Imagine spinning around in a circle. At first, you might not feel dizzy, but as you continue turning, the effect compounds and you get dizzier and dizzier. A similar effect can, and often does, happen with pain. Discomfort can creep up on a person over time, getting worse and worse because you continue to use the affected limb, since it doesn’t hurt “that badly.” After a while the pain becomes serious enough to interrupt your life. Metatarsalgia is like that in your feet.
An Uncomfortable Symptom
Metatarsalgia is the painful irritation and inflammation of the metatarsal heads. This is actually a symptom of a different problem, such as sesamoiditis, Morton’s neuroma, arthritis, and other common foot conditions that can irritate the bones. The discomfort is often the result of repeated hard impacts or overuse of the ball of the foot. Preexisting problems that shift weight forward, like bunions, or that damage nerves, like diabetes, can also cause it. Narrow footwear that squeezes the toes, or raised heels that strain the forefoot, can contribute to the problem as well.
When the heads of the metatarsal bones become inflamed, you feel a sharp aching or burning pain under the ball of your foot. Usually the discomfort worsens when you stand or walk around and decreases when you rest. Using the forefoot to push off the ground may be particularly uncomfortable. You may also have tingling or numbness in your toes and feel like you’re standing on a small rock. Generally these symptoms develop slowly as the irritation worsens.
Relieving the Inflammation
Fortunately, treatment for metatarsalgia is conservative. The doctor will examine your lower limbs to determine how far the issue has progressed and what underlying condition is at the root of the pain. They may request diagnostic images to identify or rule out specific problems. Once they have an idea of what caused the pain in your feet, they can treat both the irritation and the problem that caused it.
The most important step for relieving any inflammation—and the pain that goes with it—is rest. Since hard impacts exacerbate the issue, you may need to take a break from different sports or other activities while you heal. Use ice on the affected area to discourage swelling and inflammation. The doctors may recommend anti-inflammatory medications as well. Changing your shoes to models with more padding in the ball of the foot area may help. Make sure your footwear is wide enough to accommodate your feet. You might still need orthotics to add an extra layer of cushioning or correct underlying problems that caused the pain. Sometimes physical therapy can also help to stretch out tightened tissues, strengthen the lower limbs, and increase range of motion in different joints.
Metatarsalgia is an uncomfortable problem that can make walking, running, or jumping very painful. Don’t wait—get help for your discomfort before you start having trouble walking. Contact the foot experts at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona for an appointment or more information. You can reach our two offices by filling out the form on the website contact page, calling either location, or sending us a fax: for the Chandler office, call (480) 963-9000 or fax (480) 963-0375; for the Gilbert office, call (480) 981-1800 or fax (480) 981-0229.