Plantar plate injuries are easily missed, probably because a lot of people don’t know what the plantar plate is. Quite they are diagnosed under the general term metatarsalgia. The plantar plate is a deep fibrocartilaginous structure that originates from the metatarsal head and attaches to the proximal phalanx through the joint capsule within the forefoot. Its role is to help stabilize the metatarsophalangeal joints (MTPJ), along with a couple of other structures. The plantar plate also acts as an attachment site for the plantar fascia, so if you load the foot, the medial arch lengthens, the plantar fascia tightens, this engages the plantar plate to plantarflex the proximal phalanx until the toe reaches the ground. This is a simplification of a complex process and is commonly known as the The ‘reversed’ windlass mechanism (with weight-bearing the longitudinal arch flattens, the foot lengthens, the plantar fascia tightens, the proximal phalanx becomes plantarflexed and the mechanism comes to a stop when the proximal phalanx presses against the ground).

plantar plate injury



What causes a plantar plate injury and how common are they?

There are many contributing factors. The first is any activity that exposes the MTPJ to repetitive and excessive dorsiflexion, so think about jumping and running especially in forefoot runners. There are a few biomechanical conditions that increase the load through the plantar plate such as hallux valgus (bunions). As the function through the 1st MTPJ(big toe) is reduced, then we get what is known as low gear propulsion and increased loading through lesser MTPJs, typically the 2nd, 1st, then 3rd and so on. Another condition like having say an irregular metatarsal length, for example, if you have a long 3rd metatarsal, can expose the plantar plate to increased load, as can external factors like high heels. Basically anything that will result in excessive dorsiflexion or ground reaction forces at the MTPJs may increase plantar plate loading.


How does a plantar plate injury present?..

  • The patient will complain of pain on the dorsal and plantar aspects of the MTPJ, usually described as an ache or bruising.
  • Mild oedema may be present along with an episode of trauma, however, trauma is not essential as plantar plate injuries are typically a chronic overuse injury
  • Weight-bearing activities increase pain  – especially dancing, forefoot running, barefoot walking, etc
  • Rest /non-weight bearing reduces pain.
  • High heels or flexible footwear increases pain
  • Reduced plantarflexion strength – The ‘Digital Purchase’ test
    • A quick way to do this, put a piece of paper under the apex of the affected toe and ask the patient to try and stop you pulling the paper away, in a plantar plate injury you will notice the paper is pulled away much more easily.
  • Pain, oedema and positive Digital Lachmans (Anterior Draw) / Vertical Stress.
  • Floating toe, if late-stage hammertoe, or Churchill sign may be present.


Diagnosis of plantar plate injuries


Digital Lachmans / Vertical Stress Test (Fig 1)

Same style of test to assess ACL tears, helps to assess the integrity of the plantar plate, it is quick, easy and a simple test to perform. Stabilise the head of the metatarsal with one hand, using the other hand stabilise the base of the proximal phalanx, apply a vertical force, we are looking for pain and any translocation, it is important to remember this is different from dorsiflexion of the digit.

Fig. 1


There are 2 scoring systems one by Thompson and Hamilton and the other Yu and Judge

Thompson and Hamilton

  • Stage 0, there is no dorsal translocation present of the proximal phalanx.
  • Stage 1 the base of the phalanx, will not dislocate, however, may sublux
  • Stage 2 the base of the phalanx can be dislocated.
  • Stage 3 the phalanx base is in a fixed dislocated position

Yu and Judge

  • Stage 1 mild odema on the plantar MTPJ with dorsal odema often present as well. Tenderness is present on palpation, however no anatomical malalignment.
  • Stage 2 moderate odema is present with a noticeable deviation.
  • Stage 3 odema present around the entire MTPJ with deviation and possible dislocation/subluxation, the odema will reduce however the deformities will remain.

I think the best way to describe the 2 different methods of testing, would be that the Thompson and Hamilton test best describes the integrity of the plantar plate at any given time, whereas the Yu and Judge test describes different stages based on clinical findings on the time of examination.

MRIs, X-rays and Ultrasound

There is still some debate as to whether an MRI scan or ultrasound scan is best for detecting plantar plate injuries. As we know ultrasound is cheaper, however, it is user-dependent, whereas MRI scan is more expensive but we can also get an overall picture of the structures within that area as well. X-ray in weight-bearing (lateral or oblique views) will show subluxation dorsally of the proximal phalanx on the metatarsal head, an anterior-posterior view will show a transverse deformity as well. An x-ray will also rule out other bony pathologies.12


Treatment of plantar plate injuries

The aim of treatments, like most musculoskeletal pathologies, is about managing the load. Essentially we want to try and reduce the ground reaction forces under the affected metatarsal head and reduce the plantarflexion moment of the metatarsal and the dorsiflexion of the phalanx.

