A very common cause of metatarsalgia is Morton’s neuroma, which is a growth on a nerve. T his growth usually occurs at the 3rd plantar interdigital nerve that innervates the toes. It can however affect other nerves. Morton’s neuroma occurs most often unilaterally rather than bilaterally (one foot), and is more common in women than men. Morton’s neuroma can be a result of a malformation of the bones of the foot beginning in our early years of development. A flattening of the arch or the foot turning in or out (pronation) can be a causative factor.
A phenomenon often found in individuals with Morton’s neuroma is when the toes are flexed (curled under), it will be found that the 2nd toe is quite a bit longer than the others and somewhat shorter than the normal 1st metatarsal.
Pain in the metatarsal area (ball of foot) can also be caused by stress fractures. A stress fracture is a minute (micro-fracture) that occurs in a bone due to repetitive impact or of a pounding nature to that particular area or bone, such as a runner would encounter. These stress fractures most often affect the leg, ankle and foot. Bones usually affected in the lower extremity are the tibia and fibula. In the foot, the most common are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th metatarsal. Other bones of the foot affected are the calcaneous, navicular and cuboid.
Generally the pain will start as a vague ache that will become a localized pain. The pain usually worsens when stretching the foot or applying a pressure over the metatarsal area (ball of the foot). Other movements of the foot will not cause pain. Any pain in the foot, whatever the causative factor, may in all probability have an impact on the biomechanical integrity of the foot. This will in turn set up a mechanism of instability that will affect the ankle and leg. This instability in turn will often cause related symptoms, such as, leg, back and spinal pain.
Biomechanical factors are often created in individuals who are involved in activities such as running as previously stated, and sports that are of high impact to the feet such as aerobics, basketball, football and long distance power walking. These are the types of activities that are instrumental in causing stress fractures, and generally are the precursor of future problems in the feet.
In treating any foot condition, the individual should have a definitive diagnosis. To accomplish this they should see their Chiropractor or Podiatrist for an examination and evaluation. This evaluation will consist of a case history, an examination that will include orthopedic tests and probably x-rays of the feet. Although the pain may affect one foot, x-rays may be taken of both feet for comparison purposes. Once a definitive diagnosis is arrived at, the condition will be treated to alleviate the pain and recommendations made to prevent a return of symptoms.
Treating any such foot problems will be the responsibility of the patient in the long run. They must of course follow the recommendations made by their healthcare provider, after-which they should take an active role in achieving the desired goal of being pain-free, and remaining so in the future. In a condition such as Morton’s neuroma, the goal is to treat with conservative measures. However, in many instances, surgical intervention may be necessary.
The individuals’ primary objective is to see to their shoes. They must see that the fit of their shoes will not cause further problems. The shoes of course must be of good quality with a proper ergonomically designed fit. The quality is of the utmost importance so as to prevent premature breakdown. A breakdown of the insole will cause the feet to pronate, either inwardly or outwardly. There is a simple check that you can perform to check how your shoes fit in a proper fashion. While standing on a sheet of paper, have someone trace an outline of your feet. Then place your shoes over this drawn outline and trace the outline of your shoes. If the foot outline is not well within the shoe outline will signify a cramping of the feet by the shoes.
Cramping of the feet, caused by shoes that are to small give rise to other conditions. One such condition is Bunions (hallus valgus). The bunion is caused when the toes are squeezed together over a long period of time. There callus formation and overgrowth of bone in the joint of where the big toe and the metatarsal joint meet. In some women there can be a genetic disposition to bunions.
Hammer Toes is another condition that can directly be attributed to poorly fitted shoes. The 5th toe is the toe that is most often affected. When the toes are cramped in the shoe, the toes have a tendency to turn under because there is not room enough for them to stay in a normal extended fashion, when standing or walking. The rubbing action will cause calluses, and here too, the bone will start to overgrow causing a hammer toe.
A great percentage of women have been found to be wearing shoes that are too small for their feet, and it is in this percentile that women have complaints of foot pain. High heels are another significant cause of foot pain in women by placing increased pressure on the metatarsal area of the feet. When there is a high arch in the feet, a supplemental arch support will probably be of value to prevent strain of the arch. The shoe must allow the toes to spread and not cause a cramping of the toes, especially when stepping off in walking.
Basically a man should be aware of the same requirements for a proper fit as stated above. T he shoe should always be fitted for comfort and not for the size you think you wear. When fitting a shoe, late afternoon is the best time because your feet may be slightly larger. T hey should also be fitted in a standing position to make sure that the weight bearing is accommodated in the size of the shoe. Some individuals will find that an orthotic support will be of value. However, you must be certain that the orthotic will fit in the shoe properly without undue cramping of the feet. For the individual who is in pain, they of course must try to alleviate the pain. Warm foot soaks with Epsom salts in warm water can be very soothing. Follow the soak by massaging with a good analgesic balm. Use the foot soak and massage, 3 to 4 times daily as needed. There is also another type of shoe insert that may be of value. A magnetic insole will aid in circulation to the feet through its’ magnetic therapy,
To sum up, the individual must take control to ease their pain and to further prevent the return of the condition that is causing the pain. Making sure that they are wearing properly fitted shoes will prevent the return of the initial causative condition and can also prevent other conditions from arising. Easing the pain that is initially present, by self-care is a
Priority. Following the procedures as outlined above will make for a happier and healthier lifestyle.