An antique overstuffed chair caught my attention on the American Queen stern wheeler because of its unattached oddly shaped footrest. The boat was richly furnished with antiques to enhance its historic significance. The huge paddle wheel methodically moved the boat northward along the Mississippi river when I went aboard to celebrate the two hundredth year after the Lewis & Clark expedition began in St Louis, Missouri, in 1803. On this cute little piece of furniture the foot could rest comfortably without raising the entire leg as I prefer when I rest my feet in my recliner. Turns out the footrest was specially designed to comfort a frequent condition, called gout, suffered by richly wined and dined seventeenth century bureaucrats. Well I thought gout was limited to centuries past.
When my little toe was irritated last week by the least pressure I was annoyed to say the least. Why my little toe? And why now? There are twenty some joints in each foot and considering the walking, running, jumping, and perching on ladders I’ve indulged in all these years I am not surprised those joints act up now and then. Nevertheless the curiosity about gout had me racing to my encyclopedias for clear definition of the malady.
Overproduction of uric acid which accumulates in the blood inflames the joints usually in the foot, big toe most likely. Caused by a defect in the body’s natural action of breaking down certain proteins, uric acid crystals are deposited in the cartilage and tissue surrounding the joints. I felt those sharp crystals big time in my knee joints when walking down from the summit of South Sister near Bend, Oregon, a few years ago. Lucky for me I do not have the genetic predisposition to overproduce uric acid but I do need to take care during long walks that entail steep downhill trails. Uric acid is present in all human bodies. Overabundance of sodium biurate, as it was called seventy years ago, brews crystals that are all too willing to bully my knee joints.
These days as soon as the malady is diagnosed mitigating action is undertaken; restricted diet, vigorous exercise, and now anti inflammation drugs. But when it occurred in days of yore (isn’t that a quaint expression?) it was too painful to wear shoes or even think of standing on the foot, hence the need for special furniture before the problem was understood. Finally science intervened. But then again perhaps comfortable furniture evolved from the earlier concept because it simply feels good to put our feet up. At any rate it turns out that I can activate a footrest on my favorite piece of furniture known as a recliner. Such progress! And no gout required.