Where are the metatarsals?
Each foot is made up of a number of bones, ligaments and tendons. One specific group of bones is called the metatarsals. These five bones are the long bones found behind each toe that run from your arch to your toe joints. When you walk, run or jump and take off of the ball of your foot, your toes and metatarsals bear a lot of the weight.
What are the symptoms of metatarsalgia?
When the structure of your foot changes, which in turn affects how weight is distributed on your foot, metatarsal problems can arise. Inflammation and pain in the metatarsal region is called metatarsalgia. You may not be aware that your foot pain is stemming from one of these small five bones. When diagnosing metatarsalgia, Dr. Danciger may ask if you are experiencing one or more of these common symptoms:
- Sharp pain in your toes
- Pain when you flex your feet
- Sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot
- Pain that gets worse with activity or standing for long periods of time
- A sensation that you are constantly walking on a pebble
- Numbness in your toes
What are the causes of metatarsalgia?
There are several factors that can cause pain and inflammation of the metatarsals. One or more of following factors can lead to metatarsalgia:
- Being a runner or involved in high impact sports that put significant force on your feet.
- Having a high arch or longer second toe that affects how weight is distributed on the foot.
- Having hammertoes that curl downward and put stress on the metatarsals
- Having bunions that weaken your big toe and put extra stress on the ball of your foot
- Being overweight which adds pressure on your feet
- Wearing high heels, narrow-toed shoes or athletic shoes with poor support
When is metatarsal surgery recommended?
Metatarsalgia is often associated with an underlying foot problem or condition. Surgery is often performed on the metatarsal bones in an effort to fix the underlying problem or to alleviate symptoms.
Behind your big toe is what is called the first metatarsal bone. The most common reason for surgery on the first metatarsal is to correct a bunion deformity. A tailor’s bunion, found on the little toe, is another common reason for surgery. In this case, surgery is performed on the fifth metatarsal, which is found behind your little toe.
It is not as common for surgery to be performed on the other metatarsal bones. When the second, third and fourth metatarsal bones are not aligned correctly, excessive weight can be put on the ball of the foot. This may cause painful calluses can develop. If this occurs in a patient who also has diabetes, the area of pressure can not only lead to calluses but also open sores and ulcers that do not heal. When conservative methods do not help a patient in these situations, surgery is often necessary. Having rheumatoid arthritis is another situation where metatarsal surgery may be necessary to alleviate pain and restore foot health.
Metatarsal surgery is commonly done on an outpatient basis. Depending on the reason for the procedure, recovery after metatarsal surgery can take anywhere from 3-6 months. You may have some limitations on bearing weight on your foot, footwear and activities you can be involved in as well.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or are living with painful bunions, hammertoes, calluses or non-healing ulcers, contact our podiatric office today at (760) 568-0108 to make an appointment.