What is Metatarsalgia? How to Relieve Forefoot Pain Symptoms

What is Forefoot Pain?

Metatarsalgia is a symptom of pain in the forefoot. It is essentially pain and tenderness of the plantar heads of the metatarsal bones that bear a disproportionate amount of body weight.

It usually evidences its onset by producing tenderness over the metatarsal heads (the “ball” region of the foot). Ultimately, a callus forms which is itself painful and aggravates the irritations by increasing the weight bearing on the affected metatarsal head(s). It is common in the middle aged who have a pronation tendency and most common after a weight gain.

Treatment of this condition runs contrary to what many patients equate with comfort-i.e., “cushion” under the affected area. While this can produce a temporary “feel good” sensation, such cushion may actually aggravate the condition.

How to Treat Metatarsalgia

Effective treatment involves firm support of the middle portion of the depressed transverse arch. This is accomplished by use of a metatarsal support placed behind the metatarsal heads to relieve the pressure on them. Care must be exercised not to place the support under the heads as doing so will greatly aggravate the condition. Pronation control is also an integral part of addressing the problem.

Calluses can be treated by soaking the foot in warm water and then suing a stone or emery board. To do so, however, without correcting the mechanics of the foot, is futile as the callus would recur.

Metatarsal supports can be integral to footwear such as Birkenstock and Finn Comfort, or may be incorporated into over the counter devices such as the Birkenstock Blue Footbed arch support or custom orthodics made at the direction of a physician. They can also be placed in footwear in the form of footwear modifications.

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