Mortons Neuroma is a common painful condition involving compression of nerves between the long bones of the forefoot just before they enter the toes. Commonly this involves the 3rd and 4th toes, however may affect the 2nd and 3rd toes. Repeated trauma or compression of these nerves causes the nerves to swell and thicken causing a Morton’s neuroma to develop.
The exact cause of Morton’s neuroma is not known. However, it is thought to develop as a result of long-standing (chronic) stress and irritation of a plantar digital nerve. There are a number of things that are thought to contribute to this. Some thickening (fibrosis) and swelling may then develop around a part of the nerve. This can look like a neuroma and can lead to compression of the nerve. Sometimes, other problems can contribute to the compression of the nerve. These include the growth of a fatty lump (called a lipoma) and also the formation of a fluid-filled sac that can form around a joint (a bursa). Also, inflammation in the joints in the foot next to one of the digital nerves can sometimes cause irritation of the nerve and lead to the symptoms of Morton’s neuroma.
Patients with neuroma may develop pain on the bottom of the forefoot, most commonly under the 3rd and 4th toes, though any toe may be affected. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp. The toes may feel ?numb? as times, especially the area between the 3rd and