Metatarsalgia is a condition marked by pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot.
You may experience metatarsalgia if you're physically active and you participate in activities that involve running and jumping. Or, you may develop metatarsalgia by wearing ill-fitting shoes. There are other causes as well.
Although generally not serious, metatarsalgia can sideline you. Fortunately, conservative treatments, such as ice and rest, can often relieve metatarsalgia symptoms. And proper footwear, along with shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports, may be all you need to prevent or minimize future problems with metatarsalgia.
Excess pressure on your forefoot can cause pain and inflammation in your metatarsals — the long bones in the front of your feet, just below your toes. ...
Symptoms of metatarsalgia may include:
Sometimes these symptoms develop suddenly — especially if you've recently increased your usual amount of running, jumping or other high-impact exercise — but problems usually develop over time.
When to see a doctor
In each foot, five metatarsal bones run from your arch to your toe joints. The first metatarsal is shorter and thicker than the other four bones, which are usually similar in size. During the push-off phase when you walk, jump or run, your body weight is transferred to your toes and metatarsals. The first and second metatarsal bones take the brunt of this force.
Most metatarsal problems develop when something changes in the way your foot normally works (mechanics), affecting how your weight is distributed. This can put excess pressure on the metatarsals, leading to inflammation and pain, especially in the metatarsal heads — the rounded ends of the bones that connect with your toe bones.
Sometimes a single factor can lead to metatarsalgia. More often, several factors are involved, including:
Almost anyone can develop metatarsalgia, but you're at higher risk if you:
Left untreated, metatarsalgia may lead to:
Preparing for your appointment
You'll probably first see your family doctor or general practitioner. However, he or she may refer you to a bone specialist (orthopedist) or a foot specialist (podiatrist).
Because appointments can be brief, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your visit. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
For metatarsalgia, some basic questions you might want to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Various foot problems can cause symptoms similar to those of metatarsalgia. To help pinpoint the source of your pain, your doctor will examine your foot and ask about your lifestyle and activity level. You may need an X-ray to identify or rule out a stress fracture or other foot problems.
Treatments and drugs
Conservative measures usually relieve the pain of metatarsalgia.
If conservative treatments fail, in rare cases surgery to realign the metatarsal bones may be an option. If you're considering foot surgery, discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.
When you're serious about sports, your metatarsals may take a beating. But that doesn't mean you have to live with pain and injuries. To help protect your feet:
If you're recovering from an injury, don't try to resume strenuous activity too soon. If you're not completely healed — or you train through the pain — you may develop more severe problems that limit your activity even longer.
Last Updated: 2011-01-25
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