Category Archives: Injuries

Progrestination sometimes works

The thing with unintelligible incurable chronic health conditions is that you end up Googling stuff that might help. You Google all night. Lot’s of nights.

It’s like procrastination but with the potential to be useful.

There’s lot of snake-oil and negativity of course – or worse, fake-positivity. Or even worse – health politics. The world wide web eventually gave me three choices: waste my time, give up or get rigerous. I went for the last option!

And… I think… I’m finally… making progress. My procrastination has turned into progrestination!

As always I don’t want to go into too much detail about my symptoms or the things that have been helpful for me. It’s private and personal, and also, because each persons chronic health symptoms are unique, probably not that useful.

However, I think the procedural things I’ve learnt about managing the journey itself could be really useful! So here’s some of that:

How progrestinate safely

I’m now quite rigorous about what / who gets my time and money.

Here are some ways of dealing with ideas and claims found online and/or medical people.

Check they make sense in general

There should be at least a theory as to why any given treatment will work. The theory might be to do with our mind or spirituality, biology or gut bacteria… something. Some logic to begin with.

Don’t suffer expensive fools. Ever.

Never trust an idea you have to pay for: products cost money to make, sure. But people selling ideas… be suspicious. Don’t go there. Open Access is finally throwing wide the doors of Science and medicine: there’s no need to lock it down again. Also, one way of ensuring that your ideas never get scrutinised is to hide them behind a pay-wall!

Avoid big egos too, people who tell you THEY have solved the puzzle.

The only person who can cure you is YOU, in the end. Doctors and such may play a role, but they will be doctors YOU have sought out, providing treatments based on information YOU gave them. And all implemented only with your consent and commitment!

Be your own hero.

Check the science (and don’t soak your nuts)

Once I find a theory/idea, it gets checked against science papers (I use this site https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pubmed to check every claim). Sometimes there isn’t enough information, occasionally there’s no research at all. But sometimes things are out and out disproved.

Science isn’t the be all and end all of course: belief is prowerfull. Prayer too. Placebo is great … and sometimes science just gets it wrong …

But when you find out that “soaking your Brazil nuts” is a complete waste of time, that the thing which you’re soaking them to avoid is actually good for you and that the process of soaking actually increases the levels of the thing you were supposed to be avoiding till it’s not as good for you and will just make you fart more….well just think about the numbers of hours of soaking and re-drying Brazil nuts you have avoided…

Science is basically invention and scrutiny. It’s your friend here.

Is the treatment relevant to YOU?

Additionally, the idea has to be relevant. I know that sounds obvious, but it isn’t always easy to tell. Sometimes I have to do some additional research into what my body is up too. It helps rule solutions in or out – it has to be solving an actual problem you have to be a solution for YOU!

I work with the doctor on this too – he will usually check any I thing I ask about with a blood test. I ask a lot of questions about the results, and research around the answers I get. For example for the last couple of years my iron count has been “Normal” but push further and I find it’s at the very lowest end of normal. Having done some research I found there is evidence that when people who menstruate have fatigue symptoms, the thresholds for normal iron count should be reconsidered. So now I am in a cycle of supplementing and re-testing.

Don’t suffer doctors either

The same stuff applies to doctors also. You don’t have to deal with any given doctor if you don’t want too. If they are rude or don’t listen, if they’re unhelpful, arrogant or lie to you – just don’t see them again.

But if they listen, offer help, can justify their treatament ideas or do something that really works for you – then they deserve your attention.

It’s not about only “being told what you want to hear” – it’s about choosing not to engage with people who don’t help you or actively harm you. As far as I am concerned, harm includes going in to an appointment a motivated and optimistic person and coming out feeling ignored and invalidated. Now, every time that happens I think: which doctor/nurse/etc have I seen who was actually helpful? And I book an appointment with them instead. By doing this I have made a lot of progress.

Some doctors are in the middle of the spectrum of course, much what they say is useful but then they make offhand comments, usually about things outside of their area of expertise (Veganism/diet etc) – well I just consider that a personality defect nowadays!

Artwork by SarahHedlundDesign, click the image to buy!

