Metatarsalgia: Causes, Symptoms & Remedies

Metatarsalgia is a condition that is accompanied by pain and inflammations in the ball of foot, also known as metatarsal. A common variant of overuse injury, it often affects the metatarsal heads, the area where the middle toes touch the ball of foot. Also referred to as stone bruise, it is mainly considered as a characteristic symptom of some other conditions instead of a particular disease. It mostly affects first metatarsal head of a patient and is often seen in people who live physically active lives. The intensity of the pains as well as the affected areas can vary greatly. While some patients complain of pains in both feet, others may experience discomfort only on one of the feet.

Factors that cause Metatarsalgia:

Numerous small toe nerves exist between the multiple metatarsal bones. When the heads of two metatarsal bones are pressed against each other, it causes tension and pressure in the small nerves and this leads to metatarsalgia. The symptoms of metatarsalgia worsen as more weight is placed on the foot, as with each step taken there is increased friction between the bones. This further aggravates the nerve inflammations. A number of factors are believed to cause or increase the risk of metatarsalgia. These include increasing age, being overweight, improper footwear, high impact exercise routines and stress fractures. Sometimes the general shape of the feet and toes of some individuals can contribute to the condition as well. Among the medical conditions that can cause metatarsalgia are rheumatoid arthritis, bunions, diabetes, Morton’s neuroma and even build up of fluids in foot.

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia:

Metatarsalgia can cause a number of notable symptoms, some of which are as follows:
  • Burning pains
  • Strong and sharp aching
  • Tingling sensation in toes
  • Shooting pains in toes
  • Pain around the toe area
  • Pains in the metatarsal region
  • Pain that increases while walking or moving in bare feet, particularly when walking on hard surfaces
  • Pain that worsens when moving around or standing but reduces when weight is removed from the feet

Metatarsalgia risk group:

There are certain individuals who are more prone to develop metatarsalgia. These include:
  • Athletes who participate in various high impact sports;
  • People who are in the habit of wearing shoes that doesn’t fit properly;
  • Women who love to wear high heels;
  • Overweight or obese patients

Diagnosis of Metatarsalgia:

The foot doctor may ask the patient questions about his or her lifestyle and medical history. The patient may also be asked to opt for a gait test that helps in evaluating which parts of his/her foot are experiencing pressure. The doctor may also recommend imaging tests like MRI scans and X-rays as well as blood tests to evaluate the presence of diabetes, gout or arthritis.

Treatment of Metatarsalgia:

Ibuprofen can be used to reduce the pain and inflammations. The patient should have enough rest so as not to disturb the affected areas. He/she should keep on stretching Achilles tendon and apply ice in that area many times a day. Additional accessories that should be used include fitted insoles, metatarsal pads, shock absorbing insoles and arch supports.