Can repetitive trauma/compression cause EM?

I’m new to EM and this site. Here’s my story. On December 31, 2009 my feet suddenly started burning and walking became painful. In February 2010 I learned I had peripheral neuropathy (PN) and was diabetic. Through regular exercise I got back to my high school weight.
In Nov. 2013 I purchased an elliptical machine. Unfortunately, I used the machine incorrectly. Instead of keeping my feet flat on the pedals, I aggressively pushed off, repeatedly toe jamming doing 5 to 7 miles a day. The fact that my big toes veer off to the sides from severe bunions exacerbated the problem by putting undue pressure on the sides of my big toes and balls of my feet, where a major nerve runs.
By Feb. 2014, the outer halves of my big toes were numb. (Until the elliptical, my PN symptoms were minimal due to 3000 mg gabapentin.) When I asked my neurologist about my newfound numbness and its odd pattern, she was unconcerned and noncommittal. She thought it could even be my diabetic PN progressing --though my blood sugar was excellent and I was her “best diabetes patient.” Thinking the numbness meant the nerves were dead and I could do no further damage, I maintained my workouts.
In Sept. 2014, my big toes and balls of my feet suddenly became hypersensitive to pressure and the simple act of walking. Burning, electric shocks and stabbing sensations plagued me when I walked, especially in the big toes and balls of my feet. Belatedly, I Googled “numb toes and elliptical,” and learned temporarily numb toes are not uncommon in healthy folks who use ellipticals. I stopped exercising. I had to walk on my heels and the sides of my feet. I started soaking my feet in cold water to stop the burning. I stopped driving and became basically housebound.
In 2015 my symptoms spread to encompass 2/3 of each foot. April 25 to 27, I felt things changing in my feet. On July 27, my second appointment with my new neurologist, I was diagnosed with EM and (surprisingly mild) large-fiber neuropathy. My EM is now full-blown. It has progressed from slight redness in my right foot in late May, to both feet and my lower right leg and knee. I’ve also developed full-blown Raynauds. I’m on 3600 mg gabapentin and 450 mg mexiletine. If I’m on my feet more than 30 minutes, they begin to burn and the soles feel like 1000 bee stings. I fear that gardening and being on my feet for any length of time may be a thing of the past. The only exercise I get is standing on a heavily padded platform my husband built over the pedals of my elliptical so I can stand and work the handlebars of the machine.
I still wonder if my elliptical caused my EM. My doctors only ever applauded my exercise regime. Exercise is good, but the wrong kind of exercise for a PN patient with already damaged nerves is dangerous --or maybe it was EM all along.
Beth L

Hi Beth L, I can't answer your question whether the trauma to your toes could have caused the EM or whether it was in your future all along. But what I wanted to say is well done on the exercise, I'm sure it has made an incredible difference to the management of your diabetes and heart health. I'm so sorry that the EM is taking exercise away from you. I was wondering whether if you swapped your eliptical for a recumbent bike this might prove a workable alternative as it's non-weight bearing. It's the best alternative for me and the joint problems I have in my knees and feet so long as I take care of my hips.

Jules G, thanks so much for your kind words. Unfortunately I have chronic coccydynia (tailbone pain). It makes sitting difficult for any length of time, even with the pillows that follow me wherever I go. (I lost my job in 2002 over my inability to sit all day.) Swimming is out, too, because I have moderate to severe cervical spondylosis (a painful arthritic neck). The orthopedic spinal surgeon I saw advised against swimming to prevent more wear and tear on my neck: I wear a soft collar to bed at night to keep my neck in a neutral position.

The irony does not escape me that in trying to be healthy, I may have created a much worse problem. I always thought I could deal with my sitting issues because I still had my feet. I could work out, walk, dig in my garden, stand at my tall table to craft, etc. I feel as if my worst nightmare has come true, and I can’t wake up from it.

Beth L

Hi Beth L, that is such a shame that sitting activities are out as well. I'm great sitting, rubbish standing, so I can totally relate to the 'deal' you do with yourself ... I have psoriatic arthritis and figured that so long as it left my knees alone I'd be able to get by. Then my knees joined in, got damaged and now I can only stand or walk for the shortest while. Swimming is a killer for me too, but I do go to hydrotherapy once a week and exercise in the water with a physio. It's great ... and when I feel really rubbish I use two 'noodle' floats, one under my bottom and one under my shoulders to simply float (it's even better with an inflatable neck float). Flap and float I call it, it is the most amazing and relaxing feeling when I'm hurting.

I can just about manage some of the deadheading in the garden so I've had to get good at directing my husband and for what he doesn't have much time for we pay for a gardener. It's not the same, I didn't realise how much enjoyment, stress-relief and general feel-good factor I got from getting my own hands dirty. I can't believe that yesterday I was actually looking at artificial hanging baskets instead of making my own up each season :-(

I'm about to embark on my first craft project in a very long time - I'm making small stockings and mittens for a Christmas advent calender decoration for my fireplace - I figure three months until the beginning of December should be long enough for me to do a little and often. Something I do have and use when I need to sit but be able to move easily is a wheeled saddle stool, it's a completely different pressure point to regular sitting, just wondering if you've tried one. This is what I have:

Stick with us here for support and friendship, it makes all the difference for those total nightmare days when you feel as if your whole life is imploding.

When I first started having EM symptoms, some 20 years ago, I associated it with rollerblading. It does seem like a chicken-and-egg kind of thing…which came first? But they definitely occurred together. Such a pity; it was the only halfway athletic thing I ever did and a lot of fun.