Keep pushing till something gives

Some things take a lot of time to get sorted, I spent 2 full years trying to get a pair of insoles that worked, seeing five different health practitioners. In the end I found a fantastic person in the NHS. She listened carefully and explained how she would solve my problem. From that one person I’ve had insoles that have eliminated foot pain and also compression socks that reduce my heart rate and a knee brace to heal my dislocation injury – all these things have helped make me better.

Don’t keep doing things that don’t work

A lot of the things which have helped most, helped pretty quickly. They also haven’t made me worse at any point.

Especially if you’re spending your own money, don’t keep doing things for months and months that don’t help quickly.

Focus on the things which did make a difference quickly.

Find out WHY those things work

Trying to understand why those specific things worked can be really helpful: for example, early on in my illness I had a liquid magnesium supplement that immediately alleviated a certain set of symptoms. So from there I worked out: why was I deficient in magnesium? There was plenty of magnesium in my diet but I’d had consistent problems with digestion, so I came to the conclusion that I was not absorbing nutrients properly from food. This has eventually lead to a breakthrough in my health from using supplements that I spray in my mouth or apply to my skin, rather than taking a pill or relying on food. There is reasonable evidence that these are absorbed the same or better than normal supplements and hey bypass my gut completely. So, theory, check, problem, check, science check. And I did start to feel better quite quickly, plus they aren’t too expensive. So… Check!

Keep doing the things that work

When you have a ton of different symptoms, things which work can feel like old news pretty quickly. It’s important to try and make a commitment to them though.

A good example is hydrotherapy, I knew from the first time I tried it that it was helpful for me – so it’s something I’ve pursued rigorously for a long time. It has been expensive, probably the most expensive thing I’ve done given how long I’ve done it for. Sometimes it’s boring… But it continues to allow me to make progress.

It’s also meant that when I found other treatments later on, my body is better prepared for them. For example I’ve been using a rowing machine for the past few months and it’s been really helping with my heart rate problems. I’m not sure that it would have been possible for me to actually engage with that treatment had I not been doing hydrotherapy for over a year before hand.

Listening to your body is not the same as doing what your body tells you

A (nearly) final bit of advice, regards to the constant mantra “listen to your body” and “maybe this is natures way of telling you to slow down”. You should listen to your body, it’s important – but also be aware that your body doesn’t always know what it needs (without help from your concious mind). It might know what it wants but that’s not the same thing.

For example, if you have postural tachycardia your body will ask you to lie down. All day long. I don’t mean that cynically, I mean it seriously. At any given time in the day I can listen to my body and it will say “LIE DOWN PLEASE”. Fundamentally though, lying down eases symptoms initially but it also exacerbates them in the long term. The more time I spent lying down, the worse my symptoms became. There’s good science as to why that happens.

Learning to listen to my body but not obey it has been a big change for me. I don’t know if I just took the doctor’s too literally or if that advice which I’ve been given over and over again since I very first became symptomatic is just really bad advice. But either way. Your body is not the boss of you.

I think the process of researching what is actually happening in my body during a symptom has been very helpful in learning to understand the difference between what my body wants and what my body needs. When I first understood that my heart rate was climbing by 40 + beats per minute every time I stood up, was the first time I really understood why I felt such a desperate need to not stand up ever! It’s that knowledge which has allowed me to pursue a treatment for the symptom that has caused so much disruption in my life.

Don’t be angry and don’t give up hope

Finally, don’t be angry or get involved in the angry game of being sick. There are a lot of people out there with chronic health conditions who are bitterly angry about the way they’ve been treated, maybe rightly so. Maybe they were predisposed. Maybe both.

I can understand the need to campaign: I’m literally campaign girl, usually have several placards ready and waiting in my back pocket… But there really is a time and a place.

When you engage with a situation online, whether it be reading and old forum post or actively discussing something on Twitter – take a few moments and think, do I feel good right now? Do I feel better? Empowered? Have I learned something that will contribute to my health or recovery? The answer to any of those questions is NO then just leave.

