Metatarsalgia is a condition characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. It is often caused by excessive pressure on the metatarsal bones.

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Your Guide to Understanding Metatarsalgia


What is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot, specifically in the area where the metatarsal bones connect to the toes. The metatarsals are long bones in the foot that play a crucial role in weight-bearing and propulsion during walking or running. When excessive pressure is placed on the metatarsal heads, it can lead to irritation and inflammation of the surrounding tissues, resulting in metatarsalgia.

The most common contributing factors to metatarsalgia include activities that involve repetitive impact on the feet, such as running or jumping. It can also be caused by wearing shoes that lack proper support or have a narrow toe box, leading to increased pressure on the forefoot. Other factors like high arches, weakened foot muscles, excessive body weight, foot deformities, or certain medical conditions like arthritis can also make an individual more susceptible to developing metatarsalgia.

Symptoms of metatarsalgia typically include pain, burning sensation, or aching in the ball of the foot. The pain may worsen with standing, walking, or running and may feel like there is a pebble or foreign object in the shoe. The affected area may become tender to touch, and there could be swelling or calluses present. In some cases, individuals may also experience numbness or tingling sensations in the toes.

Treatment for metatarsalgia focuses on relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and addressing the underlying causes. This often includes rest and avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms. Wearing properly fitting shoes with adequate cushioning and support can help distribute pressure evenly across the foot. Orthotic inserts or metatarsal pads can provide additional support and help alleviate discomfort. Physical therapy exercises that strengthen the foot muscles and improve flexibility may also be recommended. In some cases, over-the-counter pain medications or corticosteroid injections may be used to manage pain and inflammation.

How can Chiropractic help treat Metatarsalgia?

Chiropractic services offer a comprehensive approach to alleviate the symptoms of Metatarsalgia, a condition characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Through a combination of manual adjustments, soft tissue manipulation, and therapeutic exercises, chiropractors aim to reduce pressure on the metatarsal bones and decrease inflammation in the affected area.

They may also provide recommendations for orthotic inserts or footwear modifications to provide additional support and cushioning. By addressing the underlying causes of Metatarsalgia, such as improper foot mechanics or overuse, chiropractic care can help individuals find relief from pain, improve their foot function, and prevent future reoccurrences.

What causes Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is typically caused by excessive pressure or overuse on the ball of the foot, specifically the metatarsal bones and joints. Some common factors that can contribute to the development of metatarsalgia include:

  • High-impact activities: Engaging in high-impact sports or activities that involve running or jumping, such as basketball or jogging, can put repetitive stress on the metatarsals and lead to metatarsalgia.
  • Ill-fitting footwear: Wearing shoes that do not provide proper support or have a narrow toe box can increase pressure on the ball of the foot. High heels or shoes with inadequate cushioning can also contribute to metatarsalgia.
  • Foot deformities: Certain foot conditions, such as high arches, flat feet, or hammer toes, can alter the distribution of weight on the metatarsals, causing excessive pressure on specific areas and leading to metatarsalgia.
  • Weight-bearing activities: Prolonged periods of standing, walking, or running on hard surfaces can strain the metatarsals and result in metatarsalgia. This is particularly true if proper footwear or cushioning is not used.
  • Age-related changes: As we age, the fat pads on the soles of our feet may thin out, reducing their natural cushioning effect. This can increase the risk of metatarsalgia in older individuals.

What treatments might help Metatarsalgia?

The treatment for metatarsalgia aims to alleviate symptoms and improve the condition. Here are some ways that treatment can help:

  • Rest and activity modification: Taking a break from activities that worsen the pain, such as walking or running, allows the affected area to heal. Resting and modifying your activities can help reduce stress on the metatarsals, promoting healing and symptom relief.
  • Wearing appropriate footwear: Switching to shoes with good arch support, cushioning, and a wide toe box can help distribute pressure more evenly across the foot. Proper footwear can alleviate discomfort and prevent further aggravation of metatarsalgia.
  • Metatarsal pad or orthotic inserts: Placing a metatarsal pad or using orthotic inserts in your shoes can help redistribute pressure away from the ball of the foot. These devices provide cushioning and support to the metatarsal heads, easing pain and improving comfort.
  • Physical therapy and exercises: Working with a physical therapist can help strengthen the muscles in the feet and lower limbs, providing better support and stability. Stretching exercises can also improve flexibility and reduce tension in the foot, enhancing overall function.
  • Cold therapy: Applying ice packs or using cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Cold should be applied for around 10-15 minutes every few hours, especially after activities that exacerbate symptoms.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with metatarsalgia. However, it's important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication.

