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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ball of the Foot Pain: Email Correspondance

Dr. Blake,

    I have been dealing with left foot pain for over five months. I was placed in a boot for five weeks for stress reactions in the 1st, and 2nd, and 3rd metatarsals, followed by six weeks of physical therapy. During the physical therapy, the pain on top of the second metatarsal and bottom of the 1st metatarsal got progressively worse and the physical therapist ended up cancelling half of my sessions because of the pain. I also ended up wearing the boot again for two weeks and then a surgical shoe for two weeks during the last four weeks of the physical therapy.

    In the last two months, I have worn athletic shoes full time, minimized the amount of time on my feet, and started experiencing constant swelling over a two inch area down the entire length of the top of my foot. If I spend more than a few minutes on my feet, the pain on the bottom of the 1st metatarsal gets worse and worse. I have also periodically had shooting pain over the 2nd metatarsal when walking.

    I recently had an MRI, which showed marrow edema in the plantar and lateral margins of the 1st metatarsal head and nonspecific marrow edema in the hallux sesamoids. When my doctor initially reviewed the MRI images, he said it looked like I had an extra outer sesamoid. After reviewing other images, however, he decided that this was not the case as he did not see it in those images. There is a black jagged horizontal line through the outer sesamoid in three of the MRI images. Other images of the same sesamoid show no line. Is it possible that this is a partial sesamoid stress fracture? The doctor determined that I have sesamoiditis and told me to wear a metatarsal pad in my shoe for the next six weeks to off-weight the sesamoids. I tried the metatarsal pad, but it has made the pain significantly worse.  

   What do you suggest? 

                                          Thank you!

Dr Blake's comment:

    Hey, thank you so very much for the email. Typically, you have one source of all this pain (say a fractured sesamoid or first metatarsal head) and when treated improperly, the pain and swelling magnifies to involve a larger area. Swelling alone is no big deal since it is a reflection of a healing response of your body. Pain and swelling means you have not stabilized things well enough and healing is being somewhat compromised. Remember stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone, hurt as much and as long as true fractures, and normally may not be seen other than the bone edema (swelling) noted on the MRI. Thus, the confusion of whether a black line is seen or not probably means stress fracture vs true fracture. Stress fractures on the bottom of your foot take a long time to feel better since first the fracture and then just the resultant bone edema hurt. 

    The things you need to do in the next 2 months are: make sure the inserts have maximal off weight bearing padding (called dancer's pads), make sure you have high and tolerable arch support, ice minimum 3 times a day for 10 minutes to keep cooling down the area, do a full 20 minute contrast bath daily and twice on weekends, learn to spica tape to stabilize the big toe joint, keep your legs strong with biking (you can rest the arch area on the pedal), weight bear to tolerance (all immobilization and non weight bearing can increase the swelling in a foot/weight bearing great for moving swelling, make sure your Vit D and Calcium are normal, eat healthy, use crutches, get a new MRI 3 months after the first, and hang in there for some of these injuries to completely heal can take several years and your job is to create a pain free environment to allow healing. Another 3 tests that could give alot more information are CT scan, bone scan, and CT fusion (which is a combination of the above). If insurance allows, and the way you are struggling, I would try to get more information also with one of these tests. I sure hope this helps. The information on all of this (like contrasts) is all within the blog. 


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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.