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What is Metatarsalgia?

When a corn develops on the sole of the foot, it is associated with metatarsalgia, a general term for pain in the sole or ball of the foot. The metatarsal joints are the joints of the bones in the foot, and when they are injured in some way the result is often difficulty or pain in the foot while walking or standing.

Metatarsalgia is often the result of structural problems in the foot. The metatarsals joints support about 60 percent of the weight of the body. If the long arch of the foot falls because of a tendency of the foot to pronate (turn under) the arch across the foot also collapses. This leaves the metatarsal heads closer to the ground and to the skin, making them more susceptible to pressure.

People with metatarsalgia experience a generalized ache or soreness directly below the metatarsal heads. It occurs when the pad of fat that supports these bones wastes away, or atrophies, due to a lack of nourishment and as part of the normal aging process. Metatarsalgia may be accompanied by a plantar callus.

What Causes Metatarsalgia?

There are a number of possible causes of metatarsalgia, including:

  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • A foot with a high arch (known medically as pes cavus
  • Arthritis
  • Deformed or crooked toes
  • Trauma, as caused by a car accident or sports injury
  • Repeated stress, caused by frequent walking or standing on cement floors or repeated walking on a sloping surface

Treatment for Metatarsalgia

Chronic pain on the bottom of the foot should be evaluated by a physician or specialist who fully understands the structures and mechanics of the foot.

X-rays are often used for evaluative purposes.

A common treatment for metatarsalgia is the use of a custom orthotic, or shoe insert, made to correct the deforming forces of the foot. A metatarsal pad is usually incorporated into the device to assure long-term support.

Other treatment measures include:

  • Roomier or specially constructed shoes (Metatarsalgia Shoes)
  • Resting and elevating the foot, as well as making changes in any activity that regularly stresses the foot
  • Taking anti-inflammatory and pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Finding shoes with energy absorbing soles

How to Avoid Foot Problems?

Many people stress their feet by wearing the wrong shoe for various activities. Anyone who hikes, speed walks, runs, or participates in sports should wear appropriate supportive footwear. Taking the time to review the way you submit your feet to stress, both at work and at play, can often reveal ways to diminish unnecessary wear and tear on them. Physical therapy, ultrasound treatment, whirlpool baths, heat, massage, and ice treatment can all be used to pamper and relieve the feet.

Any change to one part of the foot significantly affects habitual ways of walking and standing. Left untreated, foot ailments such as warts, corns, or metatarsalgia may produce problems in other weight-bearing joints, such as the hips or knees.

Patients who experience problems with their feet should seek advice from an experienced physician or podiatrist who can evaluate the risks, benefits, and possible complications of various treatment options. Patient compliance is particularly important in the treatment of these conditions.

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