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Please consider a donation if you feel the blog has helped you. A $5 donation will help me pay for the blog artwork, guest writers, etc. As of 9/28, $285 has been donated in the month of September 2016. I am very grateful. Dr Rich Blake


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About Me

San Francisco, CA, United States
I have been a podiatrist for 34 years now and I am excited about sharing what I have learned on this blog. I love to exercise, especially basketball and hiking. I love to travel. I am very happily married to Patty, and have 2 wonderful sons Steve and Chris, a great daughter in law Clare, my new grandson Henry, and a grand dog Felix.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Sesamoid Injury: Email Advice

Hi Dr Blake,

I found your blog about 6 months back and read through much of the guidance you have provided for healing sesamoids. It was very helpful in terms of level-setting us on how long this type of injury can take to heal.  My (now) 11 year old daughter was diagnosed approximately 1 year ago via an MRI with a stress fracture in her left foot tibial sesamoid. She wore a boot for 4 months, going to PT weekly for massage and some range of motion exercises. We purchased an Exogen in November and used it consistently for 4 months. In January she transitioned out of the boot into running shoes, with a carbon fiber plate under a Type-3 (High Arches) orthotic from FootScientific. A second MRI in February showed that the stress fracture was not healed ("no significant change as compared to the prior MRI"). The MRI also showed "multiple small ganglion cysts arising from the plantar aspect of the second and third TMT joints." So we PE, no sports, other than some swimming.
Dr Blake's comment: The bone stimulator definitely clouds the picture since it will increase the bone metabolism for healing, making the stress fracture bone reaction seem unchanged. So, as long as you can keep the pain level between 0-2 you try to increase activity gradually at this point. I typically love the bone stimulator for 6-9 months, well after someone is back to full activity. 

In May, an office xray at our Pediatric Ortho showed partial healing. Finally some good news! We added ART massage to our regime. Our ART has found a lot of tension and stress in her hip/lower back area and feels like this could be contributing to the inflammation and pain that she still has. She would typically be pain free for 2-3 days after seeing the ART. So, we were encouraged. (Btw, when the stress fracture occurred she had just gone through a big growth spurt and with a fairly tall muscular build, had lost a lot of range of motion in her feet due we think to tight muscles and Achilles not keeping pace with bone growth.) So she did summer swim team, I held my breath every time she went off the blocks and this went fine - no increase in pain. We dropped PT at this point since she was doing ART and swimming 3x/week.

July rolls around and we decide that with school and her soccer season approaching it was time to test the foot a little bit. She went to a 3.5 day indoor volleyball camp, but with the restriction of no jumping/low impact activity only. (At this age, there isn't a lot of 'volleying' that goes on anyway.) This went fine and she was encouraged. So a couple of weeks later she tried some soccer - a half day workshop at an indoor soccer facility. She came home in tears convinced that she had reinjured the foot. That was 2 weeks ago. My hope was that it was sore and maybe inflamed, but hopefully not injured. The pain has lessened, but still higher than prior to trying the soccer.
Dr Blake's comment: I am so sorry for this problem. She is definitely in the Return to Activity Phase, although flareups are common, and some need 4-7 days of return to boot occasionally. I hope you have been icing after each practice, at least once a day, continuing to do a daily flush of the bone swelling with contrast bathing (minimum 3 evenings a week), and maximizing dancer's padding and cluffy wedges in the shoes she is participating in sports.

Adding to all of this - is that she regularly has pain on the tops of both feet at the base of her toes and in the right sesamoid as well as the left. Even during the May/June months when ART seemed to be helping, within a few days, she would have pain. Some days sesamoids, but more often on the tops of her feet. Her pain level is not high, she tolerates it and doesn't complain with regular activities unless she is on her feet for a long period. So, I'd say 2-3 levels.
Dr Blake's comment: This whole immobilization and body compensations process makes other areas hurt. This is why no limping is allowed in Return to Activity Phase. Also, this is why you ice and contrast bath, get some arch supports, and sometimes tape. You could try the contrasts and suppport the foot taping to see how that works.

Prior to all this happening, she had a lot of ankle pain and we put her in a stabilizer running shoe which helped significantly with that pain. So this has been about a 2.5 year journey so far, trying to understand why at such a young age she has persistent ankle/foot pain and how to address. I kind of feel like her stride/gait may be completely out of whack after all this - she favors her feet in different ways on different days and that moves the pain around? But I have no real evidence of this - watching her stride there is nothing obvious to the untrained eye.
Dr Blake's comment: Tell her that it is the sesamoid pain we want to avoid, and protect with dancer's pads, and the other pain we need her to work through. Unless the pain is consistent, you almost have to ignore it. Her nervous system is on such high alert for any pain whatsoever, that pain is now magnified. Children always have a problem differentiating between good and bad pain, and in this scenario, any pain can seem bad, which triggers inflammation and compensatory gait and muscle activities. Some physical therapists are just wonderful in this world. 

We see our Dr. next week and should get a read on how the fracture looks. But I have had a hard time getting him to look at the big picture. I am considering a running expert, or maybe even a chiropractor at this point... We also have a prescription for a gait/running analysis from PT that we haven't done because she isn't supposed to run...
Dr Blake's comment: You are definitely thinking along the same lines as I, although I tend to work more with PTs knowledgeable in biomechanics. 

