What is Metatarsalgia and how is it treated

Metatarsalgia is the pain that affects the front of the feet, made up of the metatarsal bones, which are small bones that form the toes and the instep. It can have several causes, including the use of inappropriate heels and shoes for the feet, high impact exercises, excess weight or deformities in the feet, such as a hollow foot or a bunion.

Metatarsalgia is curable, and treatment is done with physiotherapy exercises to improve support and mobility of the feet, in addition to the use of orthopedic insoles to accommodate and relieve pain when walking. Consultation with an orthopedist or physiatrist is also important, especially in case of persistent pain, for a more in-depth assessment of the cause and to be able to guide the use of pain-relieving drugs, such as anti-inflammatories.

Main causes

Metatarsalgia usually appears when there is an irritation of the joints, tendons or nerves that support the metatarsals, and can be caused by:

  • Use of high heels or pointy shoes, as they tend to increase the pressure in the metatarsals;
  • Deformity in the feet, such as forefoot or changes in the shape of the fingers, as in the bunion. Check out some tips for taking care of the bunion;
  • Excess weight, which causes greater overload on the bones of the feet;
  • Neurological diseases that affect the nerves of the feet, such as Morton's Neuroma. Understand what it is and how to identify Morton's neuroma;
  • Performing high-impact physical activities or for many hours, such as running long distances, especially when there is no adequate guidance, which leads to an overload of the metatarsals;
  • Development of arthritis or osteoarthritis in the metatarsals, due to age-related bone wear or inflammation due to changes in immunity. Understand the causes and how to differentiate between arthritis and osteoarthritis.

To confirm the cause of metatarsalgia, the doctor or physiotherapist should, in addition to observing the symptoms, identify changes in the feet and, if necessary, order tests such as foot X-rays, podoscopy, which can identify the shape of the footprint, or baropodometry, which allows you to assess the places of greatest pressure on your feet, while walking or standing still.

Main symptoms

Metatarsalgia causes symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the soles of your feet, which usually gets worse when walking or standing for a long time. As the cause persists or the worsening of the deformity of the feet worsens, the pain can become intense and, often, can disable the performance of activities.

It is also common for people with metatarsalgia to have calluses on the instep, demonstrating the areas that suffer the greatest pressure. In addition, deviations or changes in the shape of the feet can be observed, such as deviation of the fingers or bony protrusions.

How the treatment is done

To treat metatarsalgia, it is recommended to undergo an evaluation by the orthopedist, physiatrist or physiotherapist, who will be able to assess the possible causes and indicate the most appropriate treatments for each person. Key recommendations include:

  • Take anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Diclofenac or Ketoprofen, for example, which are recommended by the doctor to relieve pain and discomfort;
  • Perform physical therapy, with exercises to improve support and mobility of the feet, in addition to training strength and balance, helping to correct the step.
  • Prefer to wear comfortable and adapted shoes, avoiding heels or tight shoes;
  • Use custom-made orthopedic insoles, which help to accommodate the feet and reduce the overhead on the metatarsals;

Treatment with surgery can be indicated by the orthopedist when previous treatments have had no effect, especially when there is a lot of deformity or excessive stiffness in the metatarsals.

Home treatment options

To relieve metatarsalgia, a great home remedy is to roll a bottle or marbles under your feet, in a back and forth motion, making a kind of massage on the sole of the foot, being a good way to relax the muscles and relieve tensions in the region. Check out more ways to relax your sole muscles in the following video:

In addition, scalding feet with hot water, but being careful not to burn yourself, for 20 to 30 minutes, in addition to lying with your feet up or massaging your feet with essential oils are also good ways to relieve discomfort. See more tips on how to relieve foot pain.