Metatarsalgia: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Metatarsal bones

Metatarsalgia (say "met-uh-tar-SAL-jee-uh") is pain in the ball of the foot. It sometimes spreads to the toes. The ball of the foot is the bottom of the foot, where the toes join the foot.

While walking might be very painful, it is not a sign of a serious or permanent problem. But any pain can affect your life, so it is important that you treat it.

Pain in this area can be caused by many things. For example, you may have this pain if you stand or walk a lot or wear tight shoes or high heels.

You may have had an X-ray if your doctor wanted to make sure a more serious problem is not causing your pain.

Treatment may consist of home care, such as rest, wearing different shoes, and taking over-the-counter pain medicines. It can take months for the pain to go away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Rest your foot. If an activity is causing the pain, find another one to do that does not put so much pressure on your foot.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your foot when it hurts or after you've done something that usually causes pain. Do this for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Wear roomy, comfortable shoes.
  • Your doctor may recommend special pads to use in your shoes to relieve the pressure on your foot bones.
  • Put pads under the bones in the ball of the foot. Your doctor may recommend specific types of pads. You can also try orthotic shoe devices. These are moulded pieces of rubber, leather, metal, plastic, or other synthetic material that are inserted into a shoe.
  • Wear shoes with good arch support.
  • Try not to wear high heels or narrow shoes.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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