Signs of Metatarsalgia:

Metatarsalgia, a condition characterized by pain and discomfort in the ball of the foot, can have various signs and symptoms. Here are some common indicators to look out for:

  • Pain in the ball of the foot: The primary symptom of metatarsalgia is pain or aching in the area just behind the toes, typically in the ball of the foot. The pain may be sharp, burning, or throbbing in nature.
  • Worsening pain with activity: The pain of metatarsalgia tends to worsen with weight-bearing activities such as walking, running, or standing for extended periods. Engaging in activities that put pressure on the ball of the foot can exacerbate the discomfort.
  • Sensation of having a pebble in the shoe: Some individuals with metatarsalgia report feeling as though there is a small object, such as a pebble, under the ball of their foot. This sensation can contribute to the discomfort.
  • Tenderness or inflammation: The affected area may feel tender to the touch, and there might be visible redness or swelling. In some cases, there may be calluses or corns forming over the affected metatarsal heads.
  • Discomfort when wearing certain footwear: Shoes with inadequate support or cushioning can aggravate metatarsalgia. Wearing high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box, for example, may increase pressure on the ball of the foot and intensify symptoms.

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia:

Metatarsalgia can cause a range of symptoms that typically affect the ball of the foot. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Pain: The primary symptom of metatarsalgia is pain in the ball of the foot. The pain may be described as aching, sharp, or burning. It can vary in intensity, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain.
  • Worsening pain with activity: The pain may worsen during activities that put pressure on the metatarsals, such as walking, running, or standing for long periods. Engaging in these activities can aggravate the pain in the ball of the foot.
  • Sensation of having a lump or foreign object: Some people with metatarsalgia may feel as if there is a lump or a small object, like a pebble, under the ball of their foot. This sensation can contribute to the discomfort and may be present even when at rest.
  • Tenderness and swelling: The affected area may be tender to the touch and may exhibit some swelling. There may also be redness or inflammation present around the ball of the foot.
  • Numbness or tingling: In some cases, metatarsalgia can cause sensations of numbness or tingling in the toes or the ball of the foot. This can occur due to nerve compression or irritation in the area.
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When is the right time to see a Chiropractor for Metatarsalgia?

If you are experiencing persistent pain or discomfort in the ball of your foot, it may be a good time to consider seeing a chiropractor for further evaluation and treatment. Here are some indicators that it might be the right time to seek their expertise:

  • Pain that does not improve: If you have tried self-care measures such as rest, ice, and proper footwear, but the pain in the ball of your foot persists or worsens, it may be beneficial to consult with a healthcare professional.
  • Difficulty with daily activities: If the pain in your foot is affecting your ability to walk, stand, or engage in normal activities, seeking professional help can provide guidance and targeted treatments to alleviate your symptoms.
  • Recurring or chronic pain: If you have experienced recurring episodes of metatarsalgia or have been dealing with chronic foot pain, a chiropractor can evaluate the underlying causes and develop a comprehensive treatment plan to address the root of the problem.
  • Foot deformities or imbalances: If you have known foot deformities, such as high arches or flat feet, or if you have gait abnormalities, these factors can contribute to metatarsalgia. Seeking professional advice can help identify any structural issues and guide appropriate interventions.

Meet our Lead Chiropractor

Dr. Brett Herlehy

Dr. Brett Herlehy


Doctor of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College

Dr. Brett enjoys working with active individuals looking to reach the next level and also anyone who is trying to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives.

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