There really is no such thing as “metatarsalgia”. It is not a diagnosis. Yet it is widely used and written about as a diagnosis.
“Metatars-” simply means the metatarsal bones or the forefoot. “-algia” simply means pain, so “metatarsalgia” simply means pain in the forefoot. That is just like saying someone has a ‘sore knee’. It is meaningless as a diagnosis and as a term because pain in the forefoot (like a sore knee) could be due to any one of, literally, a 100 different things. Each will have a different cause and a different treatment.
It should be obvious that there are multiple bones, joints, ligaments, nerves and other structures in the forefoot, that pain in the forefoot (‘metatarsalgia’) could be due to multiple totally different conditions that affect those different structures.
What is meant by the term ‘metatarsalgia’?
If you have been told you have metatarsalgia, then you need to ask more about the specific diagnosis.
A number of different conditions can cause pain in the forefoot, that might get labeled as ‘metatarsalgia’ include:
– Stress fractures (damage to the bone)
– Plantar plate tear or dysfunction (strain of the ligament under the metatarsophalangeal joint)
– Morton’s neuroma (pinched nerve)
– Sesamoiditis (inflammation surrounding the small bones under the big toe joint)
– Callus (thickening of the skin under the ball of the foot)
– Rheumatoid arthritis (this can cause an ache and pain in the forefoot)
– Freiberg’s disease (a growth plate injury in the joints)
– a general ache in the forefoot from overloading (more common if on the feet all day – this could be called a ‘metatarsalgia’)
– capsulitis (an inflammation of the ligament capsule around the joint)
What can be done to help ‘metatarsalgia’?
The treatment is going to depend on the diagnosis and the cause. There is not really “the one” treatment for metatarsalgia as there is not just one cause of it.
There are many things that can be done for the conditions that get lumped under the term ‘metatarsalgia’. If the problem is aggravated by tighter fitting shoes, then the Archies allow the foot to expand and has a comfortable arch support. If the problem is a general non-specific ache, then these arch supports in your shoes will often make it more comfortable and help spread out the weight bearing across the whole foot. If you need arch support in shoes that do not have much room, then the Instant Arches are designed for that. For issues with the plantar plate, then that is what the Fix Toe is designed to treat. Metatarsal dome pads can also help plantar plate issues and a Morton’s neuroma if they are put in the right place. These pads improve toe function and can help a wide range of forefoot problems.
The PediRoller is great for giving the ball of the foot a massage and help ease pain by rolling the ball of the foot across the roller. If you have sesamoiditis or a problem in which the pain is in one specific spot, then you can fashion a pad from felt to get the weight off that painful area. You can also use the felt padding on the arch supports.
Correcting the toes is also important and these are being increasingly more widely used to treat a whole range of problems with the forefoot.