Thursday, September 9, 2010

Runner's Toe

Last week I was so swept up in the fact that I kept up and cranked out 15 miles in 2 days after my vacation that I didn't stop and consider the possible side effects. After the longer runs it's not unusual for one or both of my knees to be slightly sore for a day or two. But after Thursday's run not only was my right knee pretty tender, my right big toe nail felt slightly bruised as well. I shook it off and assumed the weekend would put me right.

When Sunday's usual yoga and brunch date with the girls came around I barely noticed that I was still feeling that weeks running endeavors. Until I was in a full front bend, staring at my toes and noticed that my right big toe nail was raised compared with my left. At closer inspection I confirmed that my right big toe nail was actually lifting off of the nail bed. Gross! Left alone it had no discomfort, but when touched it felt like I was poking a dark bruise, though the coloring and everything else visually looked normal. I figured I hadn't run since Thursday and I wasn't planning on heading out again till Tuesday, so as long as I made sure Tuesday's run was a bit more conservative, I would be giving my toe ample healing time. Nothing seemed to change between Sunday and Tuesday morning, so I kept my plans for a short 3 miler. I wrapped my toe in gauss to offer some cushion and headed out. Everything felt fine for the first mile but then suddenly it just started throbbing. Once I hobbled my way home I saw that not only had the area underneath and around the nail bed swollen up, but for the first time there was discoloration. My toenail was officially turning purple. Awesome.

My solution? To do what any other straight thinking person this day and age would do... I went online. What I found was that this was common and referred to as runner's toe. Good news right? Sure... except for every article I found said that if you felt like there was pressure (hello, it felt like my toe was a balloon being filled with water) you needed to release the pressure to relieve the pain and avoid infection. Suddenly thoughts of prehistoric techniques for headaches like drilling holes into ones temple ran through my head... and I wasn't far off base. Each of these articles described how to do this "procedure" at home. Since I doubt you'd believe my description of these torture methods, I've listed some of my sources below. Basically they were advising me to take a paperclip, sterilize it under a lighter flame until red hot, and then place it on the area of the nail where the discoloration is. This will immediately melt the nail leaving behind a hole where the fluid can escape. If you’re “lucky” and the fluid is located more on the edge of your toe nail, you can instead use a needle which you will stick in the delicate skin around or underneath your toe nail to give the fluid a way out. I’m sorry but isn’t sticking bamboo shoots under ones nails considered torture?!
Full disclosure: when it comes to medical procedures, I am a complete and total wimp. So there was no doubt in my mind that these “at home remedies” were not an option. Instead I called up a Podiatrist, who couldn’t see me for another 2 days, but told me until then soak my toe in warm water and Epsom Salt for 20 minutes twice a day and then bandage with neosporin. Like a good patient, I followed the doctor’s orders, and also didn’t attempt to run, bike, swim or even put on a closed toe shoe. By the time my appointment came around, the swelling had completely gone away, and all that was left was the purple discoloration. What needed to be done was basically what all my research had told me… it needed to be drained. At least a professional was doing it. The doctor pulled out a drill that had a rounded sandpaper head and started to work. He slowly sanded down the purple section of my toenail until it was paper thin, and then with a tiny tap of the drill head the nail cracked and the toe started to drain. With a Philips screwdriver looking scalpel, he assisted in making the crack a bit larger and then massaged my toe to make sure all that needed to be drained was removed. As mortifying as the procedure looked, it was surprisingly pain free. I mean, it was tender and I didn’t really want to look at the deformity that had become my big toe, but all around not as bad as I expected.
Even though the pain from the pressure build up was gone, I still had to wait four days until my toenail was healed enough to feel comfortable back in my sneakers. I ran 3.5 miles and so far so good. Now to play catch up… again…

No comments:

Post a Comment