The sesamoid bones are those bones that are not connected to any other bones, but are instead held in place by tendons or muscles. Such sesamoids can be found throughout the body, including in the knee (yes, your kneecaps!), in the feet, hands, wrists, neck, and ears. Though sesamoid bones function differently than other bones, they can of course become injured as well.
Besides fractures, another common injury to the sesamoid bones is sesamoiditis, in which the tendons around a sesamoid bone become inflamed. While the term "sesamoiditis" can refer to an inflammation of any sesamoid bone, it is typically used in the context of an inflamation of the sesamoid bones within the toes.
What Causes Sesamoiditis?
Sesamoiditis is common in those who overuse the sesamoid bones of the toes, most notably professional dancers, runners, and athletes. However, it can also occur in anyone who has recently become more active — sesamoiditis can even strike after you've been on a hike, for example. Those with high arches and bony feet (lacking fat) are at an increased risk of developing sesamoiditis.
Sesamoiditis will usually start as a mild ache that's easy to ignore. If you do ignore it, though, it will gradually get worse to the point where you begin experiencing real discomfort.
Symptoms Of Sesamoiditis
If you're dealing with sesamoiditis, your pain will be concentrated just below the big toe where the "ball" of your foot is. Whereas fractures of the sesamoid bones will lead to acute pain, bruising, and swelling, sesamoiditis comes on gradually and will not typically cause any bruising. Bending your big toe, however, will lead to discomfort. Sesamoiditis that was left untreated for too long can result in a pain severe enough to interfere with walking.
I Think I have Sesamoiditis — What Now?
See a doctor, of course! After being asked questions about your symptoms and their time of onset, as well as about your general lifestyle and activity level, your podiatrist will conduct a clinical examination. X-rays are used to verify the diagnosis of sesamoiditis.
One SteadyHealth reader asked if their sesamoiditis would be "forever". The good news is that sesamoiditis isn't just not permanent, but there is also a very good chance that you will not even need surgery to correct the problem.
In many cases, simply resting your foot for a while will do the trick. Stop those activities that are causing your sesamoiditis. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen will help ease your pain as well as reducing the inflammation. Ice packs can help too.
Your orthopaedic specialist will also give you advice on the type of shoes to wear, may tell you to use cushioning pads within your shoes to take pressure off the ball of your foot, and may recommend that you tape your big toe down in a certain way. If necessary, you may also receive steroid injections to ease the inflammation.
Only if reduced activity levels combined with these fairly simple treatments do not work may surgery be considered. This is very rare, however. In any case, with or without surgery, you will certainly recover from sesamoiditis!
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