were periods when I was out of pain. (Oh, and all the free time I had.)

I went for a run one day, came back early because my right hip was spontaneously shockingly painful. I told my also black-belt roommate, and was speculating about what could have caused this brand new form of pain. He started laughing and laughing. "Spontaneous joint pain! What causes spontaneous joint pain?! That's all we are." So yeah.

Once we were big enough that we could kick somewhat hard and heavy enough that falling counted, something hurt all the time. It was worth it, then.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

The funny book, Lamb, has the following passage:

"Alphaeus," Joshua called, "does the work get easier once you know what you are doing?"

"Your lungs grow thick with stone dust and your eyes bleary from the sun and fragments thrown up by the chisel. You pour your lifeblood out into works of stone for Romans who will take your money in taxes to feed soldiers who will nail your people to crosses for wanting to be free. Your back breaks, your bones creak, your wife screeches at you, and your children torment you with open, begging mouths, like greedy baby birds in the nest. You go to bed every night so tired and beaten that you pray to the Lord to send the angel of death to take you in your sleep so you don't have to face another morning. It also has its downside."

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Li said...

When I was 15, my mom noticed I was walking funny and took me to a doctor, who diagnosed me with overpronation. I started wearing shoe inserts, and suddenly discovered that it was possible to exist without ankle pain, which was quite a discovery at the time. The ultimate problem was that I had one very short muscle/tendon (the achilles tendon and whatever is attached to it), and one very long muscle (the one that keeps your foot from rolling in), so I my foot was not in the proper position. After years and years of stretching I can finally walk around bare foot again without crippling pain, but I still wear extra good shoes and prescription inserts.

My mom also dealt with serious foot pain, and it sounds similar to yours, so I'll include her story as well. She was in her 40s, and started getting insane, life-crippling foot pain (she was not a lot of fun to live with at the time). The official description was plantar fascitis, which I think feels like the pain you get after being on your feet for hours, but since everyone interprets pain differently, it's hard to say. She saw a number of podiatrists, who variously misunderstood cause and effect, misdiagnosed her, or insinuated it was psychosomatic and told her to stop researching on her own. Eventually she saw a sports medicine podiatrist, who instantly diagnosed her with tarsal tunnel (the foot equivalent of carpal tunnel), gave her some compression socks and sent her on her merry way. The condition was probably brought on in part by the spectacular amount of running she did in grad school.

Based on her experience, I have a bit of advice: if you do pursue this with a doctor, see a sports medicine guy, not a general podiatrist. The general podiatrist spends all his time treating old people, and is fine tuned to diagnosing and treating their problems.

4:42 PM  
Blogger bobvis said...

I don't know if I ever have pain. I mean, I know there is something there and it is causing some sort of pain signal to be sent to me, but I almost always feel like I can ignore it as easily as I can ignore internet pop-up ads. It's pretty easy for me to override a pain signal and end up burning myself or some other such thing.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

When I used to be a crazy athlete my back was in near constant pain. To cope with it my doctor gave me a yearly adjustment, and a never ending supply of muscle relaxers (which I only took when it was especially bad).

But within a year of converting to a less athletic lifestyle the pain was, for all intents and purposes, completely gone. It still gets sore occasionally, but it's a mild tolerable sort of discomfort, and it goes away on its own regardless of whether or not I do anything.

I don't know any former athlete who is in some form of constant pain that doesn't stem directly from an injury, but perhaps that is a false assumption on my part. I will have to look into it. Your post and these comments have made me think I might be an exception rather than the rule.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I am not and never have been in pain all the time.

I was, however, tired all the time for many years. Very, very tired. So tired my muscles ached and my head spun and I felt cold all over. I felt that way when I woke up after ten hours of sleep, or after eight hours of sleep, or fourteen hours of sleep, and any time I was not actually doing something I felt asleep.

Turns out I'm narcoleptic. Now I take a little pill when I get up, and I feel, well, normal. All the time. So normal I almost never think of the fact that, for me, miserable dog-tired exhaustion is normal, and it is only kept at bay by the miracles of modern pharmacology.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Nathan, I am so glad that was fixable. It sounds awful.

Erik, YAY! That is very encouraging. Athletics, then... no pain!

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm blessed with good biomechanics, for all the years of rock climbing and running I've had but minor injuries and no chronic pain.

On the other hand, long bouts with severe depression throughout my life have really been worse than any physical injury I've had.


5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At mid twenties I'm already getting crazy creaky, groaning the day after ultimate practice.

I'm almost sure you've considered this, but my podiatrist (of course, he would) recommends that all collegiate athlete types get orthotics (custom inserts). They are meant to alleviate foot pain, but have secondary effects on gait, etc. After 3 weeks or so, you can phase them in for use in athletics. I'm sure you'd have gotten them if they were applicable though.

Turns out, not everyone has arches as high as mine. Maybe if I'd spent more time at Thanksgiving examining peoples' feet I'd be less of a mess.


