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What is Metatarsalgia?

What is Metatarsalgia?


Metatarsalgia, refers to pain and irritation that occurs in the bones of the ball of the foot, known as the metatarsal. The metatarsal bones are designed to bear and distribute a person’s weight when they are walking and going about their daily activities. When this delicate balance between the bones is disrupted, the result can cause mild to intense pain. A lot of individuals who do sports such as running and basketball suffer from this condition due to the high impact nature these sports place on the foot. The severity of the condition differs from person to person. It may affect one or two toes, or the whole foot.

The pain caused by metatarsalgia is often worse when weight is put on the affected foot, as is the case when standing, walking or running. Due to this, getting the appropriate treatment is vital. Most individuals who experience pain in the metatarsal present the following symptoms:

  • Burning pain
  • Sharp aching in the affected area
  • Pain in the ball of the foot
  • Pain that occurs near the toes
  • Pain that increases when walking in bare feet, standing and moving
  • Shooting pain and a tingling sensation in the toes.


Causes of Metatarsalgia

Possible causes of metatarsalgia include footwear that doesn’t fit properly or doesn’t support the foot properly, being overweight, and high impact exercise. Systematic conditions such as diabetes can also cause nerve-type pain in the foot and may possibly contribute to metatarsal pain.

Intense training is a leading cause of metatarsalgia. Runners are especially at risk due to significant force that the ball of your foot has to absorb while running. This risk is heightened if you are not wearing the correct running shoe. If you start to experience pain in the metatarsal, it is important to modify your training regime until the issue has resolved. Continuing your training regime may cause further damage to the metatarsal and worsen the condition.

Some individuals may be prone to developing metatarsalgia due to the shape of their foot and their weight. Those with a high or low arch inevitably place more pressure on the metatarsal bones. This is due to weight imbalance between the first and second metatarsal head.

One of the biggest causes of metatarsalgia that can be easily avoided is wearing tight, restrictive shoes. Shoes such as high heels, which have a narrow toe area, can put excessive pressure on the ball of the foot due to the small amount of space available in the design of the shoe. Wearing these on a regular basis will force your foot into an uncomfortable shape and position and may increase the risk of developing metatarsal pain.


Treatments for Metatarsalgia

Once you start noticing the symptoms, it is important to reduce high impact activities to off-load the painful foot. Have a look at your footwear and avoid high heels if possible.

A chartered physiotherapist will be able to assess your condition and identify factors contributing to the condition. In some cases, orthotics or metatarsal pads will be required. Orthotics provides shock absorbency and will support the forefoot in order to tackle metatarsalgia. Here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, Aileen MaGuire and Sarah Brady are experienced orthotic prescribers.

If you wish to book an appointment or would to know more about metatarsalgia, contact us here.

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