I know I crammed a lot of info into this note, but if you have any guidance on what to ask next, what to try, etc., it would help us greatly to have that input. Her soccer season started this week, but she has not gone. Sitting out PE again is really going to be hard for her as she starts middle school.
Dr Blake's comment: As long as she has some inserts and sesamoid padding to off weight the fracture, she should start on a walk run program. It takes a minimum of one month to get up to thirty minutes of running straight, but at this stage, it is better than an xray to tell us where she is at. I sure hope this helps. Rich

Thank You!

And the patient response 7 weeks later.

Hi Dr. Blake, 

I'm following up on your August 6, blog post to my email. It has taken me a while to reply, partly because of the craziness of school starting, but also because things took a little bit of an unexpected turn with my daughter's recovery. At our 8/11 appointment, our Dr. was pleased with the xrays - he didn't go as far as to say the fracture was healed, but ordered custom orthotics and told us that if her pain levels were improved after several weeks of wearing them to start to gradually ramp her activity. She has high arches, so his objective was to take some of the pressure off the ball of her foot and base of her toes and add some extra support with a met pad (at least that is what I can make out in the prescription).

We had the orthotics made and she has had them for 1 month tomorrow. They have helped significantly with her pain, especially the pain she had been consistently having at the base of her 2-4th metatarsals. Some occasional pain in the sesamoids, but usually easily correlated to a day or activity where she "did more." So to me this is goodness and orthotics doing the job. So far, so good. She is doing PE at school daily, sitting out high impact activity and playing some volleyball 2x/week (no jumping).

In the meantime, our ART therapist had noticed tightness in her left hip and concern that those muscles weren't 'engaging.' Various range of motion tests he did also illustrated that her right hip did not have the same range of motion as the left. So we decided to see a chiropractor who my husband has used with success. Based on his xrays, her bottom four vertebrae are 40 degrees off center and her right hip is out of alignment. He wants to see her 2-3x/week for 6-8 weeks. Our ART is more of the opinion that this should be addressed muscularly vs. skeletal. She was in a boot for 4 months at a time when she was growing (wondering now if that was the best approach).
Dr. Blake's comment: The curve in the spine should be treated by an MD specializing in scoliosis. He/She will direct the right PT and chiro. 

Our Dr. also gave us a prescription for PT for 'Gait Training" and progression to running. I'm a little uncertain of the best next steps. I'm not a big fan of chiropractic care, and from what I've read its not often recommended for patients under 13. I'm planning to call our Pediatrician tomorrow and get the x-rays transferred to him for his opinion on the overall situation. My inclination is to start with PT, but things seem a lot more serious now that her back/hip are involved. Any guidance you might have is greatly appreciated!


P.S. Wrt dances padding - do you still recommend it in the ortho? We haven't been using it since the orthotic was custom made to her foot and there truthfully isn't a lot of extra room in the shoe.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Runners Be Smart when Going to Minimalist Shoes

This article clearly shows it is the transition process from one thing to another in runners that causes injuries, not the thing itself (whether it is hill running, speed work, minimalist shoes, long distances, etc.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sesamoid Fracture: Email Advice


I’m so glad to have come across your blog. The world of sesamoid injuries is quite daunting and your blog and insight offer wonderful information. I wrote to you in August, but I’m writing again in hopes that I will reach you. Many thanks in advance. 

I am a 21-year-old female with a history of pain and injuries in my right leg. For 5+ years I’ve experienced pain in various parts of my right leg, and have never gotten to the bottom of it. While my primary pain is currently in my right foot, and I have been diagnosed with a stress fracture of the lateral hallux sesamoid (see MRI report summary from 06/27/2016), I find it pertinent to mention my history, as I believe it is at the root of my sesamoid and foot problems. In May 2014, after severe foot pain that prevented me from walking, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the 2nd metatarsal bone in my foot. From May-August of 2014 I spent in a boot and refrained from weight-bearing physical activity. In Sept 2014 I attempted to begin to run again, trying change my running form, shifting from heel strike to toe strike, and after experiencing pain, I was then diagnosed with a stress fracture in my 3rd metatarsal.
   Dr Blake's comment: Definitely, mechanics and possibly bone density are problems. Have a nutritionist and a bone density doc review this with you. 

At this point, I gave up on returning to running. I embraced all forms of non-weight-bearing exercise, such as Pilates, yoga, core strength workouts, and swimming. I did not run at all from late 2014-to the present. I even limited long walks (although, as a college student, my daily routine includes a moderate amount of walking--2-3 miles a day or so). In March of 2016, even with limited weight- bearing exercise I was experiencing significant pain in the ball of my foot. By May, the pain was too much to even walk comfortably. (I believe it may have been this way for a while and I was altering my gait so as to not put pressure on the ball of my foot/sesamoids.) In June, I had an MRI, which revealed edema.  Here is the radiology report (I would be happy to get the images to you if that would be helpful.): 
Dr Blake's comment: Yes, I am happy to look at them and the bone density test you mentioned below. Please send to Dr Rich Blake, 900 Hyde Street, San Francisco, Ca, 94109. 

