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by Kellicker PG
(Pain in Ball of Foot)

Definition

Metatarsalgia is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in 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-rays .

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 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 advised. 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 February 22, 2018.

Pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/foot-and-ankle-disorders/metatarsalgia. Updated September 2016. Accessed February 18, 2016.

Revision Information