What is metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia refers to pain in the ball of the foot. This is the area between the aches and toes on the bottom of the foot. Metatarsalgia usually centers on the five bones behind the toes called metatarsals.
The pain of metatarsalgia can be caused by a number of conditions and can have varied treatments.
Who gets metatarsalgia?
Anyone can get this problem, although runners and others who take part in high impact sports have the condition more frequently than others.
People with high arches also have metatarsalgia more than others. Their arch can put extra pressure on the metatarsals. People with a second toe longer than their big toe may also have more metatarsalgia.
People with foot deformities such as hammertoes and bunions may also experience this condition.
What causes metatarsalgia?
Not all of the causes are known. In addition to being a frequent runner, wearing ill-fitting shoes or high heels can cause metatarsalgia.
Excess weight can also contribute to metatarsalgia.
Having rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or gout can also contribute to metatarsalgia.
What are the symptoms of metatarsalgia?
The main symptoms of metatarsalgia is pain in the metatarsal area under the ball of the foot. Metatarsalgia may or may not be accompanied by bruising and swelling or inflammation. Symptoms can come on quickly or slowly develop over time. They include:
- Pain in the ball of the foot: this can be sharp, aching, or burning. The pain may get worse when you stand, run, or walk.
- Numbness or tingling in your toes
- The feeling of a pebble in your shoe
If you have any of these ongoing symptoms, you should see your doctor. Untreated metatarsalgia can lead to hammertoes, can cause you to limp and cause pain in other parts of the body, including the lower back and hip.
How is metatarsalgia diagnosed?
Your doctor will begin an exam for metatarsalgia by asking about your symptoms. He or she will also examine your foot manually. You may need an X-ray to rule out stress fractures or other problems that could be causing your pain.
How is metatarsalgia treated?
Metatarsalgia is usually treated without surgery. Your doctor may recommend that you use a metatarsal pad, a surgical shoe, or a shoe insert to offload the painful part of your foot. Athletic shoes or rocker soled shoes may be recommended.
Shoes with good soles, a wide toe box, and a lower heel are all helpful. Soaking and using pumice stone on your feet to help remove calluses can also help relieve pressure. Persons with diabetes should first consult their physician before doing this.
If these measures do not help relieve your metatarsalgia, an injection or surgery may be necessary to resolve the problem.