The ball of the foot is one of the most common areas of foot pain. The ball is the entire pad before each toe, covering the full width of the foot, not just the area under the big toe. The pain can have many causes; additionally, this area is subjected to tremendous pressure with every step we take. It’s a wonder it holds up so well in spite of the wear and tear it receives.
Outside of an injury, the two most common conditions that affect the ball of the foot are a pinched nerve and an inflamed joint. The most common location of a pinched nerve is between the 3rd and 4th toes, while an inflamed joint usually shows up on the toe next to the big toe.
The symptoms of a pinched nerve (morton’s neuroma) consist of aching, sharp pain, burning or numbness. A neuroma occurs when nerve tissue begins to thicken.There are several causes of a pinched nerve, including ill-fitting shoes which put pressure on the ball of the foot; sometimes it indicates a pre-diabetic condition.
An inflamed joint in the ball of the foot is extremely common. Many people describe this pain as a feeling of something bunched up under their foot, like their sock. Generally, an inflamed joint can be attributed to an overload of weight on the ball of the foot. A person with flat feet is most prone to this condition, because flat feet mechanically force more weight on this joint. Runner’s often experience this condition from the pushing off motion, as do women who frequently wear high-heeled shoes.
Some of the other common causes of pain in the ball of the foot are wearing shoes with little cushioning, extremely high arches, standing on concrete all day, and wearing away of the protective foot pad. The symptoms are generally all similar, including aching, throbbing, burning, sharpness and numbness.
Most conditions in the ball of the foot can be successfully treated by a podiatrist. Like many other foot problems, if it is left untreated the body will compensate. This can lead to pain elsewhere in the foot and in the body. If you experience pain in the ball of your foot, try wearing quality supportive shoes consistently. Alternatively, inserting a foot cushion designed to cushion the metatarsal pad can also provide relief. If the pain persists the next step is to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist to avoid further damage to the foot.
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