What is metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is a generic term used to describe pain in the bottom of the feet, at the point just before the toes at the heads of the metatarsals (the ball of the foot).
What are the symptoms of metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is the pain located at the ball of the foot and can be described by patients as a deep and stable, acute, sharp and sometimes burning pain. Metatarsalgia is not a disease itself, but rather a symptom of pain on the specific area.
This pain usually begins slowly and gets worse over time. It can be worse when standing, walking, or walking barefoot on a hard surface, and gets better with rest.
What causes metatarsalgia?
Metatarsals are the long bones in the feet. Each foot has five metatarsals, of which the first is a shorter and thicker bone, and the remaining four are about equal in size.
When we walk, run or exercise, the weight of our body is transferred to these bones.
The main causes of metatarsalgia are:
- Intense exercise. Intensive and frequent workout or running causes the metatarsals to gather increase pressures.
- Foot deformities. Deformities such as hallux abducto valgus (bunion), dropped metatarsal heads, claw toes etc, often redistribute the weight of the body in the ball of the foot, the region where the pain of metatarsalgia is observed.
- Increased body weight. The greater the weight of the body, the bigger the force transferred to the feet.
- Incorrect shoes, especially high heels, which change the weight distribution in the feet and create increased pressures in the metatarsal region.
- Morton’s Neuroma. Part of the plantar nerve which runs between the second and third metatarsal becomes swollen, causing pain.
How is metatarsalgia diagnosed?
Your podiatrist will ask a number of questions regarding your medical history and your daily routine and will examine you to determine the exact causes of the pain. Metatarsalgia, as mentioned above, is the symptom of pain in the ball of the foot and this pain can be due to various reasons. If necessary, you will be referred to an orthopaedic doctor for further examination or radiographic imaging.
How is metatarsalgia treated?
The treatment of this symptom of pain depends on the cause of it.
Some general treatments are:
- Ice therapy. Application of ice to affected area for about 20 minutes can aid in reducing inflammation.
- Painkillers. Simple analgesics or anti-inflammatory painkillers also help with inflammation.
- Correct shoes. Select shoes that support the foot.
- Orthotic insoles. Provision of special orthotic insoles that help redistribute weight away from the painful areas.