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Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is a term used to describe forefoot pain. It effectively just means 'forefoot pain'. In terms of moving forward with a treatment plan, then metatarsalgia can be an unhelpful term, however, it can be useful for identifying a 'start point' for questioning.

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A black and white photo of a lady gripping her forefoot which is red indicating pain in the forefoot region.

About Metatarsalgia

'-algia' is a medical suffix for 'pain; 'metatarsal' is how the bones in the forefoot (but not toes) are referred to. Hence, 'metatarsalgia' means 'pain in the region of the metatarsals'. 

Metatarsalgia is an umbrella term for forefoot pain, not including toe deformities, but does include pain in the joints between the feet and toes. 

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia

Because 'Metatarsalgia' is an all encompassing term for 'forefoot pain', the symptoms can basically be anything you can think of:

  • Bruising

  • burning

  • stabbing

  • tingling

  • shooting

  • electric

  • tearing

  • swelling etc...

A barefooted man about to step on a marble.
A graphical representation of the anatomy under the foot; showing the complexity and variety of structures that may be affected.

What else could it be?

Metatarsalgia can include a huge number of conditions, including:

  • Capsulitis

  • Stress Fractures

  • Plantar plate injuries

  • Flexor tendinitis

  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

  • Morton's Neuroma

  • Freiberg's Infarction

  • Sesamoiditis

How is metatarsalgia differentiated

Metatarsalgia has the diagnostic usefulness of the term 'headache'. I'm sure we've all been there where the headache is so bad that we question if we have a brain tumour or if, really, such a bad headache is the result of a bit too much grape juice.

In reality, the first thing is for your clinician to take a thorough medical history, then a careful clinical examination. If the answers are still unclear, then imaging may be necessary - although this is very infrequently the case. 

A sagittal plane view of an MRI of the foot and ankle.
A barefooted person standing while they are  flexing their big toes skywards.

How is metatarsalgia treated?

As you may have gathered from the above section: step 1 is to get the correct diagnosis. 

Imagine the police in a movie saying 'look for the car with four wheels'... well, that's the usefulness of the term 'metatarsalgia' when deciding a treatment plan. 

However, as a general rule of thumb the following treatments may each be of some use:

  • Stretches

  • Strengthening

  • Orthotics to offload the area

  • Orthotics to improve biomechanics

  • Pain killers 

  • Steroid injections

Ready to start being pain free?

How long does it take to cure Metatarsalgia?

Well, as you may have gathered, it depends on what flavour of metatarsalgia you have. 

You can expect anything from a couple of weeks to six months. 

This being said, you will get the best results if the diagnosis is accurate, and that is what Keep On Your Feet like to focus on: getting the diagnosis accurate so the treatment plan is targeted. 

Lady running with her dog
Ready to say goodbye to your pain?

At Keep On Your Feet, we openly acknowledge that we cannot guarantee a cure for things: but we will work as hard as we can with you to help you reach your goals. 

If your symptoms fit the above, you will need to book a 'Foot Pain' consultation. This will be £95 and lasts approximately 60 minutes usually. If you need insoles, we'll give you some basic ones to try out (or some fancier ones and reduce their price!). 

This is a picture of Jeremy Ousey, director and podiatrist of Keep On Your Feet.

About the Author

Jeremy Ousey is the owner at Swansea's podiatry clinic: Keep On Your Feet. All the information found on this page was written by him (there's no AI or Chat-GPT here!), and has been carefully chosen to provide you with the information that you need to know about the condition. Jeremy has a Bachelor of Science in Podiatry, with honours, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Podiatric Sports Medicine, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Medical Ultrasound, and two Master's of Science degrees in the Theory of Podiatric Surgery, and Sports & Exercise Medicine. If you would like to know more about Jeremy, please click here.

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