Metatarsalgia: The Pain in the Ball of Your Foot
Foot pain can be debilitating on the best of days. Existing conditions that become inflamed can make walking excruciatingly painful. One such condition characterized as inflammation or sharp burning pain the ball of the foot is called metatarsalgia. Other symptoms can sometimes include tingling or numbness in these areas that get more intense when flexing the foot, walking, running or standing. Walking barefoot on flat, hard surfaces can make this pain even worse. While similar to pain from Morton’s neuroma, metatarsalgia can often be differentiated because of the characteristic pain around the big toe, versus the second and third toes only.
Many metatarsal problems originate from biomechanical issues and hard impact with hard surfaces when walking or running. This additional pressure placed on the metatarsal joints and bones leads to inflammation and pain over time, especially in the rounded ends of the bones of the toes. Triggers such as intense training or sudden increases in activity level can create inflammation, as well as the simple misfortune of having a foot shape prone to forward weight distribution in the feet. For example, a high arch can put extra pressure on the metatarsals, as well as Morton’s toe, which is a condition when the second or third toe extends beyond the big toe in length. Other conditions, such as hammertoes, bunions and obesity can contribute to inflammation and pain in the metatarsals.
There are some basic preventative measures and at-home treatments that can prevent or alleviate pain:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Undue stress on the feet can create inflammation and pain, leading to an uneven gait. This in time can create more problems ranging from foot pain to ankle, knee and back problems.
- Wear the right shoes. Shoes with adequate toe box room allow the toes to rest comfortably flat, rather than being bunched up and adding pressure to the forefoot. Avoid extremely high heels and pointed toes whenever possible. Padded socks, non-slip outsoles, and orthotics are also recommended to prevent metatarsalgia.
- Be sure to rest. High levels of activity on the feet should be followed with adequate downtime! Conservative treatments such as ice and propping up the feet can often relieve metatarsalgia When using ice, apply for 20 minutes or so at a time, and always protect the skin by wrapping ice packs in a cloth or towel before applying directly to the affected area.
If your pain cannot be managed with the above suggestions, or if taking an anti-inflammatory does not alleviate pain, it is important to seek treatment from a podiatrist before additional damage can be done. Chronic joint pain can lead to arthritis and other permanent damage. If the pain doesn’t subside within a few days, request an appointment with one of our podiatric specialists today for a foot exam by clicking here or call any of our convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.
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