Sometimes small, easily overlooked objects are the keys to strong, effective actions. Imagine pulling a bucket on a pulley system up from the bottom of the well. It may be heavy, but the weight is distributed over the wheel and pulling isn’t terribly difficult. If that pulley wheel were to break, or the rope to slide off, you would be stuck pulling the bucket up yourself without help—a much harder task! Something similar happens to your feet when you incur sesamoid injuries.

Small Bones, Big Impact

Sesamoid injuries are any sort of damage done to the two sesamoid bones in your feet. These little bones are different from the others in your lower limbs. They are actually embedded in the tendon that attaches your big toe to muscles in the sole of your foot. Sitting in this connector underneath the first joint of the big toe, they act as pulleys and add leverage and power to that digit. This extra pull helps you push off the ground when you walk or run.

Like any other bones and connective tissues in the body, however, they can be injured. There are three basic injuries that occur: sesamoiditis, turf toe, and fractures. Sesamoiditis is an overuse injury that comes from heavy pressure on the ball of the foot. It causes the tendon around the little bones to become irritated and inflamed. The discomfort in the area develops over time as the inflammation worsens. Turf toe is the traumatic hyperextension of the big toe. The digit is sharply bent backward, stressing the tissues around the joint, including the sesamoids and their tendons. The pain is immediate and often results in a significant weakening of the joint. Fractures occur when the little bones are under a lot of pressure. A hard impact cracks the tissue and causes sudden, sharp discomfort in the ball of the foot, making it unpleasant and difficult to walk.

Since these little bones are important for your foot’s power and efficiency when you push off the ground, their injuries can weaken your steps. Their location underneath the ball of the foot doesn’t help the pain, either. Their placement helps them absorb the weight put on the first metatarsal, but exposes them to uncomfortable pressure when they’re hurt.

Relieving the Pain

Fortunately, there are ways you can treat sesamoid injuries. We will examine your foot thoroughly and determine what kind of damage your forefoot has sustained. We may need diagnostic images to get a clearer picture. Once your discomfort has been accurately diagnosed, we can work with you to determine your best treatment.

Relieving the pressure on the ball of the foot and decreasing inflammation are the keys to eliminating your discomfort. We may recommend orthotics to pad the area and help your foot better absorb shock. Taping or strapping the ball of the foot may help stabilize it as well. Sometimes you may need to immobilize the foot in a boot or a brace for a time to allow the tissues to recover. Physical therapy can help you improve your strength and range of motion. We may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the irritation and relieve pain as well. In severe cases, you may need direct injections of medicine. The majority of all sesamoid injuries are successfully treated using conservative measures, but if your foot isn’t responding to treatments, you may need surgery.

The ball of the foot is a crucial area for your footsteps and lower limb stability. If this area of your foot hurts when you use it, contact the experts at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona in Chandler to have it cared for.