Updated on January 16, 2017
Treating and curing Sesamoiditis
This post is probably not going to appeal to many folks, but I want to share my experiences in dealing with sesamoiditis. I am not a doctor or expert or anything smart like that. There is no Dr. SCB, so take my advise as a grain of sea salt. Just sharing some positive things that are working for me after searching the ‘net and finding a bunch of Debbie downers and negativity. Sesamoiditis is treatable, curable and no, it’s not the end of the world if you get it.
A little background:
I have had sesamoiditis off and on in both feet for about a year and a half now. Sometimes both feet want to join the party at the same time, and other times they like to trade off being punks. Lovely.
Sure, you can find a lot of information on the internet about it, but I wanted more of a comprehensive understanding of how it develops, why it takes so dang long to heal, and a bunch of other intricate questions. The Type A in me has to understand how things work and why they happen. And yes, this makes my husband crazy in case you are wondering. 😉
Sesamoiditis is a form of tendonitis. There are two tiny bones about the size of kernels of corn embedded in tendons under the big toe joint. They are not attached to other bones so they kinda float in tendons. Their primary function is to help raise and lower the big toe with each step.
Because of these bones are weight bearing, they are prone to becoming injured and/or inflamed and tough to heal. We are always using our feet, and the only break they get to repair & heal is while we sleep. Unfortunately healing takes a lot longer than that once they become irritated and inflamed. I have found some ways to help speed healing along and want to share them with you. But first, before we get into what has worked and is currently working for me, you should know a few things:
- I am not a doctor or anything that comes close to one. These are all based on my personal experience and research. Please do your own research and investigating. These are just tips that will hopefully give you a good start at healing.
- Do not believe everything you read on the internet. There are some really helpful sites, but I’ve also read a butt ton of sites/threads of Debbie Downers that make me shake my head. It is 100% possible to heal sesamoiditis. I don’t care what anyone else says. I am living proof of it.
- We are only talking about sesamoiditis. Not a stress fracture, complete fracture or anything else.
- To completely heal, you MUST be diligent and take healing seriously the entire time. You have to become more stubborn than the injury itself.
Are you ready to heal some bones??
That sounded really awkward uh….good thing I never claimed to act mature.
- A lot of pain and stiffness in the ball of foot, big toe and joint. It feels like a pokey ball sticker that won’t come out. <-Technical terms, because we’re classy like that.
- Unable to bend big toe up while walking. Therefore I walked with a gangsta limp, using the outside of my foot.
- Swelling and redness especially when warm. For example right after a shower.
- Symptoms will not go away on their own and get worse with time.
According to my podiatrists (I saw 2 for this) it can take up to one full year to heal.
My response to them: Wanna bet?
I love a good challenge and I knew between my stubborn personality and my super amazing PT ninja, there was no way it was going to take that long. And I was right.
My most recent case and one that I am dealing with right now, was diagnosed on August 31, 2015 and started treatment the following day, September 1st. Since I have tried just about everything under the moon and stars. Heck, my husband even made custom orthotics that work a gazillion times better than the expensive ones my podiatrist gave me. (We’ll get to that soon.) I wanted to share some things that are helping. I will also update you guys as we work through this, kick it’s butt and learn how to prevent it from coming back.
Here are my recommendations:
- Take sesamoiditis very seriously. If you are not 100% committed to getting better, you won’t. This was learned the hard way on my part.
- The first thing you need to focus on, is getting the inflammation down.
- Ice both feet 2-3 times a day for 15-20 minutes. Rest them as much as possible. One of the reasons why it takes so long to heal is because the vessel leading to the sesamoid bones is so tiny. Any inflammation can restrict the blood flow which hinders healing and in worse cases the bones could actually die. Finding this out was enough for me to start taking sesamoiditis a lot more seriously.
- After icing, elevate your feet above the heart to promote circulation. I did this for about 10 minutes 2-3 times a day. Sometimes I kicked my feet up on the back of the couch while watching tv or chilling out on my phone.
- Take an anti inflammatory if you can tolerate it right away. I started with Advil for a few days, then asked my doctor for a more natural approach. He recommended turmeric, glucosamine & chondroitin and fish oil. When combined they become an excellent anti inflammatory. After a few days, the glucosamine & chondroitin upset my stomach, so I stopped taking it, but I’m still taking the others and they seem to be working.
- Gently massage the areas that are painful and tender to start breaking up scar tissue and bring circulation to the area. Gently stretch the big toe up & down to help with range of motion and relieve stiffness.
- Calf stretches 2-3 times a day. The calf muscle is connected to the sesamoid tendons, and I have found huge pain relief stretching it out.
- Start physical therapy ASAP. This has helped me tremendously. There is no way I would have made the progress I have without it.
- Find a supportive shoe with a wide toe box. I highly recommend Altra Running shoes. The Torin 1.5 are hands down my favorite, but I also love wearing the Intuition 2.0 at work. I’ve heard really good things about the Hoka One One brand, so maybe look into them as well.
- Once the injury is stabilized & under control enough to move a bit, get into the pool. I’m not a swimmer, so I took up pool running. It brings down inflammation, increases circulation which flushes out the sesamoid area, helps with range of motion and you feel amazing. I do 30 minutes about 3-4 times a week.
- We are busy and life moves on with or without pain, we have to keep moving. So you are going to want to sort of “float” the sesamoid area in your shoes. Dancers pads and Dr. Jills gel dancer pads were recommended by my podiatrist, but they actually caused more pain for me. They might work for you though! I also have Morton’s Neuroma which flared up when offsetting pressure to that area. My feet are just a barrel of fun.
- My husband is very handy and made a pair of orthotics to float the area using a YouTube video, a $10 memory foam mat & some foam glue from Home Depot. I kid you not!! The man is a freaking genius. When I put them in, I started to walk normal and pain free almost right away. Let me know if you would like a tutorial or video on how he made them.
- Never go to bed with inflamed feet.
- Never walk barefoot. For me, putting on shoes when I get out of bed was not practical, so I picked up a pair of stiff soled slippers at Target to wear around the house. I didn’t use them to clean or do anything other than to make coffee and sit in my chair which is far better than walking around barefoot.
- Once you are on the mend, consult your physical therapist about starting a strength training program. Chances are, there might be a muscle imbalance/weakness that caused sesamoiditis. Of course there are other reasons this happens, so try to figure out what the cause was, so you can make changes to prevent it. For me, it was a combination of ‘skinny feet’ & hip surgery right before Christmas. I never used crutches and walked funky so my feet overcompensated.
My progress one month into treatment:
Right foot, which was the worse one is about 95% healed.
Left foot, which was fine until about 3 weeks ago is about 85% healed.
I met with my podiatrist today to add more padding to my custom orthotics. He LOVED the custom ones Mike made BTW! I wanted to make sure these are going to be a long term solution and he said after getting the custom orthotics dialed in, I should be fine. Crossing my fingers.
I hired a trainer to put together a strength training program for the next 90 days and there’s talk about getting back into RUNNING soon!! This makes my heart so happy but terrifies me at the same time. I’ve been injured for so long my confidence is pretty low. Good thing I love a challenge, right?!
If you have any other questions or tips, please feel free to reach out!! I hope this post gives other sesamoiditis suffers hope.
**Edited: Update on Sesamoiditis as of January 2017 may be found here.**