Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sole, sole, burning bright !

Thousands of moons ago, when I first set up house, there was this big urge to make pickles at home. So I once ended up cutting 1 kilogram of some very hot green chillies, Indian style, on a traditional cutter or Villi as it is called, where the chillies , held by you, move and the blade remains stationary.  I have never forgotten the subsequent burning of the fingers.

Why do I suddenly mention this ?  Because for the last 6 months or so, both my soles (of my feet) , in a particular position, simply burn as if they are slathered with 1 kg of ground chillies each. 

After lots of experiments like soaking them in cold water, rubbing them with cooling stuff/oil/lotions, upping my intake of Vitamin B, checking other values in blood tests etc,  rectifying situations where warranted , the situation marginally changed, but continued in full blown fashion.  There were no problems standing up/walking etc. The burning began when my lower limbs were horizontal, like when I slept or when one sat with the feet up.

For a non engineer, non doctor, with too much imagination, I decided that it had something to do with flow of stuff in the foot/ankles when the toes were perpendicular to the ground. I had been taking Ecospirin, as many my age do , that thins the blood and this burning business started , roughly after that. Maybe stuff was flowing down too easily away from my toes, leaving the nerves there bereft and screaming for attention.  I even stopped Ecospirin, and that had absolutely no effect.

There was a general consensus that one should consult a Pain Clinic.  A very posh hospital , where one had an earlier good experience for some other stuff, had such a clinic, and one managed an appointment.  There was an expectation that they would have methods of quantifying something about the conduction amidst  nerves and muscles in the lower limbs. Maybe they would do a physical exam, and some qualitative  and quantitative tests that would indicate a singularity somewhere. 

The visit began. I had summarized my medical background history on a printed page. The doctor pulled a scribbling pad and started writing down things while talking to me. I have had swellings on my ankles for donkey's years, which go when i put the feet up. They pass the 40 seconds test and are not a pitting edema, and so there is nothing cardiac about that. (I hope this confused you. Ask your doc....  :-)   ).

There was no physical examination of the ankle, no twisting and turning of it by the doc, to generate and check assorted pains, no poking with needles to check if I felt a sensation. No hammering lightly with hammers etc. Just a question asking if I sometimes got a sensation of the foot "going to sleep".  How a foot that is burning can go to sleep really boggles the mind. Never mind.

Then there was  some hurried writing. Two meds that I need to take for 15 days. Appointments with endocrinologists. Mentions of MRI's.  The whole thing was worrying me. I had tried the usual pain reliever stuff .  This was some thing new with a dicey name like Pregabalin.

I dashed over to my family doctor/friend's clinic, and showed her the prescription sheet. She has known my system for the last 30 years. I was already taking a Vitamin D supplement thing which he had written down. She advised me that Pregabalin, the other med, was something to stay away from.  She felt I didn't need that. It had some really strong side effects, least of which was drowsiness.  Since she knows that I will checkout the info, she showed me the information from the standard drug reference MIMS. The side effects were enough to put me into a dead faint. I came home and checked out the drug on Google.

Read about its adverse reactions here .   And take your time recovering ......

Then this appeared in the paper a few days later. A guy got so smitten with Pregabalin and its pain relieving properties, that he routinely overdosed, and ended up having unbearable abdominal pain, which turned out to be stomach ulcers of the worst kind. 

And I now wonder, what happened to the earlier style of doctors where they reached conclusions from watching your gait, the way you sat, the way you got up, your pulse,  the type of edema  investigated with poking, your breathing, pulse,  stethoscope checks , blood-flow sounds in the legs , Xrays and so on.  Other doctors one has been to over the years, for oneself and the children, even have you lie down, and then twist and turn limbs to ascertain the exact pain point or reason.

 I have now researched on the Net, and found some exercises meant for folks with burning soles of the feet. These do not need fancy tunnel type contraptions, or electric heat , magnets or swinging upside down on ropes etc. You can do them by yourself .  on a thin mattress, or mat.  And they actually explain there why you can get such a pain, and the gradual way to reduce that pain, with knowledge of anatomy.  

You can read about them here. I have downloaded all the videos and have started on them. Some very small changes. But they are happening.

But it makes me wonder. Is the modern age medicine so machine oriented that hands have lost the ability to glean information ?   Is modern medicine a function of the fact that patients are so well off that fancy recommended checks like MRI are done at the drop of a hat ?  Is there something to the school of thought that says, working in a vast government hospital, perhaps in large cities and even mofussil areas, gives you an unparalleled experience regarding  ailments and their treatment by examining the patient with touch  before throwing the switch on machines ? Are extremely strong medicines being advised unnecessarily , and sometimes without informing the patient ?

My household help, "S", suffers from high BP  and takes a daily pill.  She recently had a set of giddy sensations, loss of energy, extreme fatigue and headache, and some doctor gave her two injections (she does not know of what), told her,  her BP was low, but continued her  BP  reducing pills !  He forgot to tell her to stop those pills for a few days till the diagnosis was complete. She then went to my doc , who checked her out, BP, sugar and all, and diagnosed a spondylitic pain which was causing the trouble. The doc taught her some therapeutic neck exercises, 15 days of wearing a neck collar from my vast collection of ankle/knee/wrist/rib/back belts, and all her troubles have gone. 

S and I. Two different scenarios.

We have both undergone  checks recommended for older ladies, that are available today, so things like the Big C etc can be detected early and treated.  These things are useful.  One discusses these reports with one's trusted family doctor and confirms findings.  

What worries me , is what if it had been S in my place, and the doc blithely advised this strong medicine ?  How would she know about it ? That med would have debilitated her and kept her at home, destroying her livelihood. 

I am sure the particular medication I avoided, may be used for some specific traumatic situation or condition. It was not an ordinary pain reliever.  It was neuropathic.

I just wish we question more things and try and understand them before blindly accepting them.   


  1. Very very scary scenario. I hope I always have one 'go to' doctor who can deal with all my health issues, or at least direct me to the right places/people to do so. S is lucky she had you to turn to. Take care and stay healthy!

  2. In January 2013 I switched doctors to one who specializes in geriatrics and kidneys. I hope I have a good experience with him. I also have a sense of my feet losing sensation, sort of the opposite of what you experienced. Lorna

  3. Jeez! I dont believe can the doctor be so bindaas about it :(

    But honestly, I think the younger doctors are definitely more dependent on machines than their actual diagnosis..When I was pregnant with R, I consulted an old male gynac in Bombay, who made me do exactly 2 sonographies in 9 months..the rest of the time, he would feel my tummy and give me feedback..and then when I went to Baroda, the young doctor who helped deliver R, she made me take 5 sonographies in 2 weeks! go figure!

  4. I hope your feet feel better. I have never heard of your condition before. My husband has restless leg syndrome and takes meds for it. His feet used to twitch which woke him up during sleep. A sleep study discovered it. Now, with meds, he is able to sleep through the night.

  5. My husband questions every medication he's advised to take. Must be the engineer in him. I've been too trusting, I think. I really need to be more careful and research every medication. Health providers don't know everything.