432315 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Metatarsalgia

    (Pain in Ball of Foot)


    Metatarsalgia is a condition that causes pain and inflammation to the ball of your foot. You may also feel pain to the big toe or the three toes closest to the big toe.
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    This condition can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you may have metatarsalgia.


    Metatarsalgia can be caused by a number of conditions:

    Risk Factors

    These factors increase your chance of developing metatarsalgia. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
    • Feet with high arches
    • Feet with abnormally long bones
    • Hammertoes
    • Claw toes
    • High-impact sports
    • Older age
    Claw Toes
    claw toe
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    If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to metatarsalgia. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
    • Pain in the ball of the foot
    • Numbness or tingling in toes or foot
    • Pain when walking
    • Toe pain
    • Pain with movement
    • Sharp pain
    • Feeling like you are walking on pebbles
    • Associated back or leg pain
    • Weakness in the limb


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist.
    Your doctor may order the following test:
    • X-ray —test that uses radiation waves to form an image; used to rule out fractures and other foot problems


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:


    Rest is an important part of treatment. Elevate your foot on pillows and ice it to speed healing.


    Your doctor may prescribe shoe inserts. They may help lessen pain and provide support. Your doctor may also recommend insoles. They may be shock absorbers, arch supporters, or special pads that protect your foot.


    Your doctor will suggest a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) to reduce pain and inflammation. A corticosteroid shot is sometimes injected into the foot to lessen pain.


    If there are foot problems that are causing the metatarsalgia, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery depends upon what is causing the problem.

    Diet and Exercise

    If excessive weight is contributing to the foot pain, you may be asked to lose weight through diet and exercise.


    To help reduce your chance of getting metatarsalgia, take the following steps:


    American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine http://www.acfaom.org

    American Physical Therapy Association http://www.apta.org

    American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society http://www.aofas.org


    The Canadian Foot and Ankle Society http://www.coa-aco.org/

    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org/


    Metatarsalgia. Duke Orthopaedics website. Available at: http://www.wheelessonline.com/ortho/metatarsalgia . Accessed November 5, 2008.

    Metatarsalgia. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metatarsalgia/DS00496 . Accessed November 5, 2008.

    Metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot). American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acfaom.org/metatarsalgia.shtml . Accessed November 5, 2008.

    Pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia). Merck Manuals website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec05/ch072/ch072b.html . Accessed November 5, 2008.

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