Metatarsalgia: ball of foot pain symptoms, causes and treatments

Updated 12/11/2017
Metatarsalgia, University Foot and Ankle Institute

Metatarsalgia is not so much a condition but a general term describing a group of symptoms caused by several conditions. It's critically important to get the right diagnosis in order to get a winning treatment plan.

 

Making the right choice for your foot care IS NOW EASY

The physicians at University Foot and Ankle Institute are nationally recognized experts with decades of experience who come armed with the latest techniques and technologies at their disposal.


Our physicians are dedicated to providing the very best care in a professional and relaxed environment. It's what we are known for.

Metatarsalgia Symptoms

Metatarsalgia is a term most often used to describe ball of foot pain. Other symptoms can include:

  • Pain in your toes (in addition to ball of your foot): can be described as aching, sharp or burning
  • Increased pain when walking, running, standing for going barefoot
  • Numbness or tingling in your toes
  • The feeling as though there’s a pebble in your shoe

 

Diagnosing Metatarsalgia

To determine the underlying condition of your pain, your podiatrist will exam your foot and ask about your activity level and associated pain. Because there are many causes of metatarsalgia, tests may be orderd to pinpoint the exact cause of the pain. These tests can include:

  • Blood test: to identify diabetes or arthritis
  • X Ray: to check for fractures or problems with bones and joints
  • Ultrasound: to rule out mortons neuroma
  • MRI: in some cases, a more detailed image is needed to accurately identify the underlying condition

 

Causes of Metatarsalgia 

Conditions that contribute to metatarsalgia symptoms are not usually the effect of an acute injury or trauma. They often occur gradually, over time, by overuse or a repetitive motion. Common causes of ball of foot pain can include:

 

Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus)

The inflammation in the big toe or ball of foot joint is a painful condition that may present as metatarsalgia.

Read more about hallux rigidus here.

 

Bunions

A bunion is an unnatural bump on the side of the foot at base of the big toe. The tissue surrounding bunions often becomes painful and inflamed.

Read more about bunions here.

 

Hammertoe

Hammertoe is a deformity of the toe that causes it to be permanently bent in a claw like position. The abnormal position can put increased pressure on the ball of the foot resulting in pain.

Read more about hammer toes here.

 

Metatarsal Conditions, UFAI

Metatarsal Stress Fracture

A metatarsal stress fracture is a tiny break or fracture in the metatarsal bone. A stress fracture is often an overuse type of injury that occurs of over time.

Read more about metatarsal stress fractures here.

 

Mortons Neuroma

Mortons nueroma is a benign but painful growth of fibrous tissue.  The growth arises in the nerve cells and most often occurs between the third and fourth metatarsal.

Read more about Mortons neuroma here.

 

Diabetes

Nerve damage in the foot due to a diabetic condition may present metatarsalgia symptoms. 

Read more about diabetic nerve conditions here.

 

Achilles Tendonitis

An inflamed or tight Achilles can change how stress is distributed throughout your foot and can lead to increased pressure and pain in the ball of the foot. 

Read more about Achilles injuries here.

 

Plantar Plate Injury

The plantar plate is the ligament at the base of your toes on the sole of your foot. If this ligament becomes inflamed or torn, the resulting pain is consistent with the symptoms of Metatarsalgia. 

Read more about plantar plate injuries here.

 

In some cases, it is a combination of more than one condition that is causing metatarsalgia sypmotms.

 

Treatment for Metatarsalgia 

Diagnosing the actual condition and cause of metatarsalgia is imperative when determining a treatment plan. Because there are many conditions that can contribute to metatarsalgia, and their treatment plans vary, proper diagnosis by a podiatrist is critical.

 

There are some conservative measures that may help relieve symptoms until you can visit a doctor. These can include:

  • Rest, ice, compression and elevation helps to reduce inflammation (called "RICE")

  • Wear well fitted, proper shoes when exercising

  • Take anti-inflammatory medication to alleviate inflammation and pain

 

UFAI, We Are Near and Here For You!

 

University Foot and Ankle Insitute, Metatarsalgia treatment

The team of physicians and surgeons at UFAI are pleased to offer services at nine locations throughout Great Los Angeles and Southern California. Our Santa Barbara, West Los Angeles, West Hills, Valencia Beverly Hills, Sherman Oaks, Manhattan Beach, Valencia, and Santa Monica Podiatry offices conveniently offer a full range of services including MRI, radiology, MRI, neurosensory nerve testing, ultrasound. This means you will rarely need to go from location to location if test are needed.

 

We are also please to provide state of the art surgical centers and physical therapy services at our Valencia and Santa Monica Podiatry locations. Our team of physical therapists is dedicated to return you to your full potential as quickly as possible. If conservative treatments are not effective, no other center can provide the level of surgical options and care for treatment of metatarsalgia symptoms.

Over 200,000 happy UFAI patients and growing
  • CustomerSure
    Dr. Briskin is the best. He is very understanding and caring.
    Lan G.
  • CustomerSure
    I've already told Dr. Campbell that I think he's great. He listens to his patients and has a very cool, low-key approach that is genuine and comforting.
    Wendy V.
  • Angies List
    He is very nice. He is really good with teens who don’t want to wear their orthotics. He is smart and helpful. He really was good at working with my daughter.
    Anonymous
  • I appreciate all of your efforts to help me and how much I truly respect you as a person and a doctor. Your kindness has brightened my world on many days that would have otherwise been gloomy.
    Andrew
  • Yelp
    Dr. Franson has seen my entire family for foot/ankle problems, and treated and solved all of them. The office staff is incredible. I highly recommend this doctor.
    H.W.
  • Yelp
    Dr. Baravarian is a very caring and patient doctor. During my first visit with him he really took the time to listen to my concerns and talk to me about all my options regarding my chronic pain. I highly recommend Dr....
    Tina B.
  • CustomerSure
    PT Staff are very nice and knowledgeable. It took me a little time to understand how the PT was correcting my issue, but I think I've been cured!
    Terasa H.
  • CustomerSure
    So far everything is going well. I really like Dr. Baravarian and his staff, they did a wonderful job. They are very compassionate and professional at the same time. My family and I are very happy and thankful we fou...
    Jeanette D.
  • ZocDoc
    Very kind and warm. Spent time explaining procedure and recommendations.
    Debbie A.
  • Yelp
    I am 4 weeks post surgery now and just got my cast off today. Dr. Franson is the BEST foot specialist I have ever been to. He is extremely kind, he's caring and compassionate. He truly cares about his patients and has...
    Kathleen C.
Same Day Appointments
Now Available!

Or call 877-989-9110

24 hours a day, 7 days a week