Metatarsalgia (met-uh-tahr-SAL-juh) is a condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed. You might develop it if you participate in activities that involve running and jumping. There are other causes as well, including foot deformities and shoes that are too tight or too loose.
Although generally not serious, metatarsalgia can sideline you. Fortunately, at-home treatments, such as ice and rest, often relieve symptoms. Wearing proper footwear with shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports might prevent or minimize future problems with metatarsalgia.
Symptoms of metatarsalgia can include:
Sometimes a single factor can lead to metatarsalgia. More often, several factors are involved, including:
Almost anyone can develop metatarsalgia, but you’re at higher risk if you:
Left untreated, metatarsalgia might lead to pain in other parts of the same or opposite foot and pain elsewhere in the body, such as the low back or hip, due to limping (altered gait) from foot pain.
Various foot problems can cause symptoms similar to those of metatarsalgia. To help pinpoint the source of your pain, your doctor will examine your foot while you stand and while you sit and ask about your lifestyle and activity level. You might need an X-ray to identify or rule out a stress fracture or other foot problems.
Conservative measures — such as resting, changing shoes or using a metatarsal pad — might be all you need to relieve signs and symptoms.
In rare cases, when conservative measures don’t relieve your pain and your metatarsalgia is complicated by foot conditions such as hammertoe, surgery to realign the metatarsal bones might be an option.
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