Friday, October 19

Broken Toe Experience: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

This is me rolling around the house with my office chair and mop-stick cane

As most of you already know I broke three of my toes in May, and I'm finally now able to say that I'm back to normal. I'm not going to try running anytime soon, but I can pretty much get around like normal, stand on my toes to stretch, and can go longer distances like before. So it took five months for me to completely get well again. Which is a bit long because 2-4 months is the average time, but I did have three toes to heal and was out both of my legs.

Also, I want to share my experience with you. I'm not going to hold anything back because if this post can help someone out there in some way then I'm thankful. It could be beneficial to know exactly what happened, and perhaps others could learn from some of my mistakes. I was surprised by how common it is to break a toe. It seems like everyone that heard about my injury, or saw me hobbling around told me their toe stories. Sports injuries, tripping, falling, running into furniture, wearing high heels (like me), or just walking are all very common ways to fracture a toe. It doesn't take much to injury those delicate little bones, so I guess it was my turn now. What a life experience indeed.

~ Month 1 ~

The night it happened I was out on the town for a very special occasion walking the hills of San Francisco in four-inch stiletto heels. Now as mad as this sounds I wear these shoes a lot and for longer periods, so I don't know what it was about this particular night that caused the stress fractures. I was wearing a very tight dress, ate a huge three-course meal plus dessert (which included things I typically don't eat like dairy, gluten, and hard alcohol, let alone a lot of cooked foods), and then walked back afterward. I felt so sick! I had never eaten that much before, and that dress was not helping one bit because it wasn't stretchy.

The day after was when I noticed the swelling, but I didn't think anything of it because it wasn't that bad. I thought it was just the typical soreness from walking in heels, so I ignored it and went on with my work day. It was only the left foot at first, but it continued to get worse as the day went on.

The second day it was really noticeable and swollen, but I still continued working because the world doesn't wait for anyone. Then by the third day it was awful, it hurt so bad that I could barely concentrate on anything else, and couldn't put any weight on it. So I got around limping with my right leg only, and that's when that side started to give way as well. The middle toe on my right foot started to show signs of similar issues. It's to my understanding that if I didn't try to go on as normal, and walk only using the right foot I probably wouldn't have snapped that toe too. So the lesson is to get in bed and off your feet right away. I let my work get in the way because I was worried about meeting a deadline, and I'm ashamed of that. Fear causes us to do the most stupid things and work could have waited. 

So I had two purple feet swollen to twice their average size. Sleep was almost impossible and I was averaging about 3-4 hours a night if I was lucky. I didn't get out of bed because I couldn't. There was no way I could walk. Going to the bathroom was the only exception and it left me exhausted and in tears every time I tried. That's what made me devise the plan of using a mop stick as a cane and my office chair as a wheel chair. Or I would crawl around on the floor using my arms, dragging both legs behind me.

Bathing wasn't an option because I couldn't get into the tub so I would washed up with a cloth in bed. I ate and brushed my teeth in bed as well. Another thing that was great was wearing pants that unsnap down the sides, because that was way better than normal pants that could only be removed by slipping them off. Any type of touch or movement was excruciating. 

Keeping the feet elevated and iced was key! When I put them down they hurt like hell because of the swelling. Also, I was stubborn about icing them at first because I was under the impression that it won't help, but that was just me being afraid of the cold. Of course I found that icing every half an hour, like instructed, was ideal and was a real relief.

Lastly, I remember a study about how patients would heal faster if they had a window in their hospital room. This may be because of a lot of things: more sun, the view is soothing, fresh air, etc. So I made sure to keep the shades and windows open in the bedroom. It did help, it kept me calm and hopeful.

~ Month 2 ~

I was still in bed most of his month as well, but using the bathroom was easier. I could use my arms to hold onto the bathroom counter, putting almost all of my weight on them instead of the feet. Also, I started to get brave about bathing and brushing my teeth in the bathroom. I would use my arms to get up on the side of the tub (my arms are pretty strong now), and then pull one leg at a time into the water as I cursed, cried, and screamed. As soon as they were in the hot water it was like heaven, because they're buoyant and I couldn't feel them anymore. That, and I used Epsom salt and a mixture of rosemary, rue, basil, and wintergreen to sooth the bones and aching muscles. I never wanted to get out and would stay there for an hour, but alas, when the time came I would use my arms to lift myself up and over again.

Brushing my teeth was okay too. I used the toilet to sit on and elevated both feet on the tub (putting them down killed because of the swelling) while quickly taking care of that.

