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Metatarsalgia is a condition marked by pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot. You may experience metatarsalgia if you're physically active and your feet are impacted by running and jumping. Or, you may develop metatarsalgia by wearing ill-fitting shoes. There are other causes as well. Although generally not serious, metatarsalgia can sideline you. Fortunately, conservative treatments, such as ice and rest, can often relieve metatarsalgia symptoms. And proper footwear, along with shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports, may be all you need to prevent or minimize future problems with metatarsalgia.
Complications of Metatarsalgia
Left untreated, metatarsalgia may lead to:
Causes of Metatarsalgia
In each foot, five metatarsal bones run from your arch to your toe joints. The first metatarsal is shorter and thicker than the other four bones, which are usually similar in size. During the push-off phase when you walk, jump or run, your body weight is transferred to your toes and metatarsals. The first and second metatarsal bones take the brunt of this force. Most metatarsal problems develop when the impact load or the mechanics of your foot affect the way your weight is distributed. This can put excess pressure on the metatarsals, leading to inflammation and pain, especially in the metatarsal heads — the rounded ends of the bones that connect with your toe bones.\
Sometimes a single factor can lead to metatarsalgia. More often, several factors are involved, including:
Signs & Symptoms of Metatarsalgia
Symptoms of metatarsalgia may include:
Sometimes these symptoms develop suddenly — especially if you've recently increased your usual amount of running, jumping or other high-impact exercise — but problems usually develop over time.
Diagnosis of Metatarsalgia
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 and ask about your lifestyle and activity level. You may need an X-ray to identify or rule out a stress fracture or other foot problems.
Treatments of Metatarsalgia
Conservative measures usually relieve the pain of metatarsalgia.
Rigid arch supports are made of a firm material such as plastic or carbon fiber. They're designed to control motion in two major foot joints below your ankles. Semirigid arch supports are made of softer materials such as leather and cork reinforced by silicone. Arch supports designed to treat metatarsalgia may include metatarsal pads, too. If conservative treatments fail, surgery to realign the metatarsal bones may be an option. If you're considering foot surgery, discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.
Prevention of Metatarsalgia
When you're serious about sports, your metatarsals may take a beating. But that doesn't mean you have to live with pain and injuries. To help protect your feet:
If you're recovering from an injury, don't try to resume strenuous activity too soon. If you're not completely healed — or you train through the pain — you may only develop more severe problems and longer layoffs later on.
When to seek Medical Advice
Not all foot problems need medical care. Sometimes your feet simply ache after a long day of standing or a punishing workout. But it's best not to ignore any foot pain that lasts more than a few days. Talk to your doctor if you experience a burning pain in the ball of your foot that doesn't improve after changing your shoes and modifying your activities.
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