Pain in the Ball of Foot or Metatarsalgia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Pain In The Ball Of Foot or Metatarsalgia is defined as a medical condition where there is pain and inflammation in ball of foot, i.e. pain beneath the toes, particularly big toe. This commonly occurs in those individuals who do a lot of ambulation generally over hard surfaces. Women who wear high heels also suffer from metatarsalgia, as their weight is distributed unevenly. The pain is also a result of overuse injury and develops gradually. Other medical conditions such as Morton’s neuroma and turf toe also cause Pain In The Ball Of Foot or Metatarsalgia.

Pain In The Ball of Foot or Metatarsalgia

Pain In The Ball Of Foot or Metatarsalgia is not a serious condition, but it can hinder a person’s daily activities and can be a nuisance. Usually conservative measures like ice and adequate rest are enough to relieve symptoms. Wearing appropriate shoe wear along with shock absorbing insoles or arch support also help in preventing or reducing Pain In The Ball Of Foot or Metatarsalgia symptoms.

Causes of Pain in The Ball of Foot or Metatarsalgia

  • Intense training or high impact activities such as running.
  • Excess weight.
  • Morton’s Neuroma: This is a condition where the nerve gets pinched or compressed as it traverses through the metatarsal heads. This results in pain along with numbness and tingling.
  • Turf Toe: This is a ligament sprain of first metatarsophalangeal joint.
  • Metatarsal Stress Fractures: The second metatarsal is most commonly fractured causing pain in the ball of the foot.
  • Hallux Rigidus: The joint of big toe has stiffness and pain.
  • Hallux Valgus: This condition is marked by swelling and bony enlargement beneath big toe
  • Sesamoid injury: Injury to the sesamoid bones may occur due to a sudden trauma or inflammation developing over time causing pain at the ball of foot.
  • Freiberg’s Osteochondritis: In this condition, metatarsal heads in teenagers between 14 to 18 years of age are affected. X-ray shows a fragmented appearance of the heads. This condition usually resolves on its own. Orthotics can be used for a short time to prevent further damage.

Symptoms of Pain In the Ball of Foot or Metatarsalgia

  • Acute or burning pain in the ball of the foot.
  • Pain in the second, third or fourth toes.
  • Pain near the big toe.
  • Worsening pain upon standing, walking or running which subsides with rest.
  • Acute or shooting pain in the toes.
  • Numbness or tingling in the toes.
  • Worsening pain upon flexing the feet.
  • Worsening pain upon walking barefoot and on hard surfaces.

Risk Factors for Pain In The Ball of Foot or Metatarsalgia

  • Individuals who are involved in high-impact sports such as jumping, soccer, tennis, baseball, football etc.
  • Wearing high heels or ill-fitting shoes.
  • Obesity
  • Other foot problems such as such as high arches, a long second toe, stress fractures or long metatarsals.

Treatment For Pain in the Ball of Foot or Metatarsalgia

  • Rest.
  • Appropriate and supportive shoe wear with very little heel or no heel should be used.
  • Insoles or custom made orthotics can be used.
  • If there is over supination or high arch, then running shoes with some form of cushioning or shock absorbing insoles should be used. Arch supports may be used.
  • Metatarsal pads are also helpful.
  • Calf muscles should be stretched regularly.
  • Ice therapy helps in relieving pain and inflammation.
  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen help in relieving pain and inflammation.
  • Surgery is required if conservative treatment fails.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 6, 2018

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