For several years I’ve suffered from periodic foot pain, which I partly put down to a slipped disc I had about ten years ago and the attendant nerve damage resulting in numbness on the left side of my left foot. I’ve had a couple of bouts of plantar fasciitis but mercifully they’ve been short – they can go on for months so I’ve got off lightly. More of a problem is a pain that curls around my left little toe, pulsing irritatingly every few seconds. When that arrives, it can keep me awake at night and nothing seems to stop it. Eventually this summer I decided to ask the doctor about it. It turned out there’s nothing structurally wrong, and the musculo-skeletal lady at the hospital thought it was due not to any nerve disruption as such, but to a very longstanding irregularity in my gait which pushed the little toe out of alignment and irritates the nerves in between that and the next one. I also have some calcification in the Achilles tendon, which sounds dreadful but can be helped by manipulation and exercise.
The point of mentioning it is not the medical issue itself, but the effort the NHS has put into dealing with it. In addition to the original GP appointment, I had:
Two sessions with the musculo-skeletal specialist
Two sessions to measure for and then fit therapeutic insoles
Two sessions with a physiotherapist
The insoles were a bit of a disaster: it was like having new shoes which couldn't be broken in. Even when I only wore them for a little while each day, I developed such large and painful blisters that in the end I gave up, hoping they might have done their work. However working with the physiotherapist was interesting. He informed me that my toes 'lacked muscle tone', which I would have thought might have been an issue for monkeys rather than human beings, but there you go. I have a range of exercises to do now.
That all this activity is devoted to a tiny, modest twinge in my little toe is very impressive. God alone knows how much it costs - literally, because I doubt the system itself does. I have had my quarrels with the NHS in the past, bits of which arguably killed my father and had a good go at killing other relatives over the years, but I can’t quibble at the attention my toe’s received. Mind you, it may be that like me the medics are tempted to devote more effort than perhaps they should to simple things they know they can probably sort out rather than complex matters they can’t.