Oh .. My Aching Feet ! Metatarsalgia

Pain in the ball of your foot is a common complaint for athletes and non athletes alike

Athletes who run and jump a lot are often susceptible to metatarsalgia, a type of foot injury that manifests itself in pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Other structures may be contributing to the pain in your feet but the metatarsals are often overlooked.

The metatarsal bones absorb the weight during weight bearing and if one of the bones falls down through weakness or lack of support, is abnormally long or fractured from stress, it will create dysfunction among all bones.

Other Common causes

  • Arthritis or any degenerative disease of the joints.
  • Systemic conditions such as diabetes, which can cause nerve-type pain in the foot.
  • Calluses or skin lesions that cause the weight on the foot to be unevenly distributed.
  • Ageing, which tends to thin out or shift the fatty tissue of the footpad.
  • Sports that place tremendous pounding on the ball of the foot, like jogging.
  • Ill-fitting shoes that put pressure on the bones of the feet.
  • Shoes with small toe boxes that cramp your toes.
  • Increase in amount of load or intensity of load through your foot or feet.

Symptoms of metatarsalgia are:

  • Pain in the forefoot is most pronounced when the person tries to bear weight or push off in high heels.
  • Passive range of motion may be difficult or painful.
  • Pain and tenderness when the joint is pressed in.
  • Excessive skin or calluses may be seen under the foot because of pressure.

Physiotherapy involvement in this type of foot injury may involve the following:

  • Assess gait and help correct uneven distribution of pressure on the metatarsals and any other foot problems
  • Recommend properly fitting shoes. Taking a good look at the shoes you wear is the first step in eliminating and preventing the painful condition of Metatarsalgia.
  • Fit you with heat moulded orthotics to correct over-pronation, unload painful structures and release any impingements
  • Train you in stretching and strengthening exercises to correct tightness in the tendons and strength of the foot muscles.
  • Massage and joint mobilising to relieve pain and tightness in not only the metatarsal area but the hind and mid foot
  • Dry needling to relieve pain.
  • Assessment of the body as a whole, its connectedness, biomechanical influences and generally conditioning.

Importantly, our physiotherapists are trained in the application of dynamic corrective foot posture exercises. The fantastic benefit of these exercises is they aim to correct the problem via your own muscles in conjunction with other modalities and orthotics.

Our foot muscles are designed to work effectively, they've just forgotten the basics, especially if you've worn shoes to support your feet most of your life.

Your physiotherapist will also inspect other reasons for your foot pain, such as muscle tightness, nerve irritation or even referred pain from your back.

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