M is for Metatarsalgia

November 26, 2012

Metatarsalgia is a catch all phrase that really mean a sore forefoot! It could be due to a number of different things.


Metatarsalgia is a general term that refers to pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot, specifically around the metatarsal heads. The metatarsal heads are the bones located in the front part of the foot, just before the toes.

Metatarsalgia can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Overuse or High-Impact Activities: Engaging in high-impact activities like running or jumping, or repetitive movements that place excessive stress on the ball of the foot, can lead to metatarsalgia.
  2. Foot Abnormalities or Imbalances: Certain foot conditions or structural abnormalities, such as high arches, flat feet, hammertoes, or bunions, can contribute to metatarsalgia by altering the distribution of weight and pressure on the foot.
  3. Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes that do not provide adequate support, cushioning, or proper fit can increase the risk of developing metatarsalgia. High-heeled shoes, tight or narrow footwear, and shoes with insufficient padding can exacerbate the condition.
  4. Aging and Thinning Fat Pads: As we age, the fat pads in the ball of the foot can naturally thin out, leading to decreased cushioning and increased susceptibility to pain and discomfort.

The most common symptom of metatarsalgia is pain in the ball of the foot, typically described as a sharp or burning sensation. The pain may worsen with walking, running, or standing for extended periods. Other symptoms may include:

  1. Tenderness or inflammation in the affected area.
  2. Feeling of having a pebble or foreign object in the shoe.
  3. Numbness or tingling in the toes.

To diagnose metatarsalgia, a healthcare provider will typically perform a physical examination and review the individual’s medical history. Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans may be ordered to rule out other conditions or assess the foot’s structure and alignment.

Treatment for metatarsalgia generally focuses on relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and addressing the underlying causes. Common generic treatment approaches may include:

  1. Rest and Modification of Activities: Avoiding or reducing activities that exacerbate the pain can help alleviate symptoms and promote healing.
  2. Proper Footwear: Wearing well-fitting shoes with adequate cushioning, support, and room for the toes can help alleviate pressure on the ball of the foot.
  3. Orthotic Inserts: Custom-made or over-the-counter shoe inserts, such as metatarsal pads or arch supports, can help distribute pressure more evenly across the foot and provide additional cushioning.
  4. Pain Relief and Anti-inflammatory Measures: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or topical pain-relieving creams may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation.
  5. Physical Therapy: Stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as techniques to improve foot mechanics and gait, may be prescribed by a physical therapist to alleviate symptoms and prevent recurrences.


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