Metatarsalgia is a name given when the ball of the foot becomes painful. The bones within this region are called the metatarsals hence lending their name to this condition.
What Is Metatarsalgia?Metatarsalgia occurs when the bones of the ball of the foot becomes inflamed or damaged. It can occur in all five of the bones of the foot or, more commonly, solely in the bone connected to the big toe.The pain can develop from a dull ache to a very agonising constant shooting pain.
The condition can either be acute, with the person suffering only one episode of this discomfort, or can be chronic or recurring. Acute metatarsalgia is normally the result of excessive pressure on the area from ill fitting footwear that causes the bones to become pressurised within too small a space; most commonly, narrow fitting shoes or those with high heels are to blame, though age plays a role as the ageing process causes the tissues of this area to become thinned, allowing for pressure to become more acute.
Chronic or recurring conditions may indicate an underlying cause such as arthritis or another inflammatory response to an alternative condition. This will need to be investigated by your GP for an accurate diagnosis if an underlying condition is to blame.
Treating MetatarsalgiaDuring the initial healing phase, pain relief and rest may be the only actions needed to allow the tissues and bones to recovery and return to their normal state. Changing the footwear that may have caused the problem is advisable in order to prevent the condition from occurring again; often changing to a wider fitting shoe or a slightly lower heel will prevent the inflammation from returning.
The use of insoles may be indicated as these can provide padding and soften impact to this area, but this will only be beneficial if footwear is modified to accommodate the insole.Heel arches may be tried if insoles do not make a difference and these are worn as a supportive mechanism that helps to control and evenly spread movements through the foot. They come in a range of sizes so please seek advice when selecting a heel arch in order to find then most appropriate size for your needs.
If a different medical condition is found to have caused the problem, this will need treating with either specific medications or simple anti-inflammatory medications.If the problem is experienced in a sportsperson, a physiotherapist may be able to help advise on rehabilitation and strengthening exercises that will allow the area to deal better with the pressure experienced by the repetitive and high impact activities that may have caused the problem.
If the condition is particularly serious or causing a long term reduction in a person’s quality of life, surgery may be indicated in order to stretch, loosen or remove ligaments or tendons, or to reshape or realign the metatarsal bones of the feet to alleviate the symptoms.
Preventing MetatarsalgiaThe easiest way of preventing this condition is too ensure correctly fitting footwear is selected and that the feet are allowed time to rest and relax at frequent periods during the day. If heels must be worn, try and keep the heel small and ensure that flatter shoes are worn at all other times. Keeping weight down to a healthy limit will also reduce the pressure experienced in the feet as will resting regularly when pregnant.
Metatarsalgia is often a non-serious condition that temporarily debilitates the sufferer, and can usually be relieved by employing a range of self-help and conservative treatments.