Pain & Perspective

In 2009, it took about five visits (and nearly $1000) to my physical therapist to get over my plantar fascitis, which had been bothering me since 2000.

For almost a decade, I’d been going to a podiatrist who gave me orthotics and splints and kept me coming back every few months. This only managed the problem.

Eventually the pain got so bad and I heard about this amazing Physical Therapist Lyn Paul Taylor, so I went to Lyn and he fixed me up in a few weeks. Afterwards, I made sure to wear shoes with cushioned insoles and had no further problems.

In 2010, I heard about the book Born to Run and one of my teachers wondered if I would not be better off without any insoles. So eventually I dropped my insoles and my feet started getting sore. My plantar fascitis finally returned with a vengeance, particularly after 10 miles of walking one Sabbath about six weeks ago.

So after three visits to my PT, I still felt stabbing pain in my left foot so that I had a real hitch in my giddy up.

I felt quite discouraged. What was the point of visiting my PT so many times if he couldn’t make it better?

So I went back for a fourth visit Friday and my PT explained that my pain was localizing. While it used to be that my whole foot hurt, now only one point on my foot hurt, but that one point took up more of my attention and hence I felt like I was in worse shape than I was.

Over the next hour, my PT knocked out my pain.

I was impressed by how distorted my perception of reality was. I thought I was getting worse while in fact I was getting better. With each visit, I was getting significantly better, even though much of the time it did not feel that way. Our perceptions are flawed. We can’t rely on our feelings to guide our decisions.

I took a friend with bad feet trouble to my PT and he never went back after one session because he said it had increased his pain. So instead he chose to change constrict his life rather than to keep going back to somebody who could’ve fixed him up and enable him to lead a normal life. But my friend preferred to be right (and for me to be wrong) and to believe that my PT could not fix him. My friend prefers to live a constricted life and to be right rather than to be free and to be grateful.

My PT says our feet are not made for walking on hard surfaces all the time and he recommends wearing padded insoles shoes (as advised by the Dr Scholl’s foot-mapping machines).

When I stepped on the Dr Scholl’s foot-mapping machine at Bed, Bath & Beyond in 90064, I was amazed when the machine told me to lean forward. I thought I was standing straight up. I thought after all my years of Alexander Technique training that I would have an accurate perception of reality. I was wrong. When I leaned forward, I felt like I was tipping forward, but when I looked down, I saw instead that I was standing straight. My natural tendency is to tip back from my waist and to compress my lower back.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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