6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nope, i'm never in pain unless due to some specific injury. although i can get my feet to hurt if i were to wear uncomfortable shoes.

my mother's feet hurt all the time when she was growing up - turned out she was wearing shoes two sizes too small since her mother felt small feet were ladylike.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Strange Bird said...

Nearly always. Usually it is in my lower back, but occasionally it finds its way into my neck and shoulders. Sometimes it's in my knees.

But I have a diagnosable (and diagnosed) illness. I agree with everyone who said you should see a doctor. Chronic pain sucks, and the longer you leave it untreated, the worse it gets/the harder it is to treat.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Was not a serious athlete, but I have friends who were and are, and they do not. Second the rec to see a good sports doctor - my doctor out here works with US olympic athletes (female and male) but you live elsewhere.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daily walk to work takes me within view of the Capitol building. Before the Dems took it back last year, that hurt every goddamn day. Does that count?

David J. Balan

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the arch support thing doesn't pan out, and you want to swing the other way... more barefoot exercise, but this time being nice to them... then we'll go hiking with these guys!


ps: glad I didn't help electrocute you!!

9:58 PM  
Anonymous emir said...

My left foot hurts a fair bit, for the last year and more, after I took up running for the first time and did a 10k race. Turns out those funny shaped feet I've had for years are actually feet with bunions. The pain I had for long periods in my teens and early twenties had gone away but the running made the joint unstable again and it's still giving me trouble no matter how careful I am with shoes. No more running for me.

Before that I was conscious of being luckier than many people in that my body didn't give me trouble when I was building up strength at some activity. I know a lot of hillwalkers with dodgy knees and people in general with bad backs.

I was never an athlete, always kind of clumsy and bad with ball sports, and have probably been fitter in my thirties than in earlier life (except not fit for last 16 months since I hurt that foot and then had family member in hospital the whole time.)

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No pain. I'm the sort of anonymous grad student who takes pride in not exercising (and in remaining thin while doing so). And one of the best parts of not exercising is not hurting. People who exercise seriously always seem to have some sort of recurring joint/knee/ankle/shin/elbow/foot/back issues.

Sidenote to Capella: I'm no doctor, but isn't it a sign of caffeine dependency if you get headaches when you don't drink caffeine? I'm just saying.

3:00 AM  
Blogger Noel said...

It's kinda freaky reading the list of aliments here. I'd really like to know if people actively address their problems, or just ignore them and let it get worse.

I have a bit of misconfiguration in the legs (short patella and slightly short leg one side, over pronation the other side) which leads to a bit of knee, achilles, and lower back creakiness. However! I stretch the damn things everyday and really, if I look after them I don't have any problems. If I left them alone I'd be a cripple within a week, though certainly the need to stretch diminishes somewhat when I'm not so active.

I work out and play various sports, so I'm doing something at least five days a week, but I'm careful I don't develop any muscle imbalances and address problems I find. For example, I developed some elbow tendinitis from climbing so I took three months off and did the rehab stuff you'll find on the Internet. An idiot gonzo fellow climber told me it was just a climbing injury, and therefore I should climb through it. Had I taken his advice I don't doubt it would literally have come true -- my tendon would have eventually detached and I'd be looking at surgery. My smugness was confirmed when I learned he 'd broken his leg and blown his ACL doing stupid gonzo things.

3:18 AM  
Blogger matt said...

Years of running while injured has resulted in hips that always ache. Sometimes its worse than others, and I have PT I do fairly regularly, but it still rarely keeps me from running. I just might walk funny later...
Same thing with my right big toe, which I'm pretty sure I broke a few years back, and still ran on.

Yoga has helped with the hips, somewhat.

And the dehydration Justin mentions... yeah, I hate that.

3:57 AM  
Blogger I don't pay said...

No pain. And I always avoided repeating whatever made me hurt either while doing it or the next day. Aches, sprains, tiredness, sure, but something that got worse with ordinary repetition, no.

And, in the sixties, boy did I ever hear about it, in terms that questioned my committment and masculinity. But I didn't care, and I was right. My dad, who had hurt himself playing baseball in the thirties, and had seen sports fads, backed me up. He never intervened, never even met coaches, but told me it was ok. But many people I know hurt, usually from ignorant coaching.

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Nathan Zook said...

I have a number of pains that can come up regularly, but nothing constant. Even that ringing in my ears (tractor) isn't constant.

We've talked about how physically damaging something like tkd can be, but I've never heard from a practitioner. Was your interest from the sport or combat preparation? Our jujustu form has active practitioners through their sixties.

5:57 AM  
Blogger dgm said...

I range from constant mild discomfort to outright pain in my feet. Sometimes it's pf (or the beginnings thereof, which I've learned to recognize so I can thwart the no-longer-inevitable). For a while there I had an entrapped nerve that I thought was tarsal tunnel--incredibly painful. Among other things, I run about 25 miles/week, with at least one day of hard sprints. I've been running for about 20 years; before that it was high-impact aerobics.