1. Imaging findings likely representative of stress change within the lateral hallux sesamoid with suggestion of cortical disruption. Osteonecrosis could have a similar imaging appearance. Correlation with plain radiograph to evaluate degree of sclerosis and/or fracture line may be helpful.
2. Additional edema like signal within the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head is nonspecific but may also be related to stress change. No discrete fracture line is identified.

My orthopedic doctor (in Charlottesville, VA) believes I have a sesamoid stress fracture. He prescribed a pneumatic walking aircast boot (weight bearing) with crutches for 8 weeks. I got a dexa bone density scan as well, with normal results.  
   Dr Blake's comment: Thanks for getting the bone density test. I lectured at the U of V in Charlottesvile in 2007. What a beautiful and historic place! 

After 8 weeks on crutches and the boot with a significant amount of pain, I went to see a foot and ankle specialist in at University of Virginia. He looked at my MRI, and said that AVN was occurring and I needed to have the bone excised.
   Dr Blake's comment: The avascular necrosis of the sesamoid should be first treated with an Exogen Bone Stimulator, dancer's padding, and 0-2 pain levels with appropriate boots and restrictions for the next 9 months. There are stages to the AVN progression, so we want to stop it in its tracks. And, if it does progress, and there is boney fragmentation then possibly surgery is needed. I say possible because we just do not know. I have seen many patients with bone fragmentation, the classic end stage of AVN, just follow along the rehab program and do fine. I personally think it takes 2 years  to know you need surgery, but no one would blame you if you had it now. This is for so many problems I deal with. 

Knowing the risks of surgery, I sought out a second opinion in Baltimore, MD. After 10 weeks on boot and crutches, he said I did not need crutches. He immediately requested that I get my Vitamin D, calcium, and thyroid tested as well as a general physical. Everything was normal, but my vitamin D levels came back as 40, which he said was on the low range of normal. He has me on Vitamin D supplements for 2-3 weeks, and says if I don’t see some improvement then I should consider surgery. He also has me schedule to have a full endocrine workup just to be safe.
   Dr Blake's comment: That does not make any sense. Get the D to 55 or higher, and get a full workup, but that should not influence surgery at this point.  

Again, I am very hesitant to go through with excision, for many reasons including my age, the fact that there could be pain in both sesamoids, and the dangers of the surgery with the nerve in that area, toe drifting after surgery. etc.

At this point, I was on crutches/boot for 10 weeks, and boot only for another 2 weeks (3 months total of immobilization). I am still in the same level of pain as when I first started immobilizing. The pain is intense and debilitating.
   Dr Blake's comment: That does not make sense also. How is the pain walking in the boot? It should be 0-2 after the first 4 weeks. Does anyone know about your other fractures? Have you ever had a Vit D below 30? How is your diet? Your periods? Family history of osteoporosis? 

A few specific questions:
Is the boot the best healing device for me right now? Are there any alternatives?
   Dr Blake's comment: Based on your answers above, we need some weight bearing for bone mineralization, while we keep the pain between 0-2. This could be Hokas with their rocker bottoms and cushion. You need orthotics with dancer's padding. You need an MRI 6 months after the first.  

What can I do to alleviate the pain? You say on your blog a level of 0-2 is necessary to begin healing. I am wondering how to reach this level.
   Dr Blake's comment: There are 3 types of pain: mechanical (which should be addressed with shoe, orthotics and dancer's padding), inflammatory (which is helped with icing twice daily and contrasts bathing each evening), and neurological (treated with topical nerve meds, oral nerve meds like Lyrica, keeping it warm, gentle pain free massage, neural gliding, etc--since this is unusual, probably see a pain specialist for a consult.  

Is it worth using an Exogen bone stimulator since it has been 3 months? 
Dr Blake's comment: With AVN threat, you are probably looking at at least one year. 

Should I be spica taping?
Dr Blake's comment: You need to use all you can to fight this. Spica Taping and/or cluffy wedges may be important to you.

Should I continue taking Vitamin D? And calcium? Any other supplements?
Dr Blake's comment: Eat healthy, including some red meat weekly (two 7 ounce servings). We need to know if you need anti-inflammation, or anti-nerve meds or diet. I do not know.  

Should I get any more imaging done to see what is going on? I have not had imaging since an MRI in late June. 
Dr Blake's comment: Another MRI in November or December for comparison. You could get a CT scan now to see if you really have AVN. 

What exercises and stretches do you recommend to keep up strength and flexibility while I am in the boot?
Dr Blake's comment: Since you have not gotten to the 0-2 pain level, you have to do bike with the sesamoid off the pedal, swimming okay but no pushing off, tons of gym activities just avoid impact and pushoff.  

Should I be getting fit for an orthotic? I have very high arches.
Dr Blake's comment: For sure, the high arch means that they probably will have to be full length. That is typical for the dancer's pad application. 

I live in Central Virginia (Charlottesville) but I am wondering if it is worth it to try to travel to see you. I am very desperate to get my life back!
Dr Blake's comment: Here is the link to the AAPSM members in Virginia. I personally know Furman and Rubenstein. They can at least tell you where to go. Good luck. I hope this was helpful somewhat.  I am happy to look at your images.

