The term metatarsalgia is also known as a stone bruise and is a specific condition of the foot which arises due to uneven distribution of the body weight across the feet. Metatarsagia describes the pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Metatarsals are the bones that connect the toes to the ankles. This is the area lying between arches and toes on the bottom of the foot. It centers under the five bones at the bases of toes.
Anyone can get metatarsalgia. People who spend more time on their forefeet, take part in sports-related to forefeet and runners are more likely to have this condition. It is seen frequently with ageing and can deteriorate gait function and decrease the effectiveness and movement of the legs as these joints form the ball of the foot and the ability to move in these joints is very important even for normal walking.
What triggers metatarsalgia??
It is caused when the head of the metatarsal presses against the other, due to which the nerve between them is inflamed.
- Having weight issues where there is always substantial weight on the foot & can worsen the situations while moving, on forefoot adding extra pressure to where the metatarsals are located.
- Participating in a high impact sports, especially if the shoes that are worn are not of proper size or shape and the front part of the foot observes significant force and pressure due to this.
- Having inflammatory arthritis, several foot deformities and other foot problems like hammertoe and calluses on the base of the foot also give rise to metatarsalgia.
- Wearing high heels, narrow pointed shoes or athletic shoes lacking support and padding also result in this. In the old age, as the pad in the third and fourth metatarsal heads, the overgrowth of fibrous tissues occur causing symptoms much similar to metatarsalgia.
- In patients suffering from diabetes, the nerves in the forefoot become irritated and a buildup of fluid in the foot can be seen.
- The patients suffering from bunions, an abnormal deformity of the bone is often seen that occurs in the big toe which weakens the toe are too at high risk of suffering from metatarsalgia.
- The symptoms of metatarsalgia usually develop gradually with time and if healed earlier, certain relaxation is there in the pain but the pain in the ball of the foot worsens if not checked at the right time.
- There is an extremely tremendous pain while standing for a long time. The pain can be sharp or a dull ache is felt. A burning or shooting pain in the ball of the foot is observed.
- The athletes who take part in high impact activities and already have an inflammatory condition have comparatively more pain in the middle part of the foot along with the ball. The front part of the foot may feel as if walking on with the pebble in the shoe.
- Tingling or numbness in the toes is also noticed. The pain worsens along with running and walking barefoot. It can range from mild to severe and can also affect the area lying near to the toes and the ball of the foot.
Though generally, the symptoms of metatarsalgia occur gradually but in certain cases, it can even occur suddenly. Metatarsalgia if not treated on time can further lead to hammertoes causing limping and pain in other body parts like hips and the lower back while walking and bending.
Treatment options available for relief
The treatment is basically focused on releasing the pain and reducing the pressure. Applying ice on the affected area for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes several times a day using anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and pain, keeping the feet away from pressure are some basic measures. Metatarsal pads should be used to support the forefoot and shock-absorbing insoles to reduce pressure. Avoid high heel shoes. In severe
cases, the doctor recommends even steroid injections for reducing swelling and pain in the affected area.
What PRECAUTIONS can help prevent the disease?
There are some things that may help to prevent some cases of metatarsalgia like—
- Ensuring that the shoes which are worn are well fitted and have a wide area for the toes.
- Certain exercises too can help in preventing it like ankle flex, ankle extension, stretching of the toes daily at fixed time span and movement of ankles freely in a circular pattern.
- Losing the weight if a person is overweight is another precaution.
- Good control of diabetes may reduce the chance of developing metatarsalgia in the patient of sugar and ultimately taking good care of the forefeet which is generally ignored by most of the people.
- Relaxing the feet from time to time is the best precaution to prevent the occurrence of metatarsalgia.