What is a plantar plate injury in the foot?
A plantar plate injury is an injury to the thick ligament structure that inserts into the base of the toes or proximal phalanges. The ligament is responsible for stabilising the toe. A tear or rupture to the plantar plate ligament structure results in pain and ultimately an unstable toe. Plantar plate injuries are commonly seen at our Melbourne podiatry clinic, especially in middle aged patients, and it is often a problem that gets misdiagnosed by other health professionals.
What are the symptoms of plantar plate injuries?
Symptoms of a plantar plate injury includes swelling, inflammation and pain on the ball of the foot making walking difficult. A tear of the plantar plate will often result in the toes splaying, whilst a full rupture of the plantar plate will result in toe hyperextension. Symptoms of plantar plate tears and ruptures can often last for months. If the toe remains chronically unstable then this can cause other problems in future like arthritis or neuromas.
What can cause a plantar plate injury in the foot?
Plantar plate tears and ruptures can be caused by acute or chronic injury to the toe. Acute trauma to the toe such as stubbing the toe can result in a plantar plate injury. They can also occur from chronic overloading forces and excess movement of the toes. Poor foot function or excess pronation can lead to instability of the toes leading to excess pressure on the plantar plate, ultimately resulting in a tear or rupture.
How can podiatrists treat plantar plate injuries?
Our podiatrists know how to diagnose plantar plate injuries and how to differentiate them from similar foot problems like neuroma and metatarsalgia. Treatment at our Melbourne foot clinic focuses on reducing symptoms in the initial phase and this may involve padding and strapping. Once symptoms have settled treatment is aimed at strengthening the joint and stabilising the toe. Our podiatrists can prescribe custom orthotics to help stabilise the foot and toes following a plantar plate injury. Orthotics along with strengthening exercises and good footwear will often be an effective long term management for this problem.