And the patient responded:

Dear Dr. Blake,

I cannot thank you enough for all of this valuable information. Truly, I’ve been feeling very lost with what my next step should be and I appreciate your response immensely.

I will absolutely send my MRI and bone density and blood work to you. To answer your questions, pain walking the boot I am currently in is 0-2. I have been in this boot for 2-3 weeks. While on crutches and in my other boot for 8 weeks, around 4 weeks I began experiencing a fair amount of pain (pain level of 4 or so) while in the boot. So while I have been in the boot/immobilized for 3 months, the total duration of that has not been completely pain free. All the doctors I’ve seen know about my other fractures. It was concerning to the doctor in Baltimore, and that was why he recommended Vit D/other testing to see if something was going on with bone healing abilities. No one has really linked how these three stress fractures are related though. I have never had Vit D below 30 (two years ago it was 42, so it has stayed fairly constant). My diet is very good, mostly vegetarian in the past month but I eat appropriate servings of vegetables, fruit, and protein. Regular periods, and no family history of osteoporosis.

I have a few follow up questions if you wouldn’t mind taking a look!

-Do I need a prescription for an exogen bone stimulator? I am completely on board with being patient to solve this injury, but I am a bit concerned about the cost. From what I can find on their website, it seems like they are around $3,000. Is this how much they cost? Is it generally covered by insurance?
Dr Blake's comment: Exogen does have a self pay program much much cheaper, but I would always try the insurance via RX. Have the doc treating you now, or your primary, start by contacting the Exogen rep. It is relatively easy from the doc's side.

-I appreciate your information about the 3 types of pain. You say that we need to know if I need anti-inflammation or anti-nerve meds or diet. How might I figure this out? At this point, would you recommend seeing a pain specialist for information about what might possibly be nerve pain? Related question: do you recommend Quell for me? I’ve read about it on your blog and am curious to know whether it may help my pain, not in my foot but in my leg as I have general aches and pains in my right leg for 5+ years.
Dr Blake's comment: I am just beginning to experiment with Quell, but one of many patients wore it for a month and when it did not help, got a full refund. So, nothing to lose. I am glad you are now consistently at 0-2 pain. So, you can hold off on the pain specialist, and wear the boot for 10 more weeks. It should be a weight bearing boot, and you should slowly and surely increase your walking. Get an EvenUp for the other side.

-You mention meeting with a nutritionist. After reading my whole case, would you recommend that I meet with someone? A related question, how much Vitamin D should I be taking to get to 55?
Dr Blake's comment: That area also sounds good. Typically you take 1000 units per day and retest in 2 months.

-I’m wondering what my plan for now should be. Would you recommend: 

*Staying in the boot or trying to transition into a shoe such as the Hoka? Mainly, it is crucial to already have orthotics for the Hokas? (in which case I would stay in the boot until the orthotics were made and then transition into a Hoka?) 
Dr Blake's comment: Boot for now, and once orthotics with dancer's pads made and adjusted let me know how you are feeling. I figure that is a month or 6 weeks for now.

*Regardless of what boot/shoe I am in, should I start learning to spica tape now?
Dr Blake's comment: Yes, it takes about 10 times to be good spica taping. Also, see if Cluffy wedges help. Do you have some accommodation in the boot to off weight the sesamoid? You can experiment with that at this time. The problem with Hoka One One brand is the narrowest at the front. You may want to get an extra wide (for you) New Balance 928 also at the time orthotics are being made.

*Should I be doing the daily foot and ankle strengthening exercises on your website?
Dr Blake's comment: Yes, some will have to be modified for the sesamoid pressure with a float made of books with the sesamoid in the middle.

*Should I ice 2x daily and contrast bath in the evening?
Dr Blake's comment: Yes, you want to continually control the swelling in the bone.

*Is there anything else I should start doing, today? (other than keeping up physical fitness through swimming, biking off the sesamoid, core/upper body strength)
Dr Blake's comment: Not that I can think. You are welcome and good luck.

Again, I cannot thank you enough for your help. I will send you my images this week. I am so grateful!


Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Abstract on Surgical vs Non-Surgical Approaches

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Do we Repeat Ultrasound After DVT: Abstract

Sesamoid Recovery: Email Advice

Hello Dr.Blake 

Thank you so much for your reply,I had been waiting for it!

Just to briefly update you ......After I last wrote to you on 22nd August, I increased my activity a bit .I also began to cycle for about 10 - 15 minutes,(taking care not to use the left forefoot for peddling).Hardly have I done that for 5 days and the pain level has really gone up.Sometimes I feel pain in the whole foot and at other times its the forefoot ,including all the toes and the arch .
Feeling quite dismayed at this set back since prior to this I was enjoying a pain free period for a number of weeks.

I am worried that I might have re injured the sesamoid again.Is it so?
Dr Blake's comment: The way you did this you probably only stretched the nerves that run through the arch into the sesamoid. It would be hard to hurt the sesamoid since the weight was not on it. 

As for orthotics,I do have soft insoles, wondering if I need a pair of moulded ones? Right now I'm using silicon gel cushioning and foam for padding the area.
Dr Blake's comment: That is really up to the orthotic designer capabilities. The goals are to off weight the sesamoid with arch support (that you can feel) and dancer's padding. The higher the arch, the more the insert should be full length to distribute the weight better. 

