Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ligaments & Bone Chips & Migraines, Oh My!

In my last post I apologized for not having written for awhile, and while I wish in this one I could give you some answers as to exactly why that is, unfortunately, I am still waiting on those myself. Life has sort of given me a one-two punch lately of both a significant return of my ankle problems with what is, to date, a 22-day long headache with no known trigger.

Needless to say, it has been a pretty difficult month, but I started this blog to try to help anyone else going through at least part of this same process so I figured it was time to let you know what I've been up to. First, the ankle.

If you'll recall my last few ankle posts, back at Thanksgiving I sprained my ankle doing yard-work. Prior to that, things had been feeling great and I was actually jogging and feeling really good. That sprain never wanted to heal, in spite of my babying it.

In December, I had my one-year follow-up appointment for my All-American surgery. At that point, I told my surgeon about the discomfort on the outside joint of my ankle and said that I felt like I was falling very heavily on the outside of my little toe. He sent me back to physical therapy. I love my PT but boy I am sick of seeing them.

From December through February I went back through PT twice a week. Things got much more serious following our late January Disney trip when I spent two days in a wheelchair. After that trip, I was also dealing with severe Achilles tendinitis, which we resolved after going back into the walking boot for a few weeks, but the pain in the outside joint not only persisted, but got worse.

In mid-February, after trying every trick in her bag, including several weeks in the walking boot, my PT suggested we call the surgeon back up again. Unfortunately, it took over a month to get in to see him, so my appointment with him was only last Tuesday. He palpated my ankle and found a spot that made me break out into a sweat with barely any pressure. I'm going in for an MRI next Monday, but his initial guess is a tear to the anterior talofibular (ATF) ligament with the possibility of a bone chip or spur adding to the fun.

Image from InsideMNSoccer

My follow-up appointment with the surgeon is on the afternoon of the 12th. My husband is actually taking time off of work to come with me, which I'm really grateful for. It is always good to have someone else in the "big" appointments with you to make sure all of the important questions get asked. I find I sometimes get overwhelmed and I either forget what I meant to ask in the first place or don't remember their answers, so it is helpful to have someone else in the room.

To further complicate things, I have had one continuous migraine headache since the evening of March 4th. I got my first migraine back in 2014 but only had two or three until the start of this year when I suddenly was getting them every two or three weeks, typically with full-blown nausea as well. I definitely managed to ruin our Valentine's Day dinner with one of those. But, none of those have ever lasted more than three days. 

Right now I feel like my doctors and I are on two different tracks. They are trying to figure out what drugs will treat my migraines, I am trying to figure out what is causing them. And this right here is really the big problem that I discovered during my shoulder journey. So many doctors seem much more willing to pull the trigger on filling endless scripts instead of trying to take the time to dig down into an underlying cause. 

Last week during my second appointment with my primary care in five days (because, hello, never ending headache) she was able to get me in to see the PA at the neurologist's office in the same building. I have had one single more frustrating appointment in my life, and that was a shoulder doctor who never once touched my shoulder. 

The PA didn't ask me about allergies, my diet, didn't give me even a brief eye exam, simply wrote me a script for three different drugs, including one that is a preventative, which means I will now have to take it every day for the foreseeable future. Oh, and it's an anticonvulsant, so it comes with some pretty nasty potential side-effects (one of my good friends took it and lost so much weight she stopped triggering the airbag on her husband's car). When I asked her what she thought was causing these migraines, she actually shrugged and said that it could be any number of factors  and that there was no real way to tell. When I asked if there were any lifestyle changes she could suggest so I could help prevent these from continuing, she said, "drink a lot of water and get some sleep." 

Needless to say, I was not happy. At this point, I've realized I can't rely on my medical practitioners so need to take my care into my own hands. I called my primary care nurse and got a referral to a chiropractor, with whom I have an appointment on Monday. I also got a referral to my health insurances case management program. I have a lot of medical balls in the air, and hopefully, this person can be an advocate for me to help keep everything sorted. 

I'm trying to think of what else I've got on the calendar. I have a massage scheduled on Wednesday, both to try to help with my migraine and also for my mental health. Next week I scheduled an appointment with the actual neurologist attached to my doctor's office, so hopefully we can discuss other options and try to find out some actual causes. 

So, as I said, it has been a rough month, on top of a rough couple of months, on top of a rough year. But, I'm slowly making progress. I'm trying to think of the headaches as a science experiment. Does taking an antihistamine make it better? Nope, okay then probably not an allergy thing, on to the next project. I've been trying to go through my regular foods too to see if anything makes it better or worse. So far, nothing really seems to have an effect one way or the other.

But, on the plus side, the preventative pill they put me on for the migraines (Topamax) makes carbonated soda taste terrible so I have completely kicked my Diet Coke habit. And, with feeling as awful as I have been, I've actually been eating a lot more fruit and veggies trying to sort of counteract it all. So, there have been some positives!

How to help an Iowan with a headache? Give them a bag of frozen corn.


  1. Hi Jenna. Sorry to read about your recent setbacks. I've read through your blog over the past 2 months as I prepared for and began recovery from a similar procedure 4.5 weeks ago. I'm a male (almost 30), and your blog helped me set my expectations for recovery from the All American "Five in One" foot reconstruction. I've appreciated your openness - thank you.

    I had hoped your lack of entries was because you were doing so well there was no time to post. I hope you are feeling better soon and look forward to your next update.

    1. Mike, thank you so much for your comment. I wish I had better news to share. I'd love to hear how your recovery goes, the best advice I can give is to be patient to yourself and listen to your physical therapist. And if you'd like to do a guest post re: your experiences, let me know!

    2. I'd like that. I may wait a bit until I'm a little further along to post anything thorough though. I get my cast off/boot on this Monday! I'm anxious to hit the PT hard soon, but I'm not sure how my other foot is holding up. I've had increased pain in the opposite foot. Unfortunately, both my feet were pretty bad already so my activity levels were already low.