Treatment protocols include

  • No barefoot walking/activity modification
  • Footwear advice / Air cast boot – we want to look at using a stiff-soled shoe, or reducing the heel height of a shoe, so footwear like high heels and the flexible minimalist type shoes tend to aggravate a plantar plate injury, the same goes for open-toe shoes and flip-flops, as you must claw your toes to keep these on which again increases the ground reaction force underneath the metatarsal.
  • Stretching / Strengthening – thinking about the mechanics of the foot, if there is tightness within the calf muscles, in turn, could result in early and increased loading through the forefoot, and if you are unable to get adequate dorsiflexion due to calf tightness, then the foot may pronate to compensate for this, which in turn could increase the loading through the lesser MTPJ’s. It is important also to work on strengthening the muscles within the foot.
  • Strapping can be very helpful in reducing pain, using a rigid zinc oxide tape and pulling the toe into a plantarflexed position to help offload a plantar plate (Fig 2).
Fig. 2 Strapping for plantar plate injury



Orthotics can be a useful way to help offload the affected plantar plate. One of the best ways to treat Plantar Plate Injures with or without surgery is using an orthotic device that places the pressure into the archway and off of the ball of the foot. If manufactured and molded correctly, they can keep the tension off the injury and pressure when standing and walking. Combining the orthoses with taping and footwear advice can be quite an effective way of offloading the affected plantar plate, whilst the patient reduces sporting activities.


Steroid injections

Steroid injections can be tried , however repeated intra-articular injections has been shown to result in dislocation of the MTPJ. It has also been suggested that injections into a ligament resulted in destruction of fibrocytes and reduction in tensile strength for up to 1 year which in turn may result in further damage a possible rupture.

A recent case study showing a patient with a plantar plate tear was managed using conservative measures, consisting of taping, activity modification and the use of a Darco boot over a 6 month period, and progressing to stiffed shoe and orthoses and stopped taping. At the 1 year mark, the patient was pain-free with no toe deformity, and on MRI the plantar plate has healed.

So what’s my treatment plan?

  • No barefoot walking for 6 weeks (minimum)
  • To wear stiff-soled shoes
  • Strapping of digit changing every 72 hours
  • Activity modification
  • Orthoses as described as above, plus any other modifications required
  • Stretching and Strength work – Distal and proximal


If conservative measures fail, then it may require referral to a surgeon.



Physiotherapist in Tralee. Ring to discuss your condition, to get a second opinion or to make an appointment. Click here for website.

Morton's Foot
Morton’s Foot

Morton’s foot and pyridoxal 5′-phosphate deficiency: genetically linked traits.

I came across an extremely interesting article lately regarding Morton’s foot and vitamin B6 deficiency. A lot of what I say in the article comes from scientifically published research referenced at the end of the article. Apologies if some of it is a bit technical. I have tried to simplify it while keeping the content intact.

What is Morton’s foot?

A Morton’s foot  also  called Morton’s toe, is a condition characterized by a longer second toe.


Morton’s Toe will cause an individual to have abnormal or over pronation.  It is this pronation that is the ultimate cause or contributing factor to most of the problems not only of the foot but also of the whole body.

Normal Pronation is a series of motions the foot must have, so that it can absorb the shock of meeting the ground. It must be able to do this, in order to adapt and adjust to the new walking surfaces it has just met. This adjustment should only last a fraction of a second to allow the foot to slow down; absorb the shock of your body weight in order to adjust and adapt to the walking surface. If this adjustments last longer, the foot will then begin to abnormally pronate and to correct itself. This is the start of a “chain reaction” that puts the foot under a lot of abnormal stress and strain, causing  Bunions, Heel Spurs, plantar fasciitis, Corns, Callouses, ingrown toenails and numerous other foot problems.


Vitamin B6 deficiency

Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin needed for many chemical reactions in the human body. It exists as several active forms but pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP) is the phosphorylated form needed for transamination, deamination, and decarboxylation. PLP is important in the production of neurotransmitters, acts as a Schiff base and is essential in the metabolism of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid involved in cardiovascular disease, stroke, thrombotic and Alzheimer’s disease. Nichols and Gaiteri(2014) showed the connection between a deficit of pyridoxal 5′-phosphate and the physical foot deformity known as the Morton’s foot. Morton’s foot has been associated with fibromyalgia/myofascial pain syndrome. PLP deficiency also plays a role in impaired glucose tolerance and may play a much bigger role in the obesity, diabetes, fatty liver and metabolic syndrome. Without the Schiff-base of PLP acting as an electron sink, storing electrons and dispensing them in the mitochondria, free radical damage occurs.



To put this all very simply : Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin needed for many chemical reactions that take place within the human body. This vitamin is obtained from your diet. The genetically linked condition of ”Morton’s toe” has been linked to the inability to convert Vitamin B6 into the active form pyridoxal 5′-phosphate needed for cetain chemical processes in the human body. This in turn can lead to conditions seen with vitamin B6 deficiency. Some of these conditions include:

  • Anemia
  • Skin/Hair/Nail problems
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Nerve damage
  • Pain syndrome development
  • Systemic Inflammation
  • Circulation problems, including oxygen transport
  • Hormone Issues
  • Seizures

Do not take a B6 supplement, or “b-vitamin complex” and expect it to help. It won’t.
You need the activated form of B6 called P5P. This is the only form that your body can use.