The Darco Orthowedge, which is a front foot off loader is available ,everytime I've tried it even for a few minutes it has been uncomfortable. Maybe I need to wear it longer to get used to it.
Dr Blake's comment: I have never found that comfortable for patients. You can use Anklizer removable boot with a dancer's padding applied.

Peg assist insoles are available here , do you think those will be helpful?
Dr Blake's comment: Okay to make a dancer's pad arrangement.

Is it better to off load the forefoot or to keep it cushioned? 
Dr Blake's comment: Initially we think about major off loading, but need to transition to a little off weight bearing and a little cushion. For the two years following the sesamoid injury, err on more off weight bearing, but we have to gradually have the sesamoids bear some weight. Typically the patients are more protective then they need be. 

I have not yet tried taping since the spica tape is unavailable here, is there another way to go about it?At night I tie my foot with a bandage, which has so far been helpful but not with this recent episode of pain.
Dr Blake's comment: Spica taping is only the technique. You could technically spica tape with scotch tape if your skin tolerated it. 

During the past four months I've taken ultra sound therapy thrice for 8 days each time,it did help.Would you advise another session of that again?The physiotherapist I went to told me it could adversely affect the region if repeatedly done.
Dr Blake's comment: I only recommend Exogen ultrasound once daily. And, regular ultrasound is contraindicated for fractures. Hope this helps.Rich

Waiting for your advice to my queries.

Thanks and regards 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sesamoid Healing Story

Hi Rich
I thought it may be motivating for your readers to have a positive story (hopefully continuing) as to healing the described sesamoid fracture. 

After our last e-mail exchange in March I extremely strictly followed all advice you give on healing sesamoid fractures (taping, orthotic, dancers pad, contrast baths and exogen bone stim daily, stretching, PT, shoe with stiff sole, Vit D and Calc. intake, strictly no running and no barefoot, and being careful with any activity that could put too much pressure on the sesamoid, sometimes Super Elevation). I spent and am still spending almost one hour per day with these treatments on the fractured sesamoid (I learned to do something in parallel...). 

It was a very bumpy road since March and every other week I was near to calling my doc to get an appintment for surgery as I had setbacks and flareups (increased swelling, redness, pain, etc.) with the very slowly, gradually increased activity. However, every other day there was a tiny bit of healing which kept me going on and of course also the advice on your blog. Learning about good and bad pain and accepting some pain (in particular for people like me with no pain tolerance) is essential. I would say I did not achieve pain level of 0 (=no feeling of the injury at all) during day (rather a 1-2) but I was and I am pain free at night and when I get up.

Now its 6 months after I broke it the third time and I have the first days where I am pain free throughout the day also with quite a bit of normal activity. Walks of up to 3 hours are possible without significantly increased symptoms (it still hurts a bit but as you say this reminds the contrast bathing and bone stim), and the PT is putting me on the treadmill. Due to the long relieving posture (walking on the outside of the foot) my foot and leg need to be brought back in shape (as it became slightly turned out of position) which probably will take a couple of more weeks.

I had another MRI done last week and there is still some inflammation visible according to the doc but no edema anymore and he believes that the two pieces have partially grown together but that there is some "filling up" with scar tissue. I still believe that he is wrong and the bipartite sesamoids are just very close to each other. So I continue conservative treatment and further increasing activity.

Maybe interesting for your readers: I did not use an Aircast or removable boot (due to my work) but a shoe with stiff sole (made by my orthopedic) as I was convinced after three times of re-breaking the bone that I do not need the boot as a reminder of the injury. I also dropped the icing as I had the impression there are nerves that did not like that and I was in more pain after the icing. I always taped the dancers pad (made myself out of foam rubber) to my foot as I wanted to avoid at all cost to step on the sesamoid and this also helped me at home to be safe on the hard floor of the bathroom etc.

The issue I see with the usual doctors that they do not know enough about these injuries. The mistreatments I received: carbon sole to insert into the shoe with thin foam sole for protection (after a couple of weeks the foam sole was worn out and I walked with the broken sesamoid directly on the carbon sole and ultimately rebroke it). Nobody knows about the dancers pad (which is in my view the most important element). They think healing takes the same amount of time as other bones in the foot and activity can be started too soon. As long as you are walking they do not really want to further investigate unless one insists.

Still there are a few questions to you:

 Do you believe that also with sesamoid fractures after they have completely healed and double healed (and I am aware that this will take a couple more months) that they are harder to break than before, meaning that if I avoid the activity that caused the fracture, the protection of the bone can be reduced?
Dr Blake's comment: Yes, and no. All injuries to an area imply some form of weakness. Some times the weakness shows up in the form of ligament instability, some times with muscular weakness, sometimes (with sesamoids) due to the position against the ground and the driving force to push off. I know you have a high arch that makes the sesamoid more susceptible. You may also have a plantar flexed first metatarsal. These two combine to put pressure on the sesamoid. You are doing the right things, perfect in fact. As you go forward, you do not need to live in sesamoid fear, but you do need to be careful. I want 2 years of good activity out of you, with some sesamoid protection, before you ask that question again. 

