METATARSALGIA (PAIN IN THE BALL OF THE FOOT)
Forefoot Pain: Metatarsalgia
Metatarsalgia is an umbrella term that describes foot pain in the ball of the forefoot region (metatarsal area). The forefoot is the anterior portion of the foot formed by five metatarsals, fourteen phalange bones, and soft tissues. This complicated structure makes pain in this region more complex to diagnose.
Metatarsalgia is a condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed. You might develop it if you participate in activities that involve running and jumping. There are other causes as well, including foot deformities and shoes that are too tight or too loose.
If you find yourself struggling with this, don't fret - there are many different metatarsalgia treatments available, ranging from medications to surgical intervention. Get in touch with City Foot Health today for a visit and a detailed treatment plan
Pain in the ball of the foot?
The medical term for pain in the ball of the foot is metatarsalgia. It’s an umbrella term for a symptom that can have many possible causes, as opposed to a diagnosis in and of itself.
The pain is usually present in the metatarsal heads — the joint that is just under your toes — or the big toe. You may also experience shooting pain, numbness, and pain with flexing the toes. The pain may ease when you are off your feet and return when you resume your normal activities.
Ball of foot pain is relatively common and treatable in most cases, especially when the cause has been determined.
Symptoms of Metatarsalgia
Patients with metatarsalgia usually experience a sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of their feet. The pain usually worsens during standing, walking, running or when the affected foot is flexed. Some may have numbness or tingling sensation in their toes. In most cases, the skin overlying the affected area becomes thick and hard, rough-textured, along with either complete/partial loss of sensation. This is often referred to as hyperkeratosis or callosity. Depending upon the cause, some people might have noticed a problem with the shape of their foot or toes which may also be relevant. Overall, these symptoms can often interfere with comfort in shoes and ability to walk or play sport.
At City Foot Health, our podiatry treatment will assess and diagnose Metatarsalgia and design a suitable treatment plan to relieve the pain.
Causes of Metatarsalgia
There are many causes of metatarsalgia that require careful judgement to conclude the diagnosis and the treatment plan. Some common causes include:
- Overweight: Excess body weight tends to put more pressure on the feet and cause pain.
- Overuse: Pain from overuse is seen in sports people (athletes and runners). This condition exhibits from inflammation to fracture of metatarsal bones.
- The shape of the foot: People with hammer toes (toe is bent at the middle joint) and bunion (a painful bump at the base of the big toe) are also more prone to metatarsalgia.
- Big toe arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammation of the cartilage and lining of the bone joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common type which causes excessive trauma and wearing away of the cartilage in the joints of the foot.
- Gout: It is a very common, painful form of arthritis that causes swelling, redness and stiffness of the joints. It usually affects the big toe and leads to severe pain.
- Stress fractures: Stress fractures of the foot that may occur in athletes or walkers can result in pain.
- Morton’s neuroma: Morton's neuroma is a painful condition affecting one of the nerves between the toes (interdigital nerve). Morton’s neuroma refers to the thickening of the nerve tissue between your third and fourth toes due to scar tissue formation.
- Sesamoiditis: This condition is an inflammation of the sesamoid bones. These are the small, round bones embedded within the tendons leading to the big toe. The main source for sesamoiditis is consistent pressure and tension applied over the foot. It is common in people who participate in potentially high-intensity sports (runners) or jarring (jogging or boxing) activities.
- Pes cavus: This is a condition of highly arched foot shape. The gap between the sole of a foot and the floor is higher than normal in case of Pes cavus. This places excessive pressure on the balls of the feet.
- Loss of fat pad under the ball of the foot: With ageing, the protective fat pad under the ball of the foot tends to thin out with overuse and may increase the susceptibility to pain in the ball of the foot.
- Poorly-fitting shoes: Wearing tight, narrowed or high-heeled shoes can put constant strain on the metatarsal bones.
At City Foot Health, our podiatrist will assess diagnose metatarsalgia and recommend suitable treatment plans. Contact us for metatarsalgia treatment in London.
Early metatarsalgia treatment is critical to relieve pain. At city foot health our podiatrist will recommend a suitable treatment option depending on the severity of the Metatarsalgia and x-ray results. The following treatment options can help to ease the pain of metatarsalgia:
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids and NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation
- Resting your feet and applying ice packs wrapped in a towel over the sole of the affected foot can reduce pain and swelling
- Adaptation to a weight-loss dietary regimen, if you are overweight
- Activity modification: Avoid vigorous activities that exert excessive stress on the bones and tendons of the feet. Begin specific exercises to help strengthen the foot muscles.
- Use customized orthotics or insoles to support and protect the foot. It also helps cut back the pressure placed on the feet.
- Extra-fit toe pads, softening or metatarsal pads can be placed inside your shoes to help cushion the shock while walking. Simple footwear modifications include using low-heeled shoes and broad toe box shoes with silicone gel pads to minimize discomfort at the tip of the toes.
- Immobilization through the use of a cast, splint, brace, walking boot, or another device to prevent movement of the feet and assist in faster healing of the ruptured tendon.
- Surgery is considered as the last option if in case the symptoms of metatarsalgia fail to resolve with the conservative treatments and depends on the age and activity level of the individual, extent of damage to the tendon or bone or nerve, and other factors. Surgical treatment for metatarsalgia involves realigning or reshaping the metatarsal bones.