Save the rage up for when you’re better. Save it up till when you can become an MP or a scientist or a homeopath or yoga teacher or something. Change the world. Whatever.

I really believe that anger is a sickness in itself, it’s bad for your body, it’s bad for your mind and it’s bad for your soul. There are so many things out there that might help you and make you feel better – surly it’s preferable to spend your time and energy on those, on healing and recovery, above all else?

Also try and have at least one hobby that isn’t about your health 😉

Thanks for reading!

Is the body half full or half empty?

I have such an embarrassing health problem this week, and it had left me super frustrated with myself. The insoles I got a few months ago changed the position on my hips when I walk. Ultimately this has revolutionised the way I skate and is going to save me a lot of problems in future with my hips, feet and spine. In the short term the impact has been amazing too: when I got the insoles I had such a bad achillies injury that I was unable to walk 1/4 of a mile, now I can walk 4 whole miles almost pain free!
However… because the potiontion of my body has changed a litle, the little spots of everday chaffing, skin on skin, skin on fabric, that my body has been used to my whole life, have moved a little. Just an inch here and an inch there. It seems such a subtle change, but these bits of soft, fragile formerly chafe free skin now get brushed slightly with each step. The seam of my leggings, the eleastic of my underwear… these bastards are now my enemies!

So, over weeks and months I have has sores, abrasions and blisters the size of 5p pieces cropping up all over my thighs and bum. And there is really no respite, other than lying down all day, there isn’t much i can do to make these heal. Talc, vaseline, ointments designed for athletes… huge German underwear… nothing really works.

The current problem is a bloodblister the size of my thumbnail on that bit where the bottom meets the upper thigh. It’s painful enough that I haven’t walked anywhere for 3 days, and I have my period too, which just makes everything worse really. It’s bad enough that I might have to miss derby training… not cool! So, I am pretty mad as you can imagine!

However, in a moment of utter bleakness I was thinking about what a blister actually is. It’s basically my body’s way of protecting itself. And pain, thats my warning signal that something is wrong. While the need to slow down and heal feels so frustrating inconvenient, my body is doing some pretty cool things right now, and it’s good that I take a moment to appreciate that and be that thankful.

So, with a half-full glass of metaphorical champagne I say “cheers” to the blister on my ass and all the fluids who sail in her! My body is a wonderful thing.

Rollerderby: medical treatment for the more belligerent invalid

The melodrama of my health problems continues, and finally I have a diagnosis which explains a big group of my symptoms. The symptoms being the chronic pain and the diagnosis being fibromyaglia.

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“Fibromyalgia (FM) is a medical condition characterised by chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure. Other symptoms include feeling tired to a degree that normal activities are affected, sleep problems, and troubles with memory” – Wikipedia

The diagnostic process involves ruling out other conditions (such as arthritis) and the presence of a distinct pain-point pattern.

Naturally, for a contrary lady such as myself, fibromyalgia is controversial condition inspiring lots of  disagreement within the medical community. It even has an accompanying band of trolls, haters, deniers and conspiracy theorists on the internet! Goody.

Offal’y lucky lady ūüėÄ

I have so far¬†been very lucky¬†though,¬†I have seen a good rheumatologist, have several amenable doctors at my local surgery and I have already had, pre-diagnosis, some really helpful treatments like¬†insoles and physiotherapy from a¬†specialist department which is just up the road. ¬†Also, I now officially don’t have gout after all! Whoop! ¬†I can now eat as much offal as I like… which is still none!

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Pills are a downer

I am waiting for the main bulk of my treatment to kick off, in the mean time I have been trailing some medication…. which has not gone well.

The first one they tried was Amitriptyline, an antidepressant used to treat nerve pain. The side effects I had included panic attacks, crying and regular bouts¬†of despair. ¬†Frankly it’s been totally shit.

I have finished that now and am just about to start on another kind called Clomipramine. Both the doctor and the pharmacist seemed hopeful that this one will be okay, but the list of side effects is just horrendous, so I am not sure how I feel about it. Even if it works, I am not aiming to stay on this long term. The primary method of controlling fibro is exercise.

