Metatarsalgia is a common type of overuse injury that primarily affects the ball of the foot. Athletes and people who spend a lot of time on their feet can develop inflammation, tenderness, and swelling that can range from slightly uncomfortable to debilitating. Choosing the best metatarsalgia treatment revolves around recognizing the severity of the injury. Mild foot pain that comes and goes is often responsive to home remedies and over-the-counter pain medications. If metatarsalgia becomes a chronic, painful condition, it is essential to visit a doctor to learn about more aggressive different treatment options, including corrective surgery.
In general, symptoms of pain, numbness, redness, and swelling tend to develop gradually over time. A person who notices worsening foot pain can take certain steps to prevent the condition from becoming a major problem. Basic metatarsalgia treatment techniques include avoiding physical activity for several days and applying ice to relieve swelling. Keeping the foot elevated in bed and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can further reduce pain and swelling.
Once the foot starts feeling better, it is important to slowly return to physical activity. Light stretching exercises, such as straightening and bending the toes several times, helps to loosen up muscle tissue and rebuild foot flexibility. A person may also want to consider investing in cushioning insoles or new, softer shoes that are designed to take pressure off of the balls of the feet. Most people are able to find full relief from their symptoms in two to six weeks. If pain returns or worsens despite conservative metatarsalgia treatment, an individual should consider scheduling an appointment with a physician.
Before suggesting a particular metatarsalgia treatment, a doctor takes x-rays and performs a thorough physical exam to make sure a more serious problem does not exist. High-strength prescription painkillers or corticosteroid injections may be provided to relieve severe pain quickly. The doctor may also suggest custom orthotic shoes that are designed to support the arches and protect the metatarsal region from impact.
Surgery is typically reserved for serious cases that prevent patients from engaging in simple everyday activities. If a doctor decides that surgical is the best choice for metatarsalgia treatment, a consultation is scheduled with a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. The most common procedure involves cutting cartilage and muscle tissue to relieve tension and then realigning the bones in the ball and arch. Postoperative recovery can take several months and typically involves guided physical therapy.