Conditions & Symptoms

Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is the general medical term for having inflammation and pain in the ball of the foot. It isn’t a disease in and of itself but is a symptom of other problems going on with the foot. The main cause of metatarsalgia is overuse of the foot. It is seen often in athletes who must put a lot of force on their foot as part of their sport. Those that do a lot of jumping or running are at a higher risk of getting pain in the area of the forefoot. This is an especially common injury among those who are track and field runners but it can also be seen in those who play football, tennis, soccer, baseball and other sports.

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia

The main symptom of metatarsalgia is pain in the forefoot at the base of the metatarsal bones of the foot. Walking and running tend to make the pain worse. The pain tends not to occur all of a sudden but gradually worsens over several months. Metatarsalgia can be caused by having a Morton’s neuroma in the forefoot or from bursitis of the foot. If Morton’s neuroma is the cause of the metatarsalgia, there is often numbness some of the toes.

Causes of Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is almost exclusively a condition of athletes who overuse the foot in the course of playing sports. The weight isn’t distributed properly on the foot and more pressure is put on the metatarsal bones. This leads to chronic irritation of the bones, tendons, and ligaments of the forefoot.

Things that contribute to having metatarsalgia include the following:

  • Tight muscles in the toes (the extensor muscles)
  • Weak flexor muscles of the toes
  • Increased physical activity
  • Large metatarsal heads
  • Shoes that do not fit well
  • Having hammertoes
  • Having a tightened Achilles tendon
  • Having high arches
  • Having an abnormal first metatarsal bone that shifts too much weight to the rest of the metatarsals.

Diagnosis of Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia can be diagnosed by a good medical history and physical examination of the foot. There will be tenderness on the ball of the foot in some cases. A bone scan can be done that shows areas of inflammation of the foot. X-rays may be done to make sure there isn’t a stress fracture of one of the metatarsal bones. Sometimes an ultrasound can be done on the foot to show a Morton’s neuroma or an area of bursitis in the foot. MRI exams are expensive but can be done if the cause of the pain isn’t clear and there are suspected soft tissue tumors or other abnormalities of the soft tissue of the foot.

Treatment of Metatarsalgia

If an athlete has a game to play and is experiencing metatarsalgia, ice can be applied to the forefoot along with the application of an ACE bandage. If weight is kept off the foot for about a day, the inflammation can settle down and the pain can be somewhat relieved. Passive range of motion exercise or treatment with ultrasound can be done to take down the inflammation and relieve the pain. Orthotics can be used to pad the area around the metatarsal bones.

Shoes can be fit better to support the forefoot and prevent further injury. If supportive shoes are ineffective, a flexible corrective device can be placed in the shoe for better protection of the metatarsal bones. Gradually, the foot is strengthened through physical therapy so the problem can be prevented. Activities that make the pain worse can be avoided; however, this may not be possible if athletics are concerned, particularly for professional athletes.

If there is a callus on the forefoot, the podiatrist can trim it so that the pain can be relieved at least temporarily. Pads can be put over the trimmed area to prevent further callus formation. A metatarsal bar can be inserted into the athlete’s shoe to protect the metatarsal bones.

Other Foot Conditions & Symptoms

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Bunions

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The medical terms for bunions are hallux abducto valgus or just hallux valgus. It is a common foot problem, especially among women. It involves having a large bump on the inner aspect of the foot at the site of the connection between the big toe and the foot itself....

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Cavus Foot

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Having a cavus foot basically means you are a person with very high arches. Rather than putting pressure on the whole of the foot, the pressure of standing and walking is placed on the ball of the foot and the heel of the foot, leading to instability and pain when...

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Corns and Calluses

Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are thickened and hard areas of skin that happen when the skin protects itself against the pressure and friction of shoes or the ground. While they can look ugly, they are not dangerous and can easily be treated if they are painful. If you just...

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Diabetic Foot

Diabetic Foot

If you suffer from diabetes mellitus (type 1 or type 2), this means your blood sugar is too high over much of the time. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and nerves, starting with the foot. It can result in a loss of feeling in the foot and poor...

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Flat Feet

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The medical term for “flat feet” is “pes planus” or sometimes we just call them “fallen arches. You are considered to have flat feet when the arches that give the foot its characteristic shape are flattened so that the whole sole of the foot touches the ground upon...

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Heel Pain

Heel Pain

The heel is designed to take a lot of stress. It is padded with thick skin and fat so you can pound the pavement or do sports activities without pain. If you do these things to excess, however, you can develop various kinds of heel pain. Heel pain can occur from...

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Illiotibial Band Syndrome

Illiotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is also referred to as ITBS. It is a common overuse injury that runner’s incur by running too much. The syndrome happens when the ligament running from the outer portion of the thigh to the outer aspect of the shin (the iliotibial band)...

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Ingrown Nails

Ingrown Nails

Onychocryptosis is the technical term for an ingrown toenail, this is an often painful condition in which the nail grows so that it cuts into one or both sides of the nail bed. This condition has been found only in shoe-wearing cultures and does not occur in...

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Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown Toenails

The medical term for ingrown toenail is onychocryptosis. Ingrown toenails usually affect the great toe. Usually only one toe is affected but some people can have ingrown toenails on both feet. They are most common in athletes who scuff up their toes often and often...

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Knee Pain

Knee Pain

The knee joint takes a great deal of your weight when you are walking so it is especially prone to becoming painful or being injured. You can suffer from acute knee pain because of a car accident, a fall, or a sports injury. You can also suffer from chronic knee pain...

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Morton’s Neuromas

Morton’s Neuromas

A Morton’s neuroma stems from having excess pressure on the nerves of your foot, usually from wearing shoes that are too tight. It is actually a small ball of nerve bundles that have formed a benign tumor on the ball of the foot, usually located in the web space...

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Pigeon Toe Gait

Pigeon Toe Gait

A pigeon toe gait goes by many different medical names including intoeing, metatarsus adductus, metatarsus varus, and false club foot. These are all just fancy terms to describe a person who has toes that point toward the inside of the foot when they walk. Many...

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Scoliosis

Scoliosis

Scoliosis usually means you have curvature of the spine that goes in a lateral direction. The curvature is usually in the thoracic and lumbar spine and can lead to chronic back pain, an obvious deformity of the spine, and an abnormal gait. Scoliosis usually happens...

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Shin Splints

Shin Splints

Shin splints are a common name for tibial stress syndrome, which results in pain in the shin bone or tibia of the lower leg. The tibia is the main bone that takes the stress of the lower leg when running or doing sports. Shin splints are especially common in people...

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Verrucas Plantar Warts

Verrucas Plantar Warts

Verruca (or plantar warts) are a contagious, viral, and usually painful wart on the sole of the foot. The Foot Practice sees many patients who are frustrated with the condition, having tried all manner of treatments at other clinics. We are pleased that we have an...

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