Have you ever experienced that intense pain in your feet where you feel like you’re stepping on stones inside your shoes? Or that constant stabbing or burning sensation near your toes even when you’re not wearing enclosed footwear? If the answer is yes, you might be experiencing metatarsalgia, simply known to many as the pain you experience in the ball of your foot.
What Causes Metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is a type of overuse injury that is caused by a variety of activities or behaviors. It is scientifically named as such because the condition affects your metatarsals, or the five bones under your toes. Since the condition is caused by a gradual buildup of pressure in the area, the symptoms do not manifest immediately, but rather develop over the course of a few months.
If you constantly engage in intense physical activities or other high-impact sports such as running, you may be more susceptible to experiencing sharp pain in the ball of your foot. Being overweight, and wearing high-heels or small, ill-fitted shoes frequently can also put you at risk of this condition. Certain feet conditions such as high arches, hammertoes, bunions, and flat feet can increase the risk for metatarsalgia.
Managing the pain
Try to avoid applying too much pressure on your feet by walking or running around a lot or by wearing high heels or ill-fitted, tight shoes. Of course, if you’re an athlete playing a strenuous sport that puts a lot of exertion on your feet, you would be advised to lessen your physical activity even for the mean time to give your metatarsals time to heal. Otherwise, if you want to maintain physical activity, try other sports that do not have as much pressure on the feet, such as swimming or cycling.
Physiotherapy aims to relieve the pressure and restore normal function to the affected area. The initial phase is all about recovery, and helping reduce the inflammation. Once the pain and swelling become less frequent or disappear altogether, you may be advised to perform exercises for strengthening.
In the second phase of physiotherapy, which is called the maintenance phase, you will be asked to wear an orthotic device (or a foot pad) to support your feet. You may also be asked to do self-mobilization exercises to facilitate movement.
In the last stages of physiotherapy, additional preventive measures will be advised to you by your physiotherapist to lower the chances of recurrence. If you are an athlete, you will only be permitted to resume intense physical activity once you are completely healed. Even after your physiotherapy sessions, you will be advised to choose the proper footwear or to use orthotic and metatarsal pads to prevent excessive friction or pressure that can cause the pain in the balls of your feet to recur.
Consulting with a physiotherapist in severe cases of metatarsalgia is beneficial, as you will be under close monitoring and your recovery will be tracked regularly. The treatment plan that will be created for you is also very flexible and can be adjusted according to your medical history, physical activity and other personal and medical factors. It may take a few physiotherapy sessions until your metatarsalgia is resolved, so it is important that you trust the various phases of your treatment program and that you actively participate in the exercises and other activities that will be prescribed for your full recovery.
Once you complete the recommended number of sessions, your physiotherapist will give you advice on how to properly load your feet on the ground when you walk or run, or how to maintain proper posture without putting excessive pressure on your metatarsals. That way, you’re not only addressing the pain brought by your current condition, but you’re also given helpful tips on how to avoid a recurrence.
Any condition that affects how you perform your daily activities must be addressed properly to allow you to make a quick return to your active lifestyle. As such, receiving physiotherapy at the onset of pain is advised to prevent the symptoms from worsening over time.
Need a Qualified Physio?
If you’re located in Perth, here at Trained Physio & Fitness we have a special interest in treating clients experiencing pain in the balls of their foot. We offer a gap free 20 minute consult for new patients with private health insurance and this is a perfect opportunity to diagnose your injury correctly and speak to a professional that will help you implement the right strategy for recover based on their extensive experience.
Located in East Perth, we are one of the few Physios in Perth that have it’s own Gym and a range of services that compliment our holistic approach to pain and injury management.
Book an appointment online today or call us for more information about how we can help you feel your best.