Read and watch this Sesamoid Injury Recovery Update and get helpful Suggestions for Healing Your Foot, your fitness, and yourself. Make sure you also read: Helpful Tips For Healing Sesamoid Injuries. Here’s What Worked For Me. ***Update! since writing this post I can happily say I am NOT in pain and can be active in my life. My healing journey is WORKING. Read below for more 🙂
As you may already know, in July of 2016, I got a serious Sesamoid injury and now I am in the process of healing.
It’s been a long recovery journey and I get questions about my foot every day. I thought this would be a good time to send you an injury report update and how this has positively transformed my business, my fitness, and my life.
As a quick disclaimer: this is my own personal experience and is not medical advice. As always, check with your doctor before making any health changes. I hope this post serves you in having healthy feet and living an active life.
WATCH: Sesamoid Injury Update October 2017
Many people have never heard of the Sesamoid. I get confused faces more often than not, “What the heck are sesamoids?” they ask. That is one of the most challenging parts about the Sesamoid injury, people just WONT GET IT. It takes forever to heal and the process is slow. Since Sesamoid injures are so rare, I thought it would be helpful to explain it to you.
A sesamoid is a bone embedded in a tendon. In the normal foot, the sesamoids are two jelly bean-sized bones located in the ball of the foot, beneath the big toe joint. The sesamoids act as a pulley for tendons, their primary function is to help raise and lower the big toe with each step (allowing you to push off your foot when you walk, run, dance, or jump). Sesamoid injuries can involve the bones, tendons, and/or surrounding tissue in the joint. They are common with activities requiring increased pressure on the ball of the foot, like running, basketball, football, golf, tennis and ballet. People with high arches or flexible feet are at risk for developing sesamoid problems. High-heeled shoes can also be a contributing factor.
Lucky for me, I did ALL of the above before my injury: running, dancing, jumping, and high heel shoe wearing with high arches and flexible feet. I was a prime candidate for a Sesamoid Injury. I broke the Sesamoid bone and am still healing the tendon.
The Long Story On How I got a Sesamoid Injury
I was a dancer and athlete my entire life. I majored in Dance at UCDavis and taught fitness throughout highschool and college. I was always moving with no serious injuries or anything that sidelined me for longer than a few days. I never had foot pain or foot problems. Then one day, at age 31, I noticed the ball of my foot hurt. I thought it was strange and decided to foam roll my foot on a golf ball to try and work out the kinks (because typically foam rolling the feet always helps!). The next day, I couldn’t walk. The ball of my foot felt hot, painful, and swollen. I had no idea what had happened, but I knew it wasn’t good. I went to the doctor and they told me I had a Sesamoid Injury. The first doctor I saw advised me to wait on getting an xray, they said I had only bruised my Sesamoid. I was put in a boot and told to lay off of my foot. Three months later, I had no progress, so I decided to get an xray. The xray showed an “oncult” fracture in my medial sesamoid. I followed the same steps: lay off the Sesamoid as much as possible. Six months later, a physical therapist told me to start doing barefoot exercises to help with the pain. I followed this plan, thinking it was helping, but it was actually making it worse.
Sad but true, most doctors, fitness professionals, and physical therapists don’t know about Sesamoids, so they mis-treat patients and the cycle of pain continues. I did all the wrong things for the second half of 2016 thinking I was on the right track to healing. It wasn’t until 8 months into the injury I found a doctor that really understood Sesamoid Injuries, Dr. Arlene Hoffman: http://afhoffman.com/. She put me in stiff shoes with a orthotic custom fit for my foot (and with a cut out for my sesamoid). Within weeks, I had made incredible progress. From there, I started working with a Physical Therapist at San Francisco Crossfit, who knew how to help people heal from Sesamoid Injuries, Sean McBride at San Francisco crossfit: http://sanfranciscocrossfit.com/staff/sean-mcbride/ . These two magical people have the knowledge and expertise that has allowed me to make progress in healing.