 Are stress fractures less likely (I have a very high arch) after complete healing (and all inflammation has disappeared)?
Dr Blake's comment: Really back to the last question and why it happened in the first place. If it makes sense that you can avoid the original injury, and I know you know what puts too much pressure on the sesamoids, then you are probably okay. Stress fractures occur with too much pressure, and I know you can avoid this. Send me some photos on the bottom of your foot. 

 As I have bipartite sesamoid I am conscious about the potential ligaments between the two pieces and that they are at risk to be injured again with higher activity. Any idea in this regard as to protection?
Dr Blake's comment: Dancer's padding to off weight, orthotic devices to off weight, shoe gear that is stable and not too hard or soft in the sesamoid area, activities that do not place too much sesamoid pressure for the next two years while the bone gets stronger and stronger. I hope this makes sense. Rich

I will add something to the proposed donation as it was clearly your blog that helped me out of this really really bad (and sometimes almost depressing) injury and to get a normal life back. Dr Blake's comment: You are so kind. 
Thank you so much.
Best regards

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Running Gait Retraining: External or Internal Factors

This article clearly shows that runners who need gait re-training may initially benefit from internal cues (like try running more flatfooted), but evidently need external cues (like using mirror training in ballet or cadence monitors on their smartphone while running). As a podiatrist, I have tried both, although mainly use internal cues like Chi Running to land more midfoot and avoid slamming their heels or irritating their forefeet. Cadence monitors set around 180 per minute may be ideal to get a biomechanically sound stride. When we want to change landing position, orthotic devices may act like external cues to them.

Sesamoiditis vs Sesamoid Fracture: Email Advice

Hi Dr. Blake,

I've had an extremely worrisome case of sesamoiditis that has been going on for over 2 years and seems to be getting a bit worse! Over the course of the past 2 years, I continued to run on it because I did not want to stop, but the injury would flare up. I would go through periods of time where I wouldn't run because of the pain and am currently taking another break from running. I went to a foot clinic and they gave me 3/4 length orthotics with dancer pads attached to take the pressure off the ball of my foot but it is not 100% effective. I have also been going to physical therapy but my injury is not going away. I have high arches and due to my biomechanics, my feet have a tendency to lean inward, putting more pressure onto the ball of my foot. I will also add that I have sesamoiditis in BOTH of my feet but it is worse than my left. 

Dr Blake's comment: I do find that high arched feet are the hardest technologically to help. Sometimes you have to consider a full length Hannaford type insert which works well. Please have several versions of orthotics made with someone whom is giving it some thought. 
No healthcare provider has recommended cortisone shots for me, but if I see another, I wonder if it will be. I have an eating disorder and I FEAR weight gain from cortisone shots but hear they are one treatment for sesamoiditis. Do I have other options at this point for healing it without getting cortisone shots? Having a limited ability to exercise has also made it difficult for me with my eating problems. I fear that there is no end to this injury and I will have horrible problems functioning in daily life. I am a college student who will have to walk to classes approx. 3+ miles per day to classes. 

Dr Blake's comment: Any bone injury needs the right nutrients to heal, so your eating disorder may be the issue. I assume you are working with a nutrition expert on this. Have you gotten the minimum of bone density and Vit D3 levels? And, are we sure it is sesmoiditis vs fracture by MRI?
I have some more questions....
Is there a good chance that this is a sesamoid fracture as opposed to sesamoiditis? Would a fracture be worse?

Dr Blake's comment: My thought actually. So, an MRI when you can. 

I saw in one of your comments that after surgery, one must wear orthotics and dancer pads all the time for the rest of their this true for everyone? 
Dr Blake's comment: No, of course, there are so many individual factors: is there functional hallux limitus, is there a long first met, is there a plantarflexed first metatarsal, what is the demands of that activity, etc? To summarize, we want to protect your remaining sesamoid, but need to use common sense. 

My orthotics don't even provide relief in regular athletics shoes, they only work for me in a certain pair of fashion sneakers. If I am limited in what shoes I can wear, what do I do about my professional career someday? Do I bring in a doctor's note saying I have a medical condition that limits which shoes I can wear and take action if I were to receive discrimination based on not being able to wear high heels? What do most professionals who are supposed to dress up do? Also, if I were to get surgery, would I most likely be able to resume running again? 
Dr Blake's comment: Definitely this would be up to the treating doc. Hopefully, a simple dancer's pad will suffice in most shoes. Surgery is very successful, but we are trying to avoid it all together. The goal of that surgery is to allow full activity again. Sounds like you need the orthotics to be better though, and get an MRI. 

Thank you so much, I hope to hear from you. I know this writing is all over the place and jumping from topic to topic so let me know if you would like me to re-write this in a more concise way. 

Dr Blake's comment: I am so sorry I was late to respond. Keep me in the loop. Typically the more we learn now, even if you have to have surgery, the smarter we are after surgery. Rich

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Meniscal Tears at the Knee: Some Can Avoid Surgery

For years, the docs at my office have offered a very conservative approach to some meniscal tears at the knee. I injured my right medial meniscus in 2009, and presently have avoided the knife. You want a surgeon to give you the option, when appropriate. Our office is lucky to have surgeons and non-surgeons. If the non-surgeon tells you to have surgery, you probably need it. 100% of the bucket handle tears that prevent the knee from moving need surgery, but these are a small minority. If an MRI shows you a tear, seek the opinion of a non-surgeon, or conservative surgeon, to attempt a 12 week rehab period.

Followup on Sesamoid Fracture

Hello Dr Blake

Hope you're doing good.

This is in continuation of the mail I sent you in June,
which was after the initial period of misdiagnosis. (three months from mid Feb to May).

The next 12 weeks (mid May to mid August) I spent with minimal activity, very gradually increasing it but with lot of restrictions and care. Couldn't get an anklizer hence managed with Crocs and sneakers using metatarsal pads and foam / sponge  for padding
I have been continuing with contrast baths (twice daily)
Tying the foot with a bandage at night,which has helped a lot in arresting the swelling and pain both.  

So for the last 8 weeks I've had almost no swelling and pain level 1 to 2 occasionally. 
Yesterday I gave my self a little more liberty and climbed stairs and stood for a longer period of time ,as a result I have pain in the foot and when I walk there is a slight pain where the injured  bone is. Maybe pain level 3,which is better after contrast bathing the foot.

Not begun driving yet.

I have been doing some exercises which I saw on your blog - metatarsal doming,(though I am unable to see my nails so I guess I'm doing it incorrectly).Also bringing the toes together and pointing them outwards and pointing the toes down.

The MRI of the foot was done in March end but did not show a fracture ,it was seen in the x-ray the images of which I sent you when I last wrote. Got a repeat done in end  June, sending you those images with this mail.
Dr Blake's comment: The sesamoid x rays show a fracture or bipartite, not conclusive.

On the whole I'm a lot better but wondering how it will be once I get back to routine  activities in full swing.
Dr Blake's comment: The next 3 months are a gradual return to some activity, as long as you can keep the pain level between 0-2.

When should I get another MRI / X- ray done to assess the condition ? Dr Blake's comment: I can not remember your MRI, but you said it did not show a fracture. If it showed some bone edema, we can see if that is getting better. As close to 6 months between the MRIs is preferable, but not exact.

When can I start driving and increase other activity which involves the foot? Dr Blake's comment: Typically now, hope you have mastered dancer's pads, cluffy wedges, and spica taping. Do you have an orthotic that helps? A stiff post op shoe with dancer's pad is a nice way to start driving, as long as you feel that it is safe. 

What should be the next step in the treatment and which are the specific exercises I should do to strengthen my foot?
Dr Blake's comment: Yes, you are venturing into the re-strengthening phase of rehab.

Whatever guidance  I'm getting is through your blog, and am trying to follow it to the best of my understanding.

Thank you for being there for all of us with distressed sesmoids ,its the most informative site I've come across regarding this problem.

Dr Blake's comment: I am happy to help. A PT should be able to show you the nuisances of these exercise. Take it one month at a month. Good luck!!

Big Foot Lives!!!

This was recently sent from a patient with a little podiatry humor!!

Prior to being fitted for Orthotics, Bigfoot visited
the office of Dr. Rich Blake, noted Podiatrist. Here
is the plaster mold of his foot compared to a 
human foot belonging to another patient of Dr.
Blake who has hammertoes and leaves only four
prints when emerging from water. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sesamoid Injury in a 14 year old Soccer Player

Good morning Dr. Blake.  My 14 year old daughter has had a foot injury with symptoms (swelling, pain and discoloration) since February 2016. She is a high level soccer player that trains every day.

We went to her primary doctor on March 2016 and he said it as a sprain of her big toe so she rested it for about a month - RICE (actually she just trained less and modified her training schedule).

She continue to have pain and in April 2016  we went back to her Primary Doctor and got refer her to first podiatrist, The first Podiatrist said in April that it was sesamoiditis and to rest more than she has been and recommended to look into orthotics and a boot on her next visit if symptoms continues  and ordered an MRI.

Meanwhile an MRI was requested but denied because this first podiatrist was not in my medical network

Now comes the second podiatrist. The second podiatrist agreed early on with the first podiatrist on my daughter having sesamoiditis and ordered a new set of xrays and told my daughter to RICE and prescribed Voltaren Gel.  The second podiatrist on the second visit and second set of  xrays  on  June 2016 indicated that she had an old fracture of her medial sesamoid bone.  Although the Xray report said it was not fracture but that it was a bipartite. Our Podiatrist disagreed with the XRAY Report and put her on a boot for a fracture sesamoid.
Dr Blake's comment: I would have to agree with this podiatrist. At her age, you have to treat the worse case scenerio, and so fracture protocol was started.

We are now approaching our third month (on September 6, 2016 next week) where she will  be in her cam boot.

Meanwhile since my podiatrist does not feel the need for an MRI,  but my Primary doctor requested one on my request.
Dr Blake's comment: The podiatrist must have felt that it was a fracture, so let's treat it. I do however prefer an MRI even when convinced it is a fracture. I think the first MRI serves as a 6 month comparison even if you do not need it.

