A Painful Push-off
The balls of your feet handle a lot of weight. You use them to stand on your toes and push off the ground for any sort of movement—walking, running, and jumping especially. Pain in any spot that handles high amounts of pressure can limit you. When that area becomes sore, you find it is much harder to press down. It might not seem so bad at first, but over time as the discomfort increases, you can end up limping and struggling to go about your daily routine.
Metatarsalgia is the inflammation of the ends of the metatarsal bones, usually in the third through fifth toes, but sometimes occurring in just the second one. The irritation generally builds up over time as your foot absorbs hard shocks and becomes overused. It especially occurs in athletes in high-impact sports and older people who suddenly become active again, since the padded layers in their feet have worn down. It can also, however, develop in those who have pre-existing foot conditions that cause them to put extra pressure on the forefront of their feet.
Generally the irritation causes a sharp aching or burning pain that gets worse with use and better with rest. You might feel like you have a stone or pebble under your foot. If it occurs in the second metatarsal, you tend to feel an isolated pain in that area. When the other three small toes are affected, they seem to ache together. To diagnose it, Dr. Robert Parker will examine you and the activities that cause the pain in the ball of your foot. He may also request x-rays to make sure you didn’t develop a stress fracture in the area.
Treating the Problem
Once it has been confirmed that your pain is caused by metatarsalgia, you will need to rest your foot. Continuing to use the injured limb will only increase the inflammation of the affected bones. You may want to use a stiff-soled shoe or brace to relieve some of the pressure. Icing and anti-inflammatory medication (if prescribed) can help lower the irritation and any swelling that may be in the area. If your shoes are not properly supporting or padding your feet, you may need to adjust your footwear or acquire orthotics. These can help stabilize any incorrect foot mechanics that may put extra pressure on the front of your foot, like bad arches.
Because this is an overuse injury, with a little care, you can prevent the pain from recurring. Adjusting your shoes for a better fit and support will help relieve the strain on your metatarsals, especially if you have a pre-existing condition that adds pressure. Orthotics also help support your feet and can reduce pressure on the ball of your foot, and they can provide an additional layer of cushioning to help absorb shock to your feet.
Metatarsalgia is uncomfortable and can limit your mobility by making it harder to push off the ground. You don’t have to let it cripple your daily life, however. With a little care, Dr. Robert Parker can help you return your feet to their pain-free selves. Instead of ignoring it, take care of your feet and deal with your discomfort. Contact Parker Foot & Ankle for an appointment or more information by visiting our contact page or by calling (281) 497-2850.