To Kill a Nerve… By Any Means (without support crew, Charley Boorman!)

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I had a bit of a planes, trains and automobiles day yesterday, and trams…oh yes, and crutches…

At the end of November, I suddenly developed pain from a rather nasty pathology in my left foot, known as Morton’s neuroma (MN). And then, at the end of January, I developed the same thing in my right foot, although with far less intensity and pain – (but with an exponential increase in anxiety).

For anyone, let alone an active person, this is a debilitating condition which can literally stop you in your tracks. I stopped walking the golf course and, shortly thereafter, playing golf, altogether. I stopped jogging, taking my afternoon walks and, ultimately, any non-essential walking. I couldn’t walk barefoot painfree and I stopped wearing closed shoes for the same reason. I took to wearing Birkenstocks (and am now a lifetime convert – yes, Cin, I know it’s a style travesty…) and Orthaheel thongs (slops, slip-slops, flip-flops) because these were the only shoes I could walk in at all.

Anyone who has received expert help from the medical profession for MN knows it does not go away of its own accord and if left untreated it only gets worse over time. The surgery is invasive (they cut out the damaged nerve), has a long recovery period, no guaranteed outcomes and often has lingering adverse effects. Chris Freeland’s blog post on MN is the best anecdotal resource I have come across, if you are interested in reading more about people’s personal experience of the surgery and recovery (if you are, read the comments as well). [June 2013 – Chris’s blog has been deregistered]

I won’t bore you with the details of all the research I did and my convoluted path to find a practitioner of a promising, minimally invasive, non-surgical treatment for MN, known as Radiofrequency Denervation (thermoneurolysis), in Australia, but can tell you that it’s available in Melbourne and Cairns, but does not appear to be available anywhere in Sydney.And none of the medical practitioners I saw here mentioned it, and when I asked them about it, only one of them–the orthapaedic surgeon–actually knew about it, so I asked him to refer me to Imaging @ Olympic Park (IOP) in Melbourne. And, so, because I live in Sydney, I have travelled twice to Melbourne over the last seven weeks to have the treatment at IOP, first on the left foot and yesterday, on the right.

And my outcomes so far? Other than a numb foot for 24 hours, after the first treatment, I was back on my feet straight away to the same level as just before the procedure and then 5 weeks later, after the inital healing process, was back playing golf and walking the golf course, but in wider shoes and custom-made full-length orthotics. And I will need to take a golf break again now while the treatment I had yesterday settles down, but overall am very happy with how things are progressing.

One person’s outcomes will almost certainly differ from another’s to some degree and each person will have their own level of expectation as to what constitutes a successful outcome, but if you live in Australia, have been diagnosed with this condition by a podiatrist or orthopaedic surgeon and want to find out more about RFD treatment before opting for surgery, you can contact Imaging @ Olympic Park – they will be more than happy to answer your questions. 😀

———–

Update – 9th October 2012

I have no neuroma pain 6 months after RFD treatment, walk the golf course every time I play and am back to doing my long walks on the weekend. Very glad I did not have the surgery.

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32 thoughts on “To Kill a Nerve… By Any Means (without support crew, Charley Boorman!)

  1. What a wonderful outcome. I remember how worried you were and how scary the uncertainty was. Crossing my fingers for you and glad you are golfing again!

  2. That’s great, BB. Being mobile is better for our physical, emotional, and psychological health and well-being.

    BFF has had foot pain too . . . from plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of the band of tissue, plantar fascia, that extends from heel to toe). Like you, he had to limit his activities, avoid going barefoot, and get supportive shoes. Also, like you, he’s up and about again . . . and we’re able to walk 2 miles most evenings. 😀

    • Hello Monica 😀 It has been a huge relief. My feet will never be ‘normal’ again, I am slowly replacing my shoes with slightly larger sized ones and I am unlikely to go back to jogging, but I am extremely grateful to be able to walk long distances again pain-free. Thanks so much for all your support 😀 I am eagerly awaiting your book, which I have ordered from Amazon.
      bb
      xx

      • You are already walking long distances?! That is excellent. Thank you, Bluebee, for your support, too. I very much want to know what you think.