I agree with the comments suggesting a sports doc rather than general podiatrist or primary care doc. Also, if it's plantar fasciitis, you'd know it by its characteristic tremendous pain when you first get out of bed that subsides as the day wears on. (It's because your feet begin to heal at night, then you tear them again when you step out of bed.) If it's that, I highly recommend the Strassburg Sock or those boots that keep your foot flexed while you sleep.

Orthotics by a sports podiatrist are key. (Might even help your hip, too.) I need a new pair, but for now I just tape my feet. A chiropractor once told me that most bone/joint ailments he saw can be traced to the feet.

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty much constant pain, but I've only played sports as a dilettante.

Knees are the biggest problem, but not from excessive sports. Did you know that you are born without kneecaps? They usually fuse together later like a baby's skull, but mine didn't. Mine are held together with scar tissue. They are the wrong shape, so they don't slide over the knee joint properly. Found out after X-rays following a knee dislocation playing hockey. That injury led to several other problems (ligaments, cartilage).

Feet: Shooting pain first thing in the morning, unless carefully stretched. Worse in the winter. One broken bone in the right foot...I didn't know it was broken until I went to a doctor 1.5 months later, asking why it didn't get better. Like my kneecaps, the two parts of the bone are held together with scar tissue, in the wrong shape. It prevents me sitting crosslegged, and actually hurts when weather changes!

Ankles: Make loud, snapping noises every time I take a step, but only hurt a lot sometimes.


6:00 AM  
Blogger guy said...

Thankfully no constant pain. In line with I Don't Pay, whenever pain builds to a noticable level I stop whatever it is that causes it, usually running until it is no longer a daily fact of life. Then I'll start the activity again. I guess this goes to why I have never excelled at any one sport - superlative achievement seems to require irrational dedication and a willingness to wreck your body. Which is a valid choice, just not one I've ever been able/willing to make.

Oh, and I'll add to the groundswell of opinion saying go see a proper orthopedic doctor, preferably one who does an endurance sport, if leg/foot pain arises from repeated non-contact sport (this doesn't sound like Megan's case).

While repeatedly developing knee pain over two years of competitive running I visited general practice doctors and generic sports clinics who failed miserably to diagnose a problem or suggest a solution.

It took an orthotics specialist about 30 seconds to show me the problem in my gait on a video camera and about 5 minutes to fit me for orthotics...

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

I had quite a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome about four years ago, after I had started doing regular weight training, but it went away after while. Ever since I've never really had anything but occasional minor aches and pains. More recently I've been doing a lot of treadmill running, and after some ankle soreness at the very beginning I've been largely pain-free.

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suffered foot pain for several years after excessive hiking/walking during a trip to England. It eventually went away, in part because I pay more attention now and always buy high-quality shoes.

I have given up moguls because it would take months after the end of ski season before they stopped hurting. I'll stick to groomed trails from now on.

I like sports, but not enough to suffer chronic pain.

Megan, maybe you should travel to Thailand. The best thing about traveling in Thailand is Thai massage. When I was there several years ago you could get 1 hour of massage for $5. I would occasionally just get a foot massage for an hour. It was a great way to relieve some of the aches and pains of being on your feet all day, often carrying a pack.

In fact, massage is the best recourse to chronic pain IMHO.


6:58 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Non-competitive ballroom dancing isn't exactly athletics, but there was a time I was dancing 10+ hours a week, and I never suffered great pain because of it. These days I have occasional wrist pain from knitting + typing. That's it.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous AndrĂ© Manoel said...


No constant pain. If there is any pain I try to find out why and cure it, but that is rare.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Not athletic related) My experience with chronic pain is that there is often something you can do to relieve or eliminate it from your life. Try everything these people suggest. The solution will probably surprise you, but it will seem so simple once you figure it out.


11:08 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

I have constant lower back pain, tension headache, and pain from tendonitis in my right forearm and wrist.

You should try better shoes, why doesn't a hippy like you wear Birkenstocks?

10:01 PM  
Anonymous doctorpat said...

I was into TKD a reasonable amount, I competed at the national university games (2nd, Heavyweight division)

At the time, yes, there was a general vague pain at all times.

And then, about one year after that, I woke up and couldn't get out of bed. My back was totally cramped up and I had subluxed a bunch of ribs. While asleep. (Two days after breaking up with my girlfriend: probably why.)

But after a year or two of that, I got better, and haven't had chromic pain for about 6 years now.

I think a decision to never go jogging again helped a lot.

So I only have acute stuff, like the 3 different cuts to my hands that I've gotten over the last week.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My feet hurt frequently. I am sixty and have sore bunions. For my years I picked my feet (something no one ever writes about, far less mentions), a habit I find I cannot break altogether. I have a fungus on my feet which makes for cracks.

Today (I am an adjunct) I had to stay on campus where I teach for 10 hours. I taught 3 sections. Towards the end of the third I began to realize something what the little mermaid must have felt.


5:51 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Ellen, no one else commented on the reference. But that was always the most striking part of the Little Mermaid story for me.

10:39 AM  

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