sesamoiditis can sideline athletesFor some reason, this summer is shaping up to be the season for sesamoiditis. What is this strange-sounding condition?

Let's start with the sesamoids, a pair of tiny bones about the size of a kidney bean located under the ball of the foot. As small as they are they play a large role in how the foot functions: 1) they help the big toe move normally and 2) provide leverage and absorb the weight from increased pressure on the ball of the foot, particularly during sports such as running, golf, tennis, and ballet.

Because these bones receive so much extra pressure when we're very active, it's not uncommon for the sesamoids and the surrounding tissue to become chronically inflamed, resulting in sesamoiditis.

In the past few weeks, I've had several patients I've diagnosed with sesamoiditis--all were active in running and other sports and had a high arched foot. One also had been wearing flip flops much too often. Other causes of sesamoiditis in younger women are high heel wearers and those with eating disorders or irregular periods who develop osteoporosis, which can weaken the sesamoids.

Treatment for Sesamoiditis

  • Rest - if you're in pain take a few days off from your usual physical activities. If you don't know the cause make sure you see a podiatrist or foot doctor that can make the proper diagnosis.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
  • Ice the inflamed area - apply ice 20 mins on and then 20 mins off.
  • Wear shoes with a low heel - lower heels take the pressure off the ball of the foot.
  • Cushion your foot - a dancer's pad gets inserted into your shoe to help relieve the pain.

For longer-term treatment of sesamoiditis, orthotics are often recommended to balance the pressure put on the ball of the foot.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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