Did you know there are only a few bones in our bodies that aren’t attached to other bones? They’re “floaters,” attached to tendons or muscle. These bones are called sesamoids, and the one that usually comes to mind is the kneecap. But we also have smaller sesamoid bones in our feet. They’re tiny bones at the bottom of your foot, right near your big toe. They’ve been compared to jelly beans or peas. Their small size gives them their familiar-sounding name: sesamoid comes from the Latin word for sesame seed. Those tiny sesamoid bones work hard. They take a lot of impact from body weight and also help us move that all-important big toe. When the tendons around those pea-sized bones become inflamed, that’s sesamoiditis.
What Causes Sesamoiditis?
We often see sesamoiditis in people who are on their feet frequently and folks whose activities put extra pressure on the ball of the foot. Sports, including running, baseball, basketball, football, golf, and tennis, along with ballet and step classes, can be tough on the feet. Footwear also plays a role. Wearing high heels or shoes without enough support can put pressure on the ball of the foot and damage those sensitive tendons around the sesamoid bones.
What Are The Symptoms of Sesamoiditis?
One of the main warning signs of sesamoiditis is pain when walking. Foot pain can lead to overcompensation pain in the legs and back as we try to avoid putting weight on that painful area of the foot.
Here are the main symptoms of sesamoiditis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
- Pain in the ball of the foot near the big toe
- Difficulty bending and straightening the big toe
- Possible bruising and swelling
What Is the Treatment for Sesamoiditis?
The good news is, sesamoiditis rarely requires surgery and can be treated with a conservative approach. Here are some of the treatments your orthopaedist may recommend:
- Footwear is critical, so you may need to change up your shoes. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
- Add a cushioning pad at the ball of the foot to relieve stress on the bones.
- Take a break from the activities that may contribute to sesamoiditis. Try swimming for a few weeks instead of running.
- Return to your favorite activities gradually and wear your cushioning pad as you get back to your sport.
- Your doctor may suggest taping your big toe in a downward-pointing direction to relieve pressure on the sesamoid bones.
- Your orthopaedist may recommend a steroid injection to ease swelling.
- In more severe cases, you may need a removable leg brace and crutches to keep you off the foot.
- Physical therapy, including ultrasound, heat therapy, and soft tissue massage, can help relieve pain and speed healing.
How Can I Prevent Sesamoiditis?
Preventing sesamoiditis is all about being mindful of the choices we make that put pressure on the ball of the foot. Here are a few things we can do to stay active while avoiding stress on our feet:
- Wear comfortable shoes with the right amount of support.
- Avoid high heels.
- Ask your orthopaedist about orthotics to take the pressure off high-impact spots on the feet.
- Runners and athletes: ask your coach or trainer about mechanics that can cause sesamoiditis. Find ways to reduce stress on the ball of the foot by holding and moving your body differently.
Sesamoiditis Pain? Your Orthopaedist Can Help
When it comes to the feet, the smallest bones can cause the biggest problems. Our feet are the workhorses of the body and take abuse from overuse and poor footwear choices. Sesamoiditis can be one of the most painful conditions we encounter and can throw our whole gait out of whack. At Countryside Orthopaedics, we understand the importance of every bone in the foot. We can generally treat sesamoiditis conservatively and effectively: let’s look at physical therapy, temporary lifestyle changes, and the right footwear. Don’t let pain stand in your way–it’s time to get moving again.