Understanding Your Anatomy
Your feet and ankles are complex biomechanical structures comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, nearly 30 muscles, and more than 100 tendons and ligaments that work together to enable weight bearing and movement. While most of the bones in your feet (and your body) connect to other bones, the sesamoid bones are surrounded by tendons. These two, small, round bones sit under the big toe joint near the ball of the foot, reinforcing the tendon. They also act like pulleys and provide a smooth surface for the tendon to glide over.
Sesamoiditis Causes and Risk Factors
The tendons in your feet can become inflamed due to overuse or some type of injury. When the corn kernel-size sesamoid bones embedded in these tendons also become inflamed, the resulting condition is known as sesamoiditis. Although anyone can suffer from this painful podiatric issue, it's particularly common in people who participate in activities that involve frequently transferring weight to the ball of the foot such as runners, dancers, baseball catchers, and other athletes. However, people who have high arches, flat feet, or gout, or those who wear high heels or overpronate (roll the foot slightly inward) when they walk are also at risk for sesamoiditis.
Signs and Symptoms of Sesamoiditis
- Pain under the big toe near the ball of your foot
- Problems bending or straightening your big toe
- Difficulty standing, bearing weight, or walking on the affected foot
- Swelling and inflammation
- Visible deformity of the foot
These signs and symptoms often appear gradually, beginning with a dull ache under the big toe. (This differs from the symptoms of a sesamoid bone fracture, in which pain is severe and immediate.) Without treatment, these symptoms will progressively worsen and may eventually make standing, walking, or completing other basic tasks impossibly painful.
Diagnosing and Treating Sesamoiditis
Sesamoiditis can often be diagnosed by discussing your symptoms and medical history with your podiatrist and undergoing a thorough physical examination that includes checking for tenderness in the ball of the foot and testing the mobility of the big toe joint. When more information is needed, podiatrists may also conduct a Passive Axial Compression test or recommend X-rays, ultrasounds, bone scans, CT scans, MRIs, or other imaging tests.
The longer you wait to see a podiatrist for help, the longer it can take to recover from sesamoiditis. Recovering from a severe case of sesamoiditis can take months. Staying off your feet for months on end can be particularly difficult for athletes and people who enjoy living an active lifestyle. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can get back on your feet and back in the game.
Sesamoiditis Treatment Options
- R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Physical therapy
- Custom orthotics
- PRP injections
- Shockwave therapy
Talk to a Long Island Podiatrist About Your Foot Pain
Our podiatrists will evaluate your feet and work to get to the bottom of your big toe or ball of foot pain. We'll help you explore your treatment options and create a custom recovery plan that you can feel confident about. Complete our contact form, or call us at 516-541-9000 (toll-free 877-674-7422) to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fox or Dr. LoBello. If you have questions about a podiatric condition or the treatments and services we provide, browse our FAQs.