Injuries. The bane of athletes. Whether it’s something as debilitating as a ruptured tendon or just a persistent niggling twinge that you can’t shake off. In all the years I’ve been running, I can say that I’ve been really blessed with staying injury-free. The only issue I struggled with was the 6 months of plantar fasciitis during my transition to shoes of lesser build. Since I continued to be able to train and race throughout the period, I won’t classify my case as truly serious. As my legs strengthened and adjusted, coupled with consistent application of trigger point massage, the PF had completely healed and thus far not recurred.
Nevertheless my interest and curiosity were piqued when Clinical Business Manager, Elika Rezaie dropped me a message inviting me to check out some of the services the specialist clinic – Family Podiatry Centre – has to offer. If the name of the clinic rings a bell, then you’ve probably heard of it. They’ve been in the business of treating and preventing podiatric related ailments for 7 years. Incidentally podiatry, a branch of medicine, covers the areas relating to the foot, knee and up to the lower back. One morning earlier this month I found myself at the Taman Tun Dr Ismail branch eager to find out if there are any structural defects with my body. As this is a specialized topic, I’ll avoid the medical terms as much as possible. I’m not a doctor nor should you form any self diagnosis or conclusions from reading this. Whenever in doubt, always consult the experts.
The facade of the clinic is quite unassuming and the inside is just like any other clinic. If not for a wall of Brooks shoes (the clinic works closely with Brooks on many areas including staff training), I could very well have stepped into a GP’s clinic. I was quickly ushered in to meet Johan Steenkamp whom I found out to be a runner himself. Not only that, his mother is a Comrades Marathon finisher – how about that? It’s so much easier to talk to a person evaluating and treating you if he’s a fellow runner, I’m sure you’ll agree.
After a brief chit chat, it was time for the evaluation to start. Since I reported that I don’t have any injuries having slammed the PF case shut, Steenkamp suggested that he took a look at my feet, missing toenails, hardened skin, corns and all. If I was seen by a non-runner, I would’ve been embarrassed by my unsightly feet but happy to report that he made me totally at ease.
Next up was a check on leg length, you guess it – whether the left and right legs are of equal length. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the runner’s gait can be easily influenced by little differences. Such differences could very well lead to overuse injuries, if not identified early. The leg length is measured from the hip and I was found to be balanced (I hope emotionally too!). Along the way Steenkamp ran several more analyses on the shape of my extensor and flexor hallucis brevis, the tendons connecting the big toe.
Done, I was ushered to the next room and onto the treadmill. I was expecting to jog but it was all walking. A video cam recorded my legs and feet.
Despite not breaking out into a run, the video analyses revealed very consistent results as discovered during last year’s Asics Running Gait Analysis [read the post here]. Video evidence don’t lie. Good thing the little shortcomings aren’t serious, but I intend to be more conscious on the angle of my left foot strike. I won’t be surprised if that’s the cause of the tightness around the knee in the later stages of the marathon.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m more comfortable in lesser built shoes and I did pose a question to Steenkamp on his thoughts of orthotics. Orthotics are of course commonly prescribed by podiatrists but being a believer of natural and unimpeded running, I was curious on when such inserts are used. To which Steenkamp said that such aids are recommended to correct structural defects/deformities and they work in conjunction with the strengthening of the leg and foot muscles. Hence orthotics are not used in isolation but as part of a greater solution. As a layman, that make sense. Strengthening should always be part of a fitness regime.
Finally came the most exciting and high tech part of the treatment available in the clinic – the ESWT or Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy. Already a mainstream treatment in Europe and South Africa, ESWT is relatively new in Malaysia. The equipment to administer this is ridiculously expensive which could be one of the reasons why it is so. It’s a higher form of ultrasound therapy in that you can vary the intensity of the shockwave and therefore are able to reach directly to the trouble spots. Basically the shockwaves stimulates the damaged tissues thus increasing blood flow to the area and quickening the recovery process. ESWT has a 90% success rate of treating annoying injuries like PF, achilles tendonitis and heel pain.
This is the domain of Dr Edward Badua, the Head of Physical Therapy. On the way into the treatment room, I spotted some of the patients in the midst of their physio session, some of whom were children. I felt ever so fortunate to be having normal functions of my limbs and at the same time glad that there are treatment available to help folks with the issues.
He gave my legs some pretty thorough prodding to check on my flexibility and muscular pliability. Suffice to say that like most runners out there, I’ve the pliability of a plank.
As if to prove the point that a mongoose has greater limb dexterity than I, Dr Badua fished out an old (compared to the ESWT machine) looking apparatus like the ruler you see in the photo below and measured the angle of the plantar and dorsi flexion of my foot. Which came out to be around 5 degrees.
The legs need to be prepped with some gel before the treatment and with a little verbal prompter, Dr Badua started the “gun”. He warned of a little pain but it was pretty much painless to me, if a little ticklish once in awhile. How did it feel? Like your legs were being jack-hammered. No pain, I must repeat here – maybe because I had no injuries. Your mileage may be different. The effects were subtle but measurable. Typically one needs a weekly session, over 5 weeks to see real difference. In my case, an improvement of 3 degrees post 20-minute session. Which is pretty impressive if you ask me.
I also had a quick glimpse of the method of creating a foot cast for the manufacturing of orthotics. Instead of employing a simplistic foot scan using a treadmill analysis, Family Podiatry Centre uses an impression foam to get a more accurate print of the feet. The orthotics are made in-house, by the way.
It was an eye opening visit to the clinic – my very first experience actually – and I’ve Elika to thank for the invitation to pop by. Family Podiatry Centre is keen to work with event organizers to get the word out on foot care and the science of podiatry and should you want to know more (or if you’ve a problem you want the experts to have a look), contact them through the telephone numbers below.
Taman Tun Dr Ismail:
9 Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7
T: +603 7710 5243/4/5 or +603 7731 2432
Block J-5-16 Solaris Mont Kiara
T: +603 6204 0771/2
Website – http://www.familypodiatry.com.my/
Photos by Elika and Johan Steenkamp.