        • Having to take a break now after treatment again but went and squished my toes in the sand on the beach today – that was a wonderful feeling 😀 I’ll report back on your book 🙂

  3. Wow! you have been through a lot, BB: so glad you carved an answer out for yourself and it has been a successful solution. Wishing you many happy hours back on that golf course.

    • Thanks, Kate. I have certainly learned a lot along the way, including that the Internet can be both one’s worst enemy and best friend in these matters. The medical profession decry the fact that the layperson often looks up their symptoms etc on the Internet and I do agree that it often creates more problems for us non-experts than it solves, but, in this case, if I hadn’t done my own research I wouldn’t have found out about this minimally invasive treatment and would have ended up having highly invasive (and unnecessary) surgery.

  4. such good news to find an answer that works, good sleuthing! i have foot pain of the plantar fasciitis kind too, and find toe stretchers help, plus my barefoot shoes (vibram fivefinger shoes) that have space for each toe …the stretching helps the foot tissue to realign correctly .. and i am a life-long birkenstock wearer, lol 😀

    • Sympathies, Christine – PF is horrible. I see Vibrams are very popular in the running community and their design seems to address a number of foot conditions, so makes a lot of sense. I LOVE Birkenstocks and wish I had started wearing them years ago – they are the most comfortable sandals, ever. 😀

  5. So pleased that you are able to return to golf and other activities. The web can be so amazing like that. Also wishing you well for a continued recovery x

  6. It’s amazing you had such an improvement immediately after the surgery. That is fantastic. I hope that you continue to improve and that any pain is minimal. The internet can be a great source of help. I have found that too. Sending you lots and lots of hugs.

    • It wasn’t surgery, Selma – they apply a nerve block to the foot and then insert a probe into the nerve that uses radiofrequency technology to burn the nerve at the branch to the toes – the nerve fibers are disrupted and take a few weeks to die and stop sending pain signals – no cutting, swelling, stitching, lying with the foot up for weeks – after 24 hours when the numbness of the nerve block wears off, you can walk and drive. So relieved that I didn’t need surgery. Thanks for your wishes, Selma 😀

  7. Wow really interesting to read your story. I have MN’s in both feet and I’m would like to hear more about your journey in chosing Radiofrequency Denervation. Is there an email address I can contact you on?

  8. You had a nerve to go and murder like that! 🙂
    If this works so well, it is amazing that it hasn’t been more universally adopted. Not an instant miracle, but it seems that given the proper time it works really well.
    Fashion has a lot to answer for, both in shoes and in entrenched medical thinking.

    • 😀 I am astounded that there is such a different approach in treatments even between states within Australia, Col. In Sydney, they don’t even talk about RFD for MN, and advise surgery, and yet, in Melbourne, they very rarely resort to surgery, with RFD being the treatment of choice. And the only other place in the country that was offering RFD at the time I developed MN was Cairns. Thank goodness for the Internet – yes, on health-related issues, it can be our worst enemy, but in this case it was my best friend. (And, yes, all those years wearing stilletos in my youth was almost certainly a contributor)

  9. Can we have an update on how your feet are doing pls! Have your MNs returned or did this treatment work – three years on? I am so frustrated with lack of cohesive treatment in Sydney and after researching on internet feel no one really knows what to do. There’s no way I’m going to try surgery and only acupuncture and stopping dancing all together has helped…might just have to fly to Melbourne!

    • Hi Zoe – I’m still walking the golf course every time I play, can wear high heels when I need to and can walk barefoot. I have none of that sharp, intense pain, just a feeling of a marshmallow between the toes and, also, if I’ve been wearing high heels for an extended period, a mild throbbing in the ball of my foot for a while afterwards. After not being able to walk properly, I’ve had a very good outcome from the RFD. 😃

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