It depends on what your specific Sesamoid injury is, but often treatment includes:
- Offloading the bone to get it to heal (6-8 weeks)
- Wearing custom orthotics and stiff shoes. Avoiding any positions that aggravate the big toe tendon (being barefoot, high heels, calf raises, planks, jumping, bending the big toe back/ bending the foot).
- Gradually re-loading the big toe tendon to get it to absorb force and movement (1-4 years) . Taking it slowly and adding back in movements (like lunges) in moderation to build the big toe tendon to adapt.
- If you do all the right things (and listen to your body!!), the threshold for what you can do with the toe and tendon builds as you continue to heal. You are able to become more active with minimal pain. Your foot gets sore sometimes when you adapt to new movements or add back in more activity. Just like a muscle learning to be used again. So you learn to balance building back up strength and giving the foot rest to recover and adapt. I carefully schedule each week to make sure to moderate my activity to make progress. If I know I have a day where I will be on my feet a lot, I schedule the days before and after to rest more or do workouts like swimming to balance everything out. I use my Fitbit to track steps and make sure to
Here’s what I did to stay active while in the process of healing my sesamoid. Again, this is based off my personal experience and NOT medical advice:
- Offload completely. Swim (no walls), hurt foot fitness videos, floor barre, hurt foot pilates. I filmed a LOT of content for my Youtubers!
- Start to reload the body without bending the foot. Seated spinning (in hard soled cycling cleats), strength training (squats, bulgarian lunges, hip bridges, core work, upper body work – you can use my Hurt Foot Fitness program for ideas on lots of exercises), and pilates mat.
- Gradually re-load the foot. Seated spinning, progressive strength training (slowly building back in exercises like planks, pushups, burpees – all only a FEW reps and carefully), crossfit / skill based movement classes, rowing machine, elliptical machine, wallballs, kettlebells, watt bike, pilates mat.
The good news is, bones heal within 6-8 weeks. The hard part is, tendons take a really really long time. Now that the bone is back to normal, giving the tendon the space to heal requires patience, persistence, and heart. The Sesamoid tendon is a funny one – it needs the right kind of movement to feel better. No movement hurts. Too much movement hurts. But the right types of movement in the right doses makes it feel great. My foot loves the rowing machine (I can’t explain this!), the bike, and squats. It loves it when I load my posterior chain (hamstrings, butt, and back!). It hates it when I walk too far or am barefoot (how crazy is that)? But slowly and surely its beginning to adapt to more movements. Every week my threshold to do more grows greater. I have come so far and I can do SO much today, including BURPEES, and it means so much to experience healing.
Blessings From my Sesamoid Injury
I always say, bless your challenges because it’s because of them you discover your strengths. There have been so many blessings that have come out of my Sesamoid Injury. Here are a few of them:
- Sesamoid around the world. I have been practically the ONLY Sesamoid injury who has shared my experience on the internet – so now I have connected with Sesamoid folks ALL over the world and used my experience to help them in their healing journey. I’ve gotten emails from people in Sweden, Dubai, South East Asia…. the list goes on. Neat to have this connection with Sesamoid friends all over the globe.
- Hurt Foot Fitness Program. I have the largest “Hurt Foot Fitness” community on Youtube and am helping people manage the mental and physical challenges of injury. Lots of injured runners and fit folks doing my videos, if you ever have a friend who needs to move with a foot injury, send them here.
- I have taken this physical down time to create MORE products that support my business. I launched Strong Body Beautiful , a 6 week strength and lifestyle program for women. It’s a comprehensive fitness guide that helps teach women HOW to strength train and build a balanced fitness routine. I am really proud of the program, the education, the balanced body (and body positive!) message it’s sending. The women currently in the program have had positive reviews and are experiencing new ways to challenge their bodies, minds, and themselves. Programs like Strong Body Beautiful PREVENT injuries from overtraining, muscular imbalances, or repetitive stress. It’s designed to follow a moderate rate of progression and challenge you in a healthy way so that you see results (not burnout or injuries!). In fact, many of my recovering Hurt Foot Fitness friends on Youtube have enrolled in the program and have been using it to build back their strength and body balance. Now I can help Hurt Foot Fitness people safely transition out of injury towards having a BALANCED body and fitness routine. When you are ready to join us in living a strong life, enroll here.
