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Find out the causes of metatarsalgia and how it can be treated
Unfortunately, making a more specific clinical diagnosis in cases of metatarsalgia can be tricky for many clinicians as the forefoot is a complex area of speciality within orthopaedics and scans need to be read and interpreted with significant clinical experience.
For persistent or disabling cases of metatarsalgia, it is recommended to book an appointment with an experienced orthopaedic ankle and foot surgeon to get an accurate diagnosis prior to commencing further treatment.
We can offer appointments with foot and ankle specialists following injury or following a gradual onset of pain. Our experts are able to give our clients an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management plan based on expert history taking, physical examination and clinical experience. Diagnostic scans as needed can be booked without delay as needed prior to any follow up appointment.
The most common cause of metatarsalgia is a simple pressure related problem through the forefoot which is unrelated to any structural problems to the joints and soft tissue in the area i.e. diagnostic scans may be normal. More specific causes of metatarsalgia are outlined further.
Morton’s neuroma describes a formation of scar tissue in the nerve which runs between the base of the third and fourth toes. When weight bearing through the forefoot while wearing tight fitting footwear the neuroma can be compressed between the toes, leading to pain and tingling.
Lying between the skin and the bones at the base of our toes there is a fluid filled protective pad known as a bursa. In some cases this bursa may become painful itself leading to swelling and inflammation.
In most cases of metatarsalgia, there is an underlying biomechanical cause. Common biomechanical causes can include:
For detailed anatomical views of the forefoot area the scan normally requested is an ultrasound scan which is able to give excellent images of any morton’s neuroma as well as locate any areas of inflammation.
Depending on the specific diagnosis being managed the most effective diagnostic tests may not aim to help with a specific diagnosis but may give useful information concerning biomechanical problems which may be causing the metatarsalgia.
We are able to offer a comprehensive biomechanical review with a podiatrist or orthotist who work closely with our orthopaedic ankle and foot specialists. Force plates, motion camera technology as well as pressure pads placed inside footwear enable the download of useful data concerning pressure points and any abnormal foot postures which occur during walking and running.
Some cases of morton’s neuroma and bursitis may not settle entirely with appropriate orthotics. As such, ultrasound guided corticosteroid injections may be advised in specific circumstances by an orthopaedic consultant.
Finally, if pain and disability persist an ankle and foot consultant surgeon may offer surgical solutions to treat metatarsalgia. Surgical management of forefoot problems can range from being very simple procedures such as a morton’s neurectomy (removal of a morton’s neuroma) to highly invasive procedures such as midfoot, forefoot and toe joint fusions and corrections to the angle of the ankle and foot.
A common surgical practice aimed at relieving some forms of metatarsalgia involves straightening the big toe to reduce pressure on the subsequent toes and forefoot. The most common way of achieving this is through an operation known as a scarfe osteotomy.