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Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is a term for pain and inflammation of the ball of the foot. The condition is especially common among athletes who play high impact sports due to the stress they place on the balls of their feet when running and jumping

Metatarsalgia Hero Image 2

Metatarsalgia is a term for pain and inflammation of the ball of the foot. The condition is especially common among athletes who play high impact sports due to the stress they place on the balls of their feet when running and jumping. While not considered a serious injury, a sore foot and other symptoms associated with metatarsalgia can keep you from being active and playing the sports you enjoy.

What causes Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is common among athletes, often caused by the repeated stress they place on the balls of their feet during exercise or play. But other factors can also cause this injury. Weak or tight muscles, such as the Achilles tendon or toe flexors, can contribute to metatarsalgia. Deformities of the foot, such as hammer toe (which causes your toe to curl downward) can also lead to this injury. Other contributing factors to metatarsalgia include ill-fitting shoes, and using poor form during play.

Metatarsalgia is most common in these sports:

• Running
• Basketball
• Soccer
• Rugby
• Lacrosse
• Field Hockey

Symptoms

Metatarsalgia is typically marked by pain in the ball of your foot. Pain often gets worse when standing, running, or walking barefoot. Other common symptoms include:

• Pain characterized as sharp, burning, or aching
• Feeling like you have a pebble in your shoe
• Pain, numbness, or tingling in your toes
• Pain that develops gradually over several weeks, rather than suddenly

When to see a doctor

If your foot pain lasts for more than a few weeks, you should get it checked by your doctor. Left untreated, metatarsalgia can create other problems in your foot or your hips if your gait is affected. During your visit, your doctor will take a medical history and conduct a physical examination. This will include examining the area around your toes and ball of your foot, looking for signs of tenderness. Your doctor will also examine your entire lower leg, looking for tightness or muscle imbalances that can lead to metatarsalgia. He/She may also ask questions about the sports you play and check how your shoes fit. To help confirm the diagnosis and exclude other causes of your symptoms (such as a stress fracture), x-rays and other imaging tests may be ordered.

Non-operative treatment

Metatarsalgia is generally treated conservatively. To give your foot time to heal, it’s important to take a break from activities that cause pain in your foot. Common treatments also include:

• Applying ice and elevating your foot to relieve pain
• Using crutches if walking is painful
• Wearing properly fitting shoes
• Using metatarsal pads to absorb pressure on the ball of your foot
• Inserting arch supports into your shoes for support and structure
• Anti-inflammatory medication for pain relief

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is rarely recommended for metatarsalgia. In very rare cases, surgical realignment of the metatarsal bones in your foot may be needed to address your metatarsalgia.

Recovery

Recovery from metatarsalgia can range from a few days to several weeks, depending on the extent of your injury. Other factors can influence your recovery time, including your age, weight, and the overall condition of your foot. Your doctor will help guide you on your return to normal activities.

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