- I’ve been hosting more corporate wellness events and working to support company health initiatives. Getting sick from stress should not be an expected side effect life and I work with companies to prevent burnout, improve performance, and allow employees to thrive.
- I discovered the JOY and power of Crossfit. I actually fell into crossfit by accident. My physical therapist Sean works out of a crossfit gym and teaches a crossfit class. One day I showed up for our PT appointment at the wrong time and he invited me to take his class instead. I was scared that it would hurt my Sesamoid, but I was able to complete the class with modifications and felt amazing afterwards. From that moment on I was hooked. I am blessed in that I get to train at the best Crossfit facility in the world with Dr. Kelly Starrett. I am able to participate in crossfit classes (with modifications, ie: rowing machine instead of running, watt bike instead of jump rope, etc). What I love about Crossfit is that every workout is different, uniquely challenging, and highly effective. The workouts are completely scalable, which means that a new participant and a veteran can complete the same workout with changes in load and intensity. It’s diverse fitness programming aims to improve your capacity in all ways: cardio-respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. The result is comprehensive physical fitness and restored vitality. You become a well rounded athlete who can move well, perform well, and excel in the world. I now take 1-2 crossfit classes per week and am convinced it is helping me heal my body.
- In the best shape of my life. Since letting go of what I call “repetitive stress” cardio, I am in the best physical shape of my life. I haven’t run in almost 2 years and my body actually loves me for it. A fear of weight gain seems to be what holds most people worry about when injured. But as counterintuitive as it may seem, I actually ended up losing weight and leaning out, despite not making any huge changes to my diet. Before I stopped running, I was working out regularly and eating clean, but in spite of my best efforts, I was slowly putting on weight that was not muscle. This is all speculation, but I think what wound up happening was that the physical stress from exercise just ended up being too much for my body, exhausting my adrenal system, screwing with my hormones, and causing my my body to hold on to fat. Not good. When I stopped doing so much cardio for more strength training and REST, my body fat went down, lean muscle mass increased, and my muscles became balanced (I have hamstrings and glutes now…. what?!). This is not to say running is bad, I think running is a great way to stay active and move your body. It’s just to say that for me, the repetitive stress of running was causing my body to go into overtraining mode, hold onto fat, and prevent me from feeling good or seeing results.
The best part about this injury? It has elevated my work to new heights and expanded my coaching skills. I am more committed than ever to provide exceptional work that helps people transform their lives. We all face injuries, illnesses, and challenges – now that I’ve had this experience I am even more skilled at helping people everywhere overcome these inevitable life obstacles and finding ways to be active, positive, and live to be their best.
These are all positive life and career changes. They have served in my personal growth and in my purpose of helping people everywhere stay positive and active no matter what challenges they face.
What does this mean for my business goals moving forward? I believe it’s my purpose to be a healer, a coach, a teacher, and a positive force for preventative health. I am here to do my best for you and for our world. I can’t jump around like a bunny rabbit or wear high heels (yet!)…. but I am passionate, driven, filled with purpose, and more ready than ever to serve. I believe in my work and I am here to help you live a life that feels good.
Long story and I sincerely appreciate you reading. I felt it important to write this to you. For you to know that I am committed to to you and to our work together. Thank you for letting me share my story.Have you faced an injury? What positive changes or blessings has it brought you? Please feel free to ask me any questions or let me know your needs in the comments below.
I am grateful for you for being a part of my community. I look forward to sharing an incredible wellness event or BURPEE with you soon.
Love and squats,
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Want more information on healing Sesamoid Injuries? Check out this Sesamoid Injury Playlist: