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Metatarsalgia(Pain in Ball of Foot)

Pronounced: meta-tar-sal-jea

Definition

Metatarsalgia is a condition that causes pain and inflammation to the ball of your foot. You may also feel pain in the big toe or the 3 toes closest to the big toe.

Metatarsalgia

metatarsalgia

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Causes

Metatarsalgia can be caused by a number of conditions:

Risk Factors

Metatarsalgia is more common in older adults due to the aging process. Factors that increase your chance of developing metatarsalgia include:

  • Feet with high arches
  • Feet with abnormally long bones
  • Claw/ Hammer toes
  • High-impact sports
  • Being overweight
  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit well or high heels
  • Problems with circulation
  • Gout
  • Diabetes

Claw Toes

claw toe

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Symptoms

Symptoms of metatarsalgia include:

  • Pain in the ball of the foot
  • Numbness or tingling in toes or foot
  • Pain when walking
  • Toe pain
  • Pain with movement
  • Sharp pain
  • Feeling like you are walking on pebbles
  • Associated back or leg pain
  • Weakness in the limb
Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist.

Images may need to be taken of your foot. This can be done with x-ray .

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Supportive Care

The foot will need time to heal. Supportive care includes:

  • Rest—Activities may need to be restricted at first.
  • Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling.
  • Elevation—Keeping the foot elevated can help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.

Shoe inserts called orthotics may be advised to help lessen pain and provide support. Insoles may also be advised. They may be shock absorbers, arch supporters, or special pads that protect your foot.

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) may be advised to reduce pain and inflammation. A corticosteroid shot is sometimes injected into the foot to lessen pain.

Surgery

If there are foot problems that are causing the metatarsalgia, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery depends upon what is causing the problem.

Diet and Exercise

If excessive weight is contributing to the foot pain, you may be asked to lose weight through diet and exercise.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting metatarsalgia, take the following steps:

RESOURCES:

American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine
http://www.acfaom.org

American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
http://www.aofas.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

References:

Metatarsalgia. American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acfaom.org/information-for-patients/common-conditions/metatarsalgia. Accessed March 2, 2015.

Metatarsalgia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 16, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2015.

Pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia). Merck Manuals website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec05/ch072/ch072b.html. Accessed March 2, 2015.



Last reviewed March 2, 2015 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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