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Treatment for Ball of the Foot Pain: Can Massage Help Metatarsalgia?

Massage is a proven way to alleviate the symptoms caused by metatarsalgia. It reduces pain and swelling and increases local circulation promoting healing.

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By Babafemi Adebajo
Joel Taylor
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published January 26, 2022.

When metatarsalgia occurs, it starts slowly and worsens progressively. If left untreated, it will get to the point where it begins to interfere with your regular everyday life.

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia

Pain at the ball of the foot is the primary symptom of metatarsalgia, usually experienced as a dull ache that worsens with activity. Additional symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising at the metatarsal head
  • Joint stiffness

Without managing the symptoms, metatarsalgia will lead to altered body mechanics and cause pain in the ankle and knee.

How Does Massage Help Metatarsalgia?

Massage is a proven way to alleviate the symptoms caused by metatarsalgia.

The massage techniques used for metatarsalgia increase local circulation in the foot, bringing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the affected area. This also increases the number of white blood cells that promote healing. Massaging around the swelling is also known to offer immediate relief for pain and swelling.

How to Relieve Metatarsalgia With Massage Techniques

Metatarsalgia-focused massage techniques have become increasingly popular among massage therapists, physical therapists, and reflexologists. Three of the most common metatarsal massage techniques are highlighted below:

  1. Thumb sweep method With the thumbs positioned on the top of the feet, apply moderate pressure on the foot. Then, move in a sweeping motion up and down the foot covering the toes, the ball and arch of the foot, and the heel.
  2. Thumb walk method Beginning at the heel, walk the fingers up the foot, alternating between one finger and the next and applying moderate pressure throughout.
  3. Ball method Place a tennis or golf ball under your foot and roll your foot over the ball, applying as much pressure as you deem fit by lifting or pressing down on the ball with your foot. Continue for up to 3 minutes on each foot.