The metatarsals consist of five cylindrical bones that extend from the heel bone to the toes, where they attach to the phalanges. The phalanges consist of the 14 bones of the toes. Joint pain felt in the metatarsals and phalanges can be caused by a variety of factors and medical conditions.
Osteoarthritis commonly occurs after middle age, when the smooth surfaces of the metatarsal and phalange bones become worn out and frayed. As these bones rub against each other, it results in swelling, inflammation and a sharp or aching pain in the joints of the feet or toes.
Post-traumatic arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis, except it is caused by a fracture, sprain or ligament injury in the foot. Again, the joints in the metatarsals and phalanges become inflamed and experience significant pain.
Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the joints of the foot. It occurs most commonly in the joint of the big toe and it causes intense pain that comes on quite suddenly, along with swelling and warmth around the affected joint.
In the foot, capsulitis commonly occurs beneath the second metatarsal bone, on the bottom of the foot. Capsulitis is an inflammation of the joint caused by too much weight applied to the forefoot; the joint pain associated with capsulitis increases when patients are barefoot or walking on hard surfaces.
Metatarsalgia refers to an intense pain felt in the joint regions of the metatarsal bones. The condition may be a result of overloading, overuse or inappropriate shoes. Unfortunately, metatarsalgia is often a precursor for stress fractures of the metatarsal bones.