I also wanted to mention that my diet was extremely clean at this time. Eating only the best fresh organic greens, veggies, fruits, and spices that promote bone healing (fresh dill and garlic). I think I was eating so well (with the exception of random gummy bear gifts to try to make me feel better), that I was experiencing some detox symptoms too. Which is not awesome. Ideally I wouldn't choose to clean out while going through this all, but I know that it's the best thing for healing. That, and staying in the sun is great for broken bones too. So I would sit with my feet on a pile of pillows in the sunlight that was shining through my balcony window. Greens are nature's sunscreen, and I get plenty of protection from eating them. No toxic sunscreens needed.

Speaking of toxic garbage, I'm reminded of how bad it is to take some pain killers at this time because it can severely delay or prevent fractures from healing. No drugs for me EVER. I found it to be humorous how many times I was asked, "What are you taking for it?" That's the answer to everything these days, and it's almost shocking how acceptable and normal it is.

Something else that I did early on this month, which I should have done on day one, is bandaged the broken toes to the strongest neighboring toe. This is called the buddy method. Doctors can't do much for toes, and it's not common to get a cast, so this method works wonders. It helps straighten the toes when healing, and helps the swelling a lot. That, and with the toes bandaged up, no unnecessary movement can be made.

~ Month 3 ~

I didn't need the office chair any more, and started to get around using only the mop stick cane. I was also finally able to hobble up and down stair, leave the house to go on very short errands like the farmer's market, visit friends for short spells, began stretch exercises (the P90X stretch routine), and start receiving treatment from my physical therapist. He wished I would have seen him earlier because he could have relieved some of the pain and helped healing along via acupuncture. I just couldn't move, and quite honestly, I was afraid of the pain so I didn't go in sooner. The first acupuncture session hurt so bad that he had to hold me down and get me to breathe correctly. I have never jumped up like that from acupuncture, but there was just so much built up toxins and fluids in the feet that it was unbearable. Of course it helped so much, and after the appointment I could tell a big difference.

Unfortunately, I also needed work done on my back, neck, and hips. Two months of being bedridden can leave the body in such disarray, so I would come in every other week for more therapy. I almost needed more work done on those areas than my toes. What was happening is that the muscles, specifically the left side of my neck, were so tight that they were pinching nerves. I couldn't lift my arm up past my shoulder without being in agony. So I had to go in to get more deep tissue work done.

~ Month 4 ~

The pain in my neck and shoulder has dulled a little, but my sacrum and pelvis are aching so much so that I couldn't lay or sit on them properly. I woke up during the night a lot, and dreaded sleeping because it hurt so much. I also didn't need the cane anymore and started limping around without it. My feet would still swell a bit in mornings, but that would go away within and hour or so.

However, I was able to walk longer distances though. I could go for about 30-40 minutes without getting weary, but I noticed that the back of my right heel and ankle started to get sore from this. I was warned about this happening from others, and it was like reteaching myself how to walk all over again. My therapist advised that I wrap the ankle and heel in a bandage, which worked out great and made it go away within a few weeks. 

Psychical therapy was also something that I kept up with this month and one session towards the end of the month caused me a lot of pain. My therapist needed to do deep tissue massage work on my toes and feet to loosen up the stiff muscles and it was so unendurable that he had me crying. It was also recommended at this time that I go see their chiropractor because my sacrum had shifted in my pelvis which was causing the sacroiliac joint a lot of issues. I was terrified about this, because if I couldn't even touch the area or lay down properly, how was physically forcing the sacrum back into alignment going to feel? I was reminded of the scene in The Dark Knight Rises when Batman has to get his spine realigned. Not good times, however it was all for the best because the chiropractor appointments helped so much and didn't hurt much at all. He was so great and gentle, and I definitely want to do more in the future just for overall well being.

Lastly, I was reminded to continue to lay down and elevate my feet over my heart. This is something I hadn't been doing since the second month because I was pushing myself to blog, do videos, and respond to messages. So I disappeared for a while online again and just rested.

~ Month 5 ~

This month wasn't too bad. I traveled to Michigan to rest and get away from everything for a bit, and that was a very good thing. The fresh air, wholesome food, and time with my family was just what I needed. It's incredible how much the mind dictates healing. It seems like I just needed to keep my mind off my problems for a bit, and my family helped keep me busy.

Also, when I got back to California, I decided that it was time to try some closed-toed shoes because my feet weren't swelling anymore. It went well for the most part, and now I'm back in the swing of things. Other than that, the pain has dulled quite a bit all round and I'm able to do most things again. It was a descent month.

So there you have it. That's what I've been dealing with these past five months, and it still fascinates me how the entire body can suffer from being bedridden. I'm so grateful to have my health again, and if you know someone that's going through something similar, please pass this info down to them. It's better to be aware of these things than to be left in the dark. That's why it was important to me to share, and my heart goes out to anyone else struggling with something similar. 

Rest up and get well soon.