Metatarsalgia is a general term that denotes a painful condition that involves the metatarsal region of the foot, just before the toes, sometimes referred to as the “ball of the foot.” There are five metatarsal bones in the foot, which are similar to the “knuckles” on the hand. Each metatarsal serves to distribute the entire weight of the body across the forefoot, which is the area of the foot from the metatarsal bones forward, including the toes.

The forefoot is composed of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and skin, which all interrelate. Each part may cause painful conditions alone or in combination together at the junction known as the Metatarsal-Phalangeal Joints (the toe bones are called Phalanges).

Pain in this area is often caused by callouses, which may diffuse and spread over a broad area or be localized and deep rooted. They may or may not have a painful bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that lies between the skin and bone, associated with them.

Callouses are caused by either structural (anatomic variation) or functional (variation in the way the foot functions) problems.

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