Supplementation with PLP, L5-MTHF, B12 and trimethylglycine should be used in those patients with hyperhomocysteinemia and/or MTHFR gene mutation.(Trent W. Nichols, Christopher Gaiteri ,Published in Medical hypotheses 2014, DOI:10.1016/j.mehy.2014.09.003).


Physiotherapists in Tralee.  Open early until late. Phone 086-7700191

bicipital-tendonitisBicipital tendonitis is a common cause of shoulder pain, often developing in people who perform repetitive, overhead movements. Biceps tendinitis develops over time, the pain being located at the front of the shoulder. The biceps muscle has two parts referred to as the long head and the short head. The tendon of the long head of the biceps is most commonly implicated with tendonitis. When this tendon is subjected to repetitive stresses, it can become irritated, swollen, and painful.This occurs where the tendon sits within the bicipital groove at the top of the humerus under the transverse ligament before it becomes part of the shoulder joint capsule.

Pain at this exact spot when pressed with a finger as the arm is rotated in and out while standing, is usually a fairly reliable test to confirm this condition. Imaging techniques such as MRI are typically not needed to diagnose biceps tendonitis.

Symptoms – Bicipital Tendonitis

Pain or tenderness in the front of the shoulder, which worsens with overhead lifting or activity.

Pain that moves down along the upper arm

An occasional snapping sound or sensation in the shoulder

Treatment – Bicipital Tendonitis

The initial goals of treatment for bicipital tendonitis are to reduce inflammation and swelling. Patients should restrict above shoulder height movements, reaching out with the affected arm and lifting. They should apply ice to the affected area for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times daily for several days. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help recovery. Probably the biggest aid to recovery is rest from the aggravating activity for several weeks. I often come across this condition in weight trainers who front press or incline bench press, the bar being too far out from their neck during pressing. It is also common in swimmers with poor technique or who ramp up their training distance/pace too quickly.


Physiotherapist Tralee : Phone 086-7700191 for an appointment, second opinion or to discuss your injury.

Sub-acromial bursitis. Overview by Physio in Tralee.


sub-acromial bursitis Sub-acromial bursitis is a common cause of shoulder pain that is usually related to impingement of the bursa between the supraspinatus muscle tendon and the acromion bone(see diagram). Bursae(single = bursa) are fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction wherever tendons move under or over bone. The Supraspinatus muscle runs along the top of the shoulder blade and inserts via the tendon onto the top of the arm(humerus bone). This muscle is used to lift the arm up sideways . Above the supraspinatus tendon and under the acromion there is a bursa. When this bursa gets inflamed and swollen it can become trapped under the acromium bone of the shoulder causing pain and inflammation.



Symptoms of sub-acromial bursitis can be similar to those of supraspinatus  muscle/tendon injury within the shoulder. There will be pain and weakness in the arm, particularly when it is lifted sideways from the hip to overhead.  Pain at different levels 0f this 180 degree arc can indicate different injuries. If it is the tendon that is injured rather than the bursa somebody may be able to lift your arm over your head for you, with much less pain than you would have lifting your arm by itself. If you have a sub-acromial bursitis, especially if it is severe, neither you or another person will be able to lift that arm fully over your head. As the arm is lifted, there is increased compression on the bursa due to reduction within the sub-acromial space. This limits the upward movement of the arm  due to severe pain and restriction caused to the swollen/inflamed bursa. If a supraspinatus muscle/tendon tear is the cause of the pain, another person will be able to lift your arm fully over your head for you, with significantly less pain than you doing it on your own. This is  because they take over the function of the torn or injured muscle/tendon. These are important differences, as they often allow a practitioner to differentiate between both injuries .

What Causes It?

Sometimes, an injury damages the bursa in your shoulder. Overuse of your shoulder muscle can also cause damage. People who do a lot of overhead lifting and/or forceful pulling are at risk.  Sports  involving a lot of throwing or pitching can also irritate the sub-acromial bursa. Other factors that can help cause this type of bursitis include:

Your age. Bursitis in the shoulder becomes more likely as you age.

Poor posture with the shoulders arched forwards increases the risk of this injury. It causes impingement of the supraspinatus tendon and bursa by making the sub-acromial space smaller.

Poor shoulder flexibility/mobility.

Infection, arthritis, gout, diabetes, or thyroid disease can also cause issues.


With very mild bursitis rest from aggravating activities and the use of non-steroid anti-inflammatories can be beneficial. A physio can loosen out the shoulder structure and give you exercises to improve shoulder posture, mobility and strength. In bad cases of bursitis, a cortisone injection into the area, done correctly, can bring full relief within days, especially if the condition is recent. Posture must be corrected, and aggravating activities reduced, thereafter, for long-term relief. For more troublesome recurring bursitis, a surgeon may need to remove the bursa altogether. Bursae do grow back, but now you have a new one to start afresh.

Physical Therapist in Tralee phone 086-7700191