Top of Foot Pain
Indicates a Serious Problem

Top of Foot Pain

Top of foot pain can be uncomfortable and annoying. It can also be very serious and require urgent attention. Fractures and tendonitis are among the most common causes of pain found on the top of the foot. Shin splints is one of the less common causes.

The foot is composed of twenty-six bones, a multitude of nerves, tendons, soft tissue, and cartilage. A problem with any of these factors, or a combination of problems, can cause intense Chronic Pain. Moreover, it can be hard to pinpoint the actual cause of the pain.

Early treatment is the best prescription for any top of foot pain. In many cases, ignoring the problem will only make it worse. A fracture along the top of the foot will extend if it's not properly treated.

Metatarsals and Top of Foot Pain

Acute pain felt along the top of the foot that gets worse when bearing weight may be a fracture. This is a prevalent foot injury and one that needs prompt attention. A stress fracture can occur without trauma.

Concentrated pain in the metatarsal area, inflammation, and redness indicate a possible stress fracture. This type of fracture heals in about one month to six weeks.

Fallen arches causes top of foot pain. With this medical condition the bones of the top of the foot compress against each other and cause relentless pain. There's no trauma related to fallen arches and the pain is present with or without shoes.

Metatarsalgia is an inflammation in the top of the foot. The swelling runs the length of the metatarsals – from the toes to the middle of the foot.

What causes top of foot pain?

There are many causes of foot pain, but when most people talk about foot pain they are describing symptoms that cause pain under the "ball of the foot." When foot pain occurs under the ball of the foot, the medical term is metatarsalgia.

There are many other causes of foot pain in other parts of the foot. If your symptoms are not under the ball of the foot, try the following resources to find an answer to your problem:

  • Toe pain and bunions
  • Arch pain
  • Heel pain (underneath the heel)
  • Posterior heel pain (behind the heel)

Metatarsalgia occurs in the region between the arch and the toes. The medical term for foot pain, metatarsalgia, comes from the name of the bones that are in this part of the foot: the metatarsals. The metatarsals are long bones at the base of each toe. Sometimes pressure on the ends of the metatarsal bones causes symptoms in the ball of the foot.

What problems cause the symptoms of foot pain?

Foot pain can be caused by increased pressure on the metatarsal heads. This can be due to constricting foot wear or high heel shoes. If you have pain under the ball of your foot, try wearing shoes that have a wider toe box.

Other conditions that can cause top of foot pain include ligament injuries and joint irritation. These problems can also be relieved with more accommodating footwear.

Nerve Entrapment

Nerves at the top of the foot can become pinched. This occurs in two different ways. First, a nerve can be caught in a joint. Nerves run along the top of the foot beginning at the ankle and reaching the toes. Pressure can cause these sensory nerves to pinch in a joint and cause pain.

Nerve entrapment also occurs with neuroma. This condition is exemplified by a growth of nerve tissue in the metatarsal region. Tight shoes, nerve trauma, and other reasons result in this benign but painful growth. Neuroma may cause a burning pain on the top and the bottom of the foot.

Tendons and Spurs

Tendons aren't usually associated with the top of foot pain. However, flexing the toes toward the floor requires the use of tendons on this part of the foot. When the outer covering of the tendons becomes inflamed the tendon will be painful.

Arthritis can lead to bone spurs in the foot. A bone can produce a growth that protrudes on the top of the foot. Pain results from the bone spur or pressure applied to the bone spur when wearing shoes.

Patients and doctors often confuse the terms heel spur and plantar fasciitis. While these two diagnoses are related, they are not the same. Plantar fasciitis refers to the inflammation of the plantar fascia: the tissue that forms the arch of the foot. A heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone (calcaneus) and is associated with plantar fasciitis.

About 70 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur that can be seen on an X-ray. However, many patients without symptoms of pain can have a heel spur. The exact relationship between plantar fasciitis and heel spurs is not entirely understood.

Who gets heel spurs?

Heel spurs are common in patients who have a history of foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis. In the setting of plantar fasciitis, heel spurs are most often seen in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups. The heel spur itself is not thought to be the primary cause of pain, rather inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia is thought to be the primary problem.

A heel spur diagnosis is made when an X-ray shows a hook of bone protruding from the bottom of the foot at the point where the plantar fascia is attached to the heel bone.

Heel spurs form in some patients who have plantar fasciitis, and tend to occur in patients who have had the problem for a prolonged period of time. While about 70 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur, X-rays also show about 50 percent of patients with no symptoms of plantar fasciitis also have a heel spur.

Cysts, phlebitis, shin splints, and other health problems can lead to top of foot pain. To ensure the pain doesn't lead to further foot problems seek the advice of a medical professional for unusual foot pain that doesn't go away.

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