The MRI (taken 8-19-2016) which is attached indicated osteochronditis in her medial sesamoid and not a fracture. 
Dr Blake's comment: This does not look much different than a stress fracture, so it would be difficult to say. You still have to treat it like a fracture in my view.
Her podiatrist still does not agree with the recent MRI Report and strongly feels she does not have a bipartite sesamoid,  but instead is suffering from a slow healing medial sesamoid bone, which the podiatrist claims it is about 30% better of her fractured sesamoid based on her review of the last xray on August 19,  2016     

She has been in a CAM boot for almost three months with  no pain and very slight swelling.
Dr Blake's comment: There should be no reason for slow healing in a 14 year old. How is her bone overall? Is she getting her periods regularly? 3 months in a boot with no pain means we begin the weaning out process. The trick is to hold the pain level to 0-2, and first wean from boot to shoes with orthotics and dancer's pads, then start walk run program, then do drills specifically related to soccer, then participate in workouts at 80%, then be allowed to play. 
     If the doc feels 3 months boot has only given 30% healing, then there has to be a reason---poor bone, not obtaining 0-2 pain in the boot, not wearing the boot enough, not being prescribed bone stim, etc.

My questions are:

How long should she be in a boot? See above

When should she consider Orthotics? Now

How long until she sees improvement and how can we test her foot since she right now she has no pain and very slight swelling and no discoloration unlike early on with the injury. Although her improvement may be as a result of her having  no activity with her foot being in a CAM boot the  last three months.
Dr Blake's comment: From what you are saying, since bone healing can be internal, and the x rays lag 2 months behind the actual healing, I would start the weaning process. I would have to know why I am looking at 3 months in a boot with 30% healing. Something does not add up. 

Does a bone stimulator help with the Osteochronditis? 
Dr Blake's comment: That means inflammation of the bone/cartilage and is treated with a short term boot, orthotics and dancer's padding in all shoes, no barefoot, icing twice daily, and contrasts once daily. It gets better and better as the itis calms down, and the mechanical forces are changed with the padding, arch support, and temporary immobilization. 
  She is receiving a bone stimulator today August 29, 2016 for the fracture that the podiatrist claims she has.

Do you know of any doctors in the Pasadena, California area and any who would you recommend for orthotics?Dr Blake's comment: I love Dr Dan Altschuler or anyone his office recommends. 

What you recommend for treatment at this stage and future ? Above
Should she continue with the Voltaren Gel ? I think ice long term is safer.

Can I mail you the MRI? Yes, Dr Rich Blake, 900 Hyde Street, San Francisco, Ca, 94109 Keep me in the loop.

I am now trying to get another opinion of her XRAY and MRI ..... But that will take forever through my insurance.

Sesamoid Fracture: Email Advice

Dear Dr. Blake,
Good evening!
Happy almost Labor Day weekend!!!!!
  I hope this email finds you well.
 I have a few quick questions.  When you get a chance, I would enjoy hearing back from you.
1.) What is the typical time frame to wear an aircast for a sesamoid fracture? 
Dr Blake's comment: 3 months, and then there is a 2 to 6 week weaning process from boot to no boot.

 I have received two opinions.  Upon palpation, there seems to be minimal, if no, pain in the area of the sesamoid(s), and also when my big toe is manipulated (flexed and extended).  One Podiatrist says 8 weeks, and another one says its not such a good idea to have an airboot on for so long. He suggested that I wean myself out of the boot soon.
 2.) Is it necessary to go through Physical therapy after the aircast is removed?
Dr Blake's comment: From a lot to none, based on the patient's strength, gait disturbances, swelling, joint stiffness, etc. Some patients need to PT took act as their coach, others are okay going alone. When I am treating the patient, I can assess the physical and emotional aspects and help them.

  My main concern is getting used to walking again, in a sneaker. How does one wean himself back into walking regularly in a sneaker?  Should I give myself baby steps, or just start walking again; of course when the time is right. Dr Blake's comment: Here the doc and PT combine to help the patient, and a good understanding of Good vs Bad Pain.

3.) Does it matter if a sesamoid fracture does not heal? 
Dr Blake's comment: It depends on so many factors, but it boils down to the disability produced, and the possibility of damaging the first metatarsal above. When do you just accept what you have, and when do you keep pushing? Every patient is very individual. 

 I was told that it is protected in the various tendons, and many people walk around, there whole lives, without even knowing that they have a sesamoid break.  
4.) Do you believe in balancing the other foot (non-aircasted foot) with an EVEN UP shoe; which, in turn, provides me with more elevation and symmetry with that of the aircast?
Dr Blake's comment: Everyone needs an EvenUp. Women can get by sometimes with heels shoes to even up this difference.
5.) When does a Podiatrist start to fit for specially made orthotics?  
Dr Blake's comment: I love the patient to wearing the orthotic device the last month in the cast. So, the initial impression for the orthotics devices is around 6 weeks.

 I am assuming it has to be after the Podiatrist feels that adequate healing has taken place. What does one do, in the four week interval, as these orthotics take time to be produced?  I guess one should just wear over the counter orthotics.  Which company do you recommend that most Podiatrists bring their orthotics to be made?
Dr Blakes comment: Each podiatrist has a lab that he is used to, and there must be 50 or so of these labs.
As always, THANK YOU for being so kind and generous in answering my abundance of questions!