A term used to describe pain in the area of the ball of the foot.
It’s common for your feet to hurt after you’ve been on them all day. This is particularly true if you aren’t used to standing for hours at a time.
However, there’s a difference between aching feet that will feel better after you sit down for a few minutes and an overuse injury. If you are experiencing serious foot pain, especially sharp or burning pain in the forefoot or toes, you may be suffering from metatarsalgia.
Let’s look at when foot pain becomes something more serious and what you can do about it.
What Is Metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is a painful inflammation in the ball of the foot. It can appear on its own or be indicative of another problem. The name comes from the metatarsals, the bones in the mid-forefoot that end at the base of the toes.
Symptoms can be mild like simply feeling like there is a small rock in your shoe. Or you can suffer sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot. You also may feel numbness, pain, or tingling in your toes. Typically the pain worsens when you get up and walk around and improves when you sit down.
Metatarsalgia is a ‘catch-all’ term for a family of foot conditions that cause pain in the forefoot. Your doctor or your foot specialist may be able to determine what your specific diagnosis is.
What Causes Metatarsalgia?
Athletes are particularly susceptible to contracting metatarsalgia. In particular, those whose sport involves a lot of high impact on the balls of the feet like running or jumping.
Tight or ill-fitting shoes can also be a culprit, particularly high heels. Other common contributing causes include:
- Being overweight: the ball of the foot has to support that extra weight, meaning the stress on the foot is greater.
- Having other foot deformities like hammertoe or bunions.
- Certain foot shapes.
- Stress fractures in the metatarsals.
- Morton’s Neuroma: nerve growth that usually appears between the third and fourth metatarsal heads.
- Having an inflammatory problem like rheumatoid arthritis or gout may make you more prone to suffer from Metatarsalgia.
At-Home Treatment Options
At-home treatments are basic but are often ineffective for many people. Rest as much as you can and elevate your feet when possible. If you are athletic, choose lower-impact exercises like swimming or bicycling temporarily
To bring down the inflammation, try icing it a few times a day and take an over-the-counter pain reliever that is also an anti-inflammatory.
If your pain is not subsding in a week or so you will need to see your Chiropodist for more targeted treatment. Your Chiropodist will do a thorough examination of your feet and consider all angle when finding the solution.
While not only examining your feet your chiropodist will look at your footwear to determine if these need to be changed or modified to help get you better fasted. Sometimes padding is necessary to open up the joint spaces and alleviate the pain.
Surgery is rarely required for metatarsalgia, determining the cause with the help of your Chiropodist is where lies the solution.
What is the Treatment for Metatarsalgia?
There are a number of at-home remedies you can try to treat metatarsalgia. For example, try to enjoy a few days of rest and elevate your feet. In particular, if you are an athlete that runs or jumps, lower-impact sports are going to be recommended. This can include swimming and cycling.
Using ice packs on your feet can also help with metatarsalgia. This can help to reduce the swelling you are experiencing. You can also take anti-inflammatory medications that you can get over the counter at your local drugstore.
If you have tried to treat metatarsalgia and it has not helped, it is best to visit a foot specialist. They can introduce you to some beneficial stretches and strengthening exercises that may help. In addition, they can recommend the best shoes you can wear to help metatarsalgia. For example, this could include orthotics. In bad cases of metatarsalgia, surgery may be necessary.