Many of you are familiar with my photography, but this article aims to reveal a lesser know part of me.

My calf muscles are the same size as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s!!

Although I have spent plenty of time in the gym like Arnie, my massive calves are the result of mountain hiking. No steroids! I measured them at 20 inches – the same size as Arnie’s when he rose to fame as a body-builder.

Unfortunately, this story of bulging muscles is not as happy as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. These huge calves are the cause of much pain and suffering. If you want a happy story with a happy ending please navigate to another page now. I recommend this one about cats.

Schwarzenegger claves

Do not adjust your screen, these are my calf muscles (quite badly photographed).

Arnold Schwarzenegger 2003.jpg
By Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Arnie acknowledging my huge muscles!

Once upon a time…

Lets wind back the clock to where this accidental body building started…

As a child I was a toe walker. This is a fascinating issue and although more is known about “toe-walking” these days, back then it was just considered an oddity. I remember my mother telling me to walk “heel – toe” to try to encourage me to walk normally. Other relatives tried to correct this also. This is the best thing to do for a toe walking child, because as you will find out the consequences of walking like this in early childhood can be horrible.

What causes toe walking in a child?

There are many theories out there that toe walking is a symptom of childhood anxiety, but also an indicator of Autism and Spina Bifida Occulta. One thing is for sure, my calves are too short. Whether this is the result of toe walking or the cause of toe walking, I’m not sure. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Around 5 years old I started walking normally – could have been peer pressure. After this I suffered bad ankle sprains and ankle stiffness (aged 14) which is another syptom of short calves. Apart from this, my calves were fairly uneventful until I reached adulthood.

Michael McIntyre

Michael McIntyre was also a toe walker with massive calves.

Adult hood – ouch!!

When I started driving, one of my biggest concerns was “How do I hold my foot on the gas pedal?”. It seemed ridiculous to me that I would have to hold my foot in such an upward flex. I managed by resting the side of my foot on the foot-well panel.

As I reached my twenties, I became a walker. Sometimes I would go out for a 20 mile walk! This led to excruciating big toe pain in my early twenties. The doctored diagnosed this as Gout (in a 21 year old!!). Here started my relationship with ibubrofen – each visit to the doctors would end with a prescription for Allopurinal and anti-inflammatory drugs. The gout diagnosis stuck on my records for over twenty years as the pain in my toe steadily increased. The pain and suffering cost me jobs & relationships. Employers didn’t want staff who take 2 week sick leave on a regular basis.

In 2014, my condition took a turn for the worse. I started waking up with crippling pain in my feet, ankles and Achilles tendon. I noticed hardly any circulation below my calf muscles. My feet were literally dying! This wasn’t gout!

Ignoring the doctors (who hadn’t even examined my feet), I decided to take my issue into my own hands. I was just fed up with the blood tests and ibuprofen prescriptions – why does it always have to be chemical? Nobody was addressing the mechanics of my feet and legs, so that’s what I did. A few visits to youtube gave me more information than 30 years of going to the doctors.

So what did I find?

The closest explanation to what was going on is “Chronic Myofascial Syndrome”. This is a condition where the sack that holds the muscles becomes out of shape. This leads to a form of Peripheral neuopathy and intense pain. The lack of circulation made this a downward spiral. Throw a serious Plantar Fasciitis into the mix for fun!! Spiraling out of control preventing me from living a normal life. And this was at the time when I was reaching my prime as a photo guide. Many tours had to be cancelled over the following 2 years, when I wasn’t even able to put shoes on. Walking around my apartment on crutches is not fun when you are watching your colleagues earning a good living. I lost all my money – all I had was my tour business, but my income was severely reduced.

I still suffer, but I am pleased to report that I have reversed the condition somewhat. Using foam rollers, spiky massage balls, compression socks and massage therapists, I have brought the circulation back to my feet. This is key to recovery. There is no chance of recovering without circulation, but it was understanding the mechanics of my calf muscles and the Myofascial sheath that helped the most. The Myofascial sheath

I realise now that my life style of photographing the ice beach was to blame for the worsening of the condition. I was driving several hours (bad position for legs) then squatting on the ice beach to take those photos. This put extra strain on my Achilles tendon. Then the drive back for several hours (poor circulation again).

Myofascial Syndrome

I wouldn’t actually say that this is a syndrome, rather symptoms of a poorly fitting fascia. The fascia has been severely overlooked. Just recently we are starting to understand how it acts as a neural net for the muscles. The best explanation for what is going wrong is if you put a glove on your hand wrong (like a small child) so that you have 2 fingers in one finger, leaving an empty finger. Wearing a glove like this reduces your dexterity and control, try playing the piano like this. Just like the fascia that is sending both contract and relax signals to the same muscle.

(maybe too simplistic explanation – but it might help someone)

Well maybe this will help someone in a similar situation. What ever your pain, don’t give up.

Update: May 2019
I have dramatically recovered from my crippling condition after some spinal adjustments with a Chiropractor in Malaysia. I had a severely twisted vertebrae from applying ice crampons on a standing position. I have also recently confirmed Spina bifida occulta which could also have had an effect.

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