Metatarsaliga is defined as pain below and between the metatarsal bones in the foot, or commonly referred to as the “ball of the foot”, that is with or without bruising and inflammation. It is commonly known as an ‘oversuse injury’ in many athletes of high impact activities, such as running and jumping, but can also be seen in the general population. Often times this pain is seen with Morton’s neuroma which is metatarsalgia caused by compression of a nerves between the heads of the foot bones. The pain is characterized by inflammation in the area just before the toes which is the metatarsal region. Most patients develop this after an increase in exercise, but sometimes the pain develops over time. The pain is often described as sharp and shooting pain in the toes especially when curling the toes. This pain can be located most commonly on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th toes. The pain is often described as “walking over pebbles”. Other symptoms can include numbness, cramping, burning, or tingling sensations on specific toes or throughout the foot. Patients will commonly experience acute, recurrent or chronic pain with this condition. That is why it is important to visit your podiatrist, Dr. Theall, for a professional evaluation to differentiate where the pain is and is not so that the correct diagnosis is made.

There is not one definitive source, but rather a several factors that can be the cause of the pain that you may experience. The common denominator between all the possible causes is that all exhibit a forced change in the normal dynamics of the foot muscles or movement, meaning that usually the pain includes over-training/over-activity, foot disorders (such as hammertoes, bunions, neuromas or high arched feet), incorrect fitting or type of shoes (example, high heels or narrow toe shoes), arthritis, muscle weakness, tight Achilles tendon, obesity and even old age.

Treatment options for patients with metatarsalgia include many conservative choices, such orthotics with a metatarsal pad, which has been shown to help reduce ball of the foot pain. For patients who have to wear heels or other work shoes, a special orthotic (graphite) can be made to reduce the pressure being put on the forefoot. The patient should be advised to try and avoid heels or other confining foot wear whenever possible. For patients who are overweight, a healthy diet and exercise plan to get them back in a healthy range. Cold compress and rest to decrease swelling, depending on the amount of pain the patient is experiencing a corticosteroid shot may be a good option to reduce inflammation and pain. Physical therapy can also be implemented as treatment. When all conservative measures have been exhausted (in rare cases) surgery to realign the metatarsal bones may be the best option

If you are experiencing these symptoms you can start with wearing the properly fitting and type shoe, and icing the area. If your pain or discomfort persists, you should seek the opinion of a professional, Dr. Theall. He will be able to provide you with the proper treatment and evaluation of the foot pain you are experiencing. Feel free to come or call Dr. Theall’s office, Gentle Touch Foot Care for a full comprehensive and thorough evaluation to discuss your foot health.

For more information, contact our East Orange office at 973-673-FOOT (3668) .

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