Exercise  Roller Derby as a cure

I am hoping for things like hydrotherapy and additional¬†physiotherapy from the NHS, plus a graded exercise programme and some other cool stuff I am looking into. While I am waiting for this to start, I am carrying on with¬†my long ¬†contemplative walks, daily gentle stretching …. and my insane quest to¬†learn to play roller derby.

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The way I see it, Roller Derby may not be the ideal exercise for someone with fibromyalgia, but it’s exactly right for me. It motivates me!

Without Derby I probably would never have got a diagnosis, I hadn’t really taken my body and health seriously enough to even get close. It’s even hard for me to figure out how long I have been unwell for, because I have just ignored myself for such ¬†long time I just never registered what was going on (or not going on) with my body. In this sentence I even referred to my body as being¬†myself! Progress!

1 week till fresh meat

I have 1 week left till my sinners to winners course starts, and I really am terrified. I am scared¬†it’s going to be total hell this time round, actually feeling, or starting to feel, what my¬†body is¬†telling me¬†as I try to¬†hold myself upright¬†on skates… I know this is going to be hard, harder than last time for sure. It’s going to hurt.

That said, I have come a long way with my physio and I know I can do some basic things on skates now, so I¬†have a head start on where I was last time round. So it’s… cool. I am gonna be okay.

And after I am okay…¬†I am gonna rock!

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Freaky feet and the case of the missing thigh skin

I am learning tons about my feet at the moment, which explain many of the issues I have had on skates – best of all, it’s putting me in a better position to get back on skates soon¬† and have fewer issues when I do!

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According to the nice man at Clitheroe hospital, who drew the diagram above, when my ankle is at a right angle, on an imaginary invisible floor, my heel is something like 10mm further away from that floor than my toes (see the above picture). So, my body’s only options are to walk around on tiptoe (which he seemed to think is madness but whatevs) or for my ankle, legs hips and spine to contort oddly to let my heel touch the ground while I walk.

So, my ankle rotates upwards, then inwards (hence the over-pronation situation). This also means my weight is forwards on my toes, which then puts a lot of strain on the arch of my foot, especially when on skates. The agonising heart-breaking pain I had in the last few weeks of my first fresh-meat was caused by a series of tears along the tendons in the sole of my foot, which have now healed into some painful nodules of scar tissue (those are the round things in the diagram he drew me).

So first things first, I have some temporary insoles.

They support my heal and the arch of my foot and tilt my foot into a better position.

I have to wear them ALL the time, which as a long-term barefoot harpie who happily frolics about the house using monkey toes for grip, is a big deal. I got some light weight pumps which I am slowly training myself to wear.

The difference is amazing, 85% of my day-to-day pain has gone right away , I can’t wait to see how much easier skating is with them! I just need to wait a little more time for my Achilles to heal.

The only negative side affect, which I guess shows you how much the insoles alone have changed the way my body moves, is that my trousers keep rubbing the skin off my inner thighs. Being the delicate milky skinned chubby little maiden I am (rah) my skin is pretty fragile, and the change in the position of my hips means my clothes and their death by vicious cotton seams, are in slightly different places to normal.¬† Also…. just for anyone who ever experiences this. don’t put a sticking plaster on it. That is a bad bad thing. Bad!

I will tell you all about my physio next! Working super hard, finally making progress, hoping to be back on skates soon!

Wobbly update

Just had a blood test and feeling a little sickly so having a cup of sweet tea and passing the time writing this.

20160707_114120It’s been a little while since my last blog but things have been moving along steadily. I have had appointments with my GP,¬† podiatrist and physio, have some temporary insoles and a whole bunch of physio exercises. The blood tests are to check for rumatoid arthritis and… gout…. yes gout…. both of which could be underlying the problem I have with my feet and all the stuff which connect to them (like the rest of my body).

It all sounds very serious, but actually the insoles and physio are working wonders already, I am up and walking around almost like normal for the first time in months. Derby has finally given me the motivation to address health problems which have been plaguing me for years and to care about my physical wellbeing… I expect to be kicking ass on skates soon!!

PS: loving this bench outside the doctors surgery!!

