Metatarsalgia is a common overuse injury characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot, usually under the second metatarsophalangeal joint. Individuals involved in athletic events that require running and jumping are more susceptible to this type of injury, due to the repetitive stress and impact of such activities. They can also be caused by footwear, especially high heels, which increase pressure on the entire forefoot, often leading to deformities in the metatarsals.
Other common causes include:
- Overweight: Being overweight can put strain on the foot.
- Aging: As you age, the pad of fat that protects the foot gets thinner, thereby providing less protection from strains, impacts, and loads.
- Having a high arch in the foot or a second toe longer than the big toe can add pressure on the metatarsals.
- Stress fractures (small breaks in the toe bones).
- Medical conditions such as Bunions, Rheumatoid arthritis, Diabetes, and Morton’s neuroma.
Patients suffering from metatarsalgia often experience burning pain in the ball of the foot (sometimes affecting the toes), pain while walking barefoot, and tingling in the toes.
Metatarsalgia treatment usually involves conservative methods. These can include the use of over the counter anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen or naproxen sodium), avoiding strenuous physical activity, the RICE method, and using metatarsal pads or arch support.
A severe case of metatarsalgia may require the administration of a steroid injection to reduce pain and swelling. If this fails to resolve symptoms, radiofrequency coblation therapy or surgery may be recommended.