Avoiding A Metatarsalgia Meltdown


By Matthew H. Paden, DPM

When you hear “-algia” you might think about green scum floating on a pond, or the research that some Colorado companies are putting into biofuels and algae farms. Actually, algia is a combining word used in medical terminology, and it refers to pain in a certain part of your body. So, metatarsalgia means pain in or near the metatarsal heads, which are located where the long bones in the front part of your foot join your toe bones. Understanding this could help prevent a major episode that puts you in meltdown mode.

Not a Condition, but a Symptom

This ball of foot pain is the result of other issues in your feet, not the problem itself. Soreness in your forefoot is the symptom for a variety of underlying factors. Here are several common causes of metatarsalgia:

  • Painful stress fractures can occur in any of the foot bones, including those in the forefoot. However, because you are altering your stride to accommodate the pain from a fracture, you may also be putting more pressure on other tissues in your forefoot and causing them to hurt.

  • Foot shapes such as high arches naturally put more pressure on the metatarsal heads, as does wearing high heels for extended periods of time, or doing activities like ballet dancing or sports that have you jumping off and landing on the ball of your foot repeatedly. This pressure can irritate and inflame the bones and surrounding tissues and cause pain.

  • Foot deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, and claw toes—or inadequate healing time after surgery to correct them—can lead to unusual pressure on the forefoot, causing soreness.

  • Sorry to say it, but that extra weight you are carrying around could be contributing to your ball of foot pain, as can the natural aging process that results in loss of padding on your soles.

  • Have we mentioned your shoes? If they are too tight across the toes, nerves can be pinched and painful, and cramping your toes can throw off your stride, too, causing biomechanical issues that can lead to soreness.

Not Just Treating Metatarsalgia, but Also Preventing It

There are things you can do to head off pain in the ball of your foot. First, keep your weight in a healthy range. There are many medical diet and exercise programs that will help with this—just ask us about them.

Next, make wise shoe choices. Lower heels, good support for your arch, and adequate cushioning are the qualities to look for—not whether they will turn heads on the fashion scene.

You can also try strengthening and conditioning your feet with exercises and stretches designed to help them function better. Addressing imbalances and building strong muscles and tendons will help prevent injuries and address other foot problems that could lead to metatarsalgia.

If you encounter pain despite your best efforts, don’t wait—come and see the experts at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center at one of our Denver area offices. Dr. Matthew Paden, Dr. Brett D. Sachs, and Dr. Dustin Kruse love to help people stay active, and we will find a treatment plan that will control your ball of foot pain. The quicker you find help, the less chance of a major meltdown in your ability to perform your normal activities.

Conservative remedies include resting from whatever is causing discomfort, allowing your feet to heal, and using cold therapy or any medications we prescribe to reduce pain and swelling. We can also design custom orthotics to address any biomechanical issues that are causing metatarsalgia. As a final option, we are experts at surgical procedures that help solve underlying structural problems.

Call (303) 423-2520 for an appointment at our Wheat Ridge, Golden, Granby, or Evergreen locations today, or request one online. To find out more about how you can head off serious foot problems, ask for our free User Guide to Foot and Ankle Health. Just order it on our homepage.

Photo Credit: Alexis VIA pixabay.com

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