The Cost of Things

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July 21, 2014 by scratchtype1

Last week I wrote about how there was some minor discomfort down in my lower left shin area. Unfortunately, the discomfort increased some and after Thursday’s run, I made a new observation and came to a decision. The decision was not to run on Friday. The observation was that there was some slight swelling down there along with the left foot. When I probed the area over the tibia bone, there was no pain but swelling — I could push in and make depressions into the flesh. I can do no such thing in the same counterpart area over the right tibia.

Dr Google has led me to think that this may be the development of chronic compartment syndrome. I think it’s that and not compartment syndrome because there has been no sharp pain while running, just a feeling of mild tightness and discomfort. And as the swelling grew and became noticeable to the eye, the tightness got tighter feeling. So I seemingly had a problem of fluid accumulation down in the lower leg. That led me to buying a pair of compression sleeves on Friday. I put one on Friday afternoon and evening. The swelling seemed much less on Saturday, and there was less tightness too. I ran Saturday morning, with compression sleeves on both legs. Nothing special to report with the run except for the fact that my gait didn’t start out all awkward and stiff like it had at the start of Wednesday and Thursday’s runs. I also wore the sleeve on the left again for a couple of hours Saturday evening.

Sunday, the swelling had gone down yet some more, but I decided not to run to take some more rest and recovery, along with how I felt quite stiff all over my body because of work I had done with firewood on Saturday. I put the sleeve on for a walk late in the afternoon.

Swelling is nearly gone today, Monday. I did a short run of 4.32 miles and sleeves on both legs. Again the left leg felt pretty close to normal and now, as I write this shortly afterwards, there doesn’t appear to be any increase in swelling.

So the compression sleeves appear to be working and helping. But I wonder this — is there or are there some costs I’m not aware of? Really, almost everything we do is a matter of some sort of tradeoff. When I began looking at the idea of compression sleeves, I saw lots about their benefits, about how they help improve blood flow back up the legs and help with recovery. But nothing is free. The sleeves themselves aren’t performing any sort of mechanical work, the just provide a pressure gradient that helps to favor flow of blood back up the legs. So therefore they must impede blood flow down the legs.

But presently, it looks like I’ll be using them, at least until all the swelling is gone from the left leg. Once that happens, then I’ll try to run again without the sleeves and monitor the left leg for a return of swelling.

That whole idea of the cost of things made me think again some more about the use of shoes. For most people presently, shoes provide a seemingly obvious and important benefit — protection and comfort. You can very much walk where you want to without too much of worry of something stabby poking the sole and cutting it. You also don’t have to worry about stepping on something slimy or gross. But because presently in modern day culture there are so few examples of people who live mostly barefoot, we don’t realize the costs — costs like the fact that athlete’s foot is a disease of shod populations, that hammer toes are a result of being shod, that plantar fasciitis almost only ever happens to people who wear shoes, that many of us don’t learn to run with our natural gaits, that we don’t get feedback from the multitude of nerves in the soles of the feet. The feet become soft and weak, they don’t receive nearly as much blood circulation as they would if the feet were fully developed and used like the feet of our evolutionary ancestors.

Most everything has some sort of cost. Sometimes the costs are negligible and sometimes they are necessary. But not always, and perhaps not so often as we tend to think.


Because of the injury, the running streak came to an end after 97 days and 538.8 miles. It was disappointing some to come up short of 100 days, but I have no regrets about doing so. To some extent, I had been struggling a bit with it psychologically and had been looking forward to getting past 100 and then taking a rest day for one of those mornings and days where I might not feel inspired enough to run. It was amazing how after I took Friday off, that I felt so much charged up again to run Saturday morning. I had been getting stale with the sense of obligation to run every day. Now that’s gone and I feel more like I can run again because I feel like running.

I’m both optimistic and concerned about the lower left leg. It feels miles better than last week already, but now I worry some that maybe it’s something that’s only going to be managed and never truly go away completely. If that’s the case, I might not be able to do stuff like run more than 45 miles per week. On the other hand, maybe it was just a case of not having ever taking a complete day of rest. So maybe if from now on I keep to a schedule of 5 or 6 days week and one full day of rest, the leg will stay all right. But at least, presently, it’s nothing serious, nothing that will put me on the sidelines away from running. I had genuinely fretted over that late Thursday and during the day on Friday. It was a great relief when I woke up Saturday morning and the leg didn’t feel so awfully tight and then I ran without trouble.

I’m still going to stay away from any hard running this week. Just run easy, see how the leg does. If things are still okay come next Tuesday, then maybe it’ll be time to do some hill repeats again.


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