Metatarsalgia is sometimes called ball-of-foot pain, which is appropriate considering that people with this condition often feel pain around the ball of their feet. But even though people feel pain there, the actual problem begins higher up, in the metatarsal bones that compose large portions of the feet.
If you look down at your bare feet and point your toes up, you can probably see some of these bones. They're the five bones in each forefoot that extend from about half way up the foot to the toes.
While many patients with metatarsalgia feel pain where their metatarsal bones join their toe bones, some also feel pain along the entire length of the metatarsals and possibly between them. And this pain can vary depending on the cause of the condition. If your forefoot feels stiff or sore when you move it, joint dysfunction is probably causing your metatarsalgia. If you feel burning or stinging, nerve damage is probably responsible.
A number of internal and external factors can cause these problems. Internal factors can be structural, functional or both. Structural problems refer to abnormalities in the metatarsals themselves. If, for example, someone's metatarsals grow too long, it could change the mechanics of his or her feet and lead to abnormal movements that strain the forefoot and possibly cause joint dysfunction. Functional problems refer to abnormalities in other foot structures that then affect the metatarsals and cause metatarsalgia. If, for example, someone has flat feet, the lack of arches could affect how he or she walked, putting excess strain on the metatarsals.
External factors include excess body weight, tight or high-heeled shoes and repetitive foot activity. Excess weight can overload the metatarsals and affect the way people walk, which can cause joint pain and nerve irritation. High-heeled shoes stress the metatarsals, because the raised heel channels the majority of pressure from walking onto the front of the foot. Repetitive foot activities, like running, directly stress the metatarsals by exposing them to constant trauma.
Regardless of the cause, your chiropractor can care for metatarsalgia. After determining what factors are underlying your condition, he or she can offer a variety of non-invasive therapies as well as advice on how you can avoid future pain.