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How Is Metatarsalgia Diagnosed?

Metatarsalgia involves a common type of over-usage injury. The term mainly highlights about inflammation and pain feelings in the ball area of one’s feet.[1]

How Is Metatarsalgia Diagnosed?

Preliminary Step

Your doctor will start with your examination to detect metatarsalgia based on your symptoms. Accordingly, they will check common symptoms-

Common Symptoms of the Problem

Feeling of pain across the end of one’s metatarsal bone or bones is the primary symptom associated with metatarsalgia. The pain typically aggravates while you walk, run or involve in intense physical activity. Particularly, athletes with an inflammatory condition of bursitis and participating in any high-intensive physical activity often experience diffuse forefoot as well as pain at the middle-foot area.

In most of the cases, pain remains for about many months instead of causing on a sudden basis. Besides this, inter-digital neuroma i.e. Morton’s neuroma condition produces metatarsalgia symptoms because of the inflammation and irritation of a nerve that belongs to the site of your pain. People in this situation often experience numbness in their toes along with the feeling of pain in their forefoot regions.

Manual Examination of Your Foot/Feet: Once the doctor analyzes your symptoms in detail, he or she may examine the foot/feet manually.

X-Rays Of Your Feet: X-rays are helpful in segregating other causes related to your pain and/or inflammation of the forefoot area. Especially, X-rays are helpful in ruling out stress fractures causing you pain. During the test, standard X-ray beam as electromagnetic radiation passes through the diagnosed area of your foot to create a 2-dimensional picture of the respective bones forming a joint. Besides metatarsalgia, doctors recommend for X-rays to detect bone spurs, fractures, gap/space in between the joints.

Bone Scan: Bone scan refers to a nuclear imaging test, which helps in tracking and diagnosing varieties of bone problems. To conduct a bone scan test, doctors inject a radioactive material in small amount into the patient’s bloodstream. The material thus collects in your bones to allow doctors to view the affected areas by using a scanner. In case of metatarsalgia, the test pinpoints the areas/places of your pain and inflammation.

Ultrasound: Ultrasound associated with the diagnosis of metatarsalgia identifies specific conditions, like Morton’s neuroma and bursitis, which cause pain and inflammation in metatarsal area of your foot or feet. Doctors recommend for the procedure in case your foot has soft tissue structures. Besides identifying Morton’s neuroma, ultrasound acts as an effective diagnostic tool to indicate the following major forefoot problems-

  • Both acute and chronic damage of tendinous, muscular and ligamentous damages
  • Plantar plates
  • Soft tissue masses, like lipomas and ganglia
  • Plantar fascia
  • Effusions in the bone joints
  • Hematomas
  • Vascular pathology
  • Classification of cystic, solid and mixed masses
  • Surgical complications after you undergo any surgery, like edema and abscess
  • Bony pathology
  • Essential guidance of biopsy

MRI Test/Scan: MRI is the acronym for Magnetic Resonance Imaging test. Your doctor may ask you for MRI test to diagnose metatarsalgia and detect multiple causes of your pain in the forefoot, mid-foot and metatarsal areas. These include various types of circulatory conditions, neuroarthopathies, arthritis, traumatic disorders and conditions, which lead to biomechanical imbalance.

During an MRI Test, doctors use a strong magnet connected with a computer device to create a black and white picture with gray shades of your internal structures. As an MRI test highlights soft tissues along with the bones, it is helpful to diagnose injuries caused in tendons, cartilage and ligaments, along with the swelling areas.

Other Tests: Other than the aforementioned tests and diagnose procedures, doctors may even ask you to undergo with several other important tests to diagnose and determine the exact treatment associated with your metatarsalgia problem.[2]


To conclude, we should say that diagnose of metatarsalgia involves simple and easy steps, but the type of scanning or test required depends on individual condition of a patient, such as the extent of his/her inflammation or pain in the forefoot area.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 14, 2022

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