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KT tape – my painkilling wonder cure!

According to “Science” KT tape doesn’t work. Science is clearly wrong! It’s the only thing so far which has stopped my Achilles pain completely and it works way better than, for example, co-codamol pills.

Which tape to choose?

I went for the cheapest that amazon next day deliver could offer me. In Orange.¬† I figured, as I am not an expert at applying it, there isn’t much point spending a lot of money: I was right, the first few applications just in loved me sticking my hand to my leg and swearing a lot.

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I am thinking I might get a proper physio to apply it for me, in which case I am happy to pay for the branded tape, if that is what they recommend.

How to apply it

I watched the following youtube videos:

and

I ended up with something in between the two, I couldn’t seem to get the central bit of tape to go right up the middle of my leg. I applied a second strip to make a v shape, a bit like they do here:

Don’t forget to rub it all down, it makes it stick better.

The result

My Achilles feels right away warmer and much less painful. The “background” pain that is there while I am just watching TV or whatever is gone. I also feel more secure while walking about, and it hurts much less then too. I haven’t tied being more active on my leg yet though.

The cheaper stuff I bought came off in the bath, it’s not supposed to tough, so I have had to re-apply. My second application felt less good than the first, so I will try it again later. The cheap roll was definitely a good idea!

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Healing the Achilles – natural remedies for Derby hippies

Screenshot from 2016-04-26 19-19-22My Achilles tendon on my right leg is basically poo. I have an appointment in a month, in the mean time here are the remedies I am using to try and help soothe it.

The first is an Essential Oil based remedy from Ms Worwood’s classic “The Fragrant Pharmacy.”

Essential oil clay poultice

I had this book sitting on my shelf for ages. For Achilles tendinitis she recommends.

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This is working just great do far.  Here is what I did.

Ingredients and kit

I got the following form Amazon – but if you have a local store which supplies these items please use it!

Day 1-3 – cooling clay poultice

First you want just a little cold water, you can add more later. I had about a teaspoon.

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Then you add two tablespoons of the clay power

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Mix it up into a thick paste Рthicker than an average facemask. All the clay should be absorbed.  Then add the oil: three drops of chamomile and three of lavender.

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Apply to the Achilles and affected area.

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To use it all up, I covered quite a large area. It’s very nice and cooling, so just use it where it feels good.

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Wipe your hands and wrap the area in the crepe bandages, this stops the clay from getting everywhere.

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It took me two bandages to cover it all.

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Leave it alone for as long as you are comfortable. After about 2 hours the clay started cracking and pulling on my leg hair, so time to take it off.

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Most of the clay came off with the bandage. You can wash them out and use them again – but don’t get the clay in the drain or it will clog up the u-bend. Also, bear in mind that essential oils may be bad for your pets, don’t let the dog eat it!

Massage after

After removing the poultice, or whenever you have time, use the massage oil. 1 tsb of base oil (I just used rapeseed oil) with three drops of chamomile and two of lavender,

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Mix it in a small tub

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And massage very gently with flat of hand upwards towards the knee.

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I put on a tube-bandage after to stop the oil going everywhere.

Day 3+

The recipe then changes to have 3 drops of ginger and 2 drops of chamomile with hot water to mix the clay. The massage oil stays the same.

Keeping things tidy

I have tried a few variations on just bandages, as the clay can be pretty messy.

Baking sheet

Baking parchment works okay, it allows the clay to dry out but you can peel most of the clay off on one sheet after. It works best to put the clay on your skin and then the paper on the clay. This method does not work well of you paper under the heel, the paper rips if you put any strain on in.

Cling-film

Cling-film works pretty well, you can put the clay on your skin and wrap the whole lower leg in the film to keep the clay in. It does not tend to rip, and you can wrap several layers – however the clay does not dry out much, and I am not sure if that is ideal. It means you have to actually wash off the clay at the end, rather than just brush it off.

A combination of cling-film and a tube bandage seems to be the best way of keeping things tidy.

Bathtub

I also take off the clay with my foot in the bathtub, balling up the baking sheet or cling-film and throwing it in the bin. I then I can rinse down the bath and my leg with the shower head after. This seems to be the most mess free clay removal approach.

Arnicare bath oil

This bath oil is great if you struggle with pain after exercise Рor if you are stressed.  It has Arnica, Lavender and some other good stuff.  Makes me sleep like a cat on a mat!

The pain game: be honest, get better

In my last post I mentioned that my Achilles are painful and that it’s messing with my motivation.

To be honest, I wasn’t honest….

My right Achilles is causing agonising¬† pain at the moment. Doing the spring cleaning¬† this weekend caused “throwing up and feeling like I am floating above myself” type pain.

Walking to the shops is off the table for now, let alone skating.

Pussy footing

I feel pretty embarrassed the physical pain I have struggled with while learning to skate: these derby girls are so darn tough, I don’t want to seem like a cry baby.

Then I started to wonder how many girls like me quit derby before they even get started cause of these early-stage physical obstacles.

The truth is pretty simple: if you haven’t used your body for anything more than the bare minimum of physical activity since early childhood, you are likely to have problems getting started.

Everyone has an "Achilles heel" - mine is literally my heel.
Everyone has an “Achilles heel” – mine is literally my heel.

 

With the right help, these problems should be solvable. With no help, they are just going to get worse.

Seek help early

Don’t be a pussy like me and wait for things to get totally out of hand before you admit you have a problem.

I have a combined physio and podiatry appointment – but it’s not for another month and there is no way to bring it forward. I could have seen someone 2 months ago but I avoided dealing with it.

That’s right, I could have been skating right now and making progress, but I’m not because I didn’t seek help earlier. Don’t make the same mistake as me!

Look after yourself and do what you can in the mean time

Now I have admitted to myself I have a problem, I am going to do everything I can to reduce the pain and inflammation while I await professional help. I will blog more about what I am trying soon!

Over-pronation situation

In my first recording session, with the help of my awesome little brother on camera, I have discovered a I have a problem called “Pronation” or “Over-pronation“. This where the feat roll in more than they should during walking/running/skating.

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Over-pronation is probably fairly common, but I want to get off on the right foot… or more specifically the right part of the foot… so I am going to try and resolve this problem asap!

What Over-pronation looks like

In her book “Teach Someone to Roller Skate – Even Yourself!” (which is very good value guide) the author Marty Donnellan has some good advise about foot problems.

One helpful diagram shows Pronation in skates from behind: you can see the feet leaning inwards, so the weight is not central over the wheels.

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Another diagram shows the prorating ankles without skates.

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My pronation problem

In this slowed down video of me skating away from the camera, you can see my feet prorate a lot.

How over-pronation affects my skating

Over-pronation may help to explain a few issues I have had while learning to skate so far.

The main issue I can pinpoint was with sticky skating. When I try and do my lemon-shaped sticky skate I loose momentum. Even if I start off with some momentum then start to sticky skate, I slowly come to a stop over 2/3 lemons.

I think this is partly because the rolling in of my feat means I am leaning into my inside edges of my skates all the time. This explains why I lose momentum when trying to sticky skate: leaning on the inside edge has an effect like a plough stop, cutting my speed every time I bring my feet together.

The effect can be seen most keenly in my sticky skating, however, I assume the inside-edge weighting would cause a range of issues. It’s certainly not going to help anyway!

How over-pronation affects my feet and my motivation

Since I started skating I have developed severe pain in my right Achilles and plantar fasciitis symptoms in both feet – I am waiting for a podiatry appointment to get this looked at. The problem isn’t so much the pain itself, thought that’s obviously not fun, but the slow chipping away at my motivation has come with it. I need to get it sorted then!

Possible solutions

Here is a list of actions I am taking to try and resolve my over-pronation problem. Any suggestions you have are welcome!

  1. Talking to my doctor – Including showing them a picture of the over pronation in action on skates
  2. Arch support insoles – I bought some from my local sports shop
  3. Foot strengthening exercises – there are some suggestions on-line, but I will check with my doctor first.
  4. Keep checking the issue – I will keep checking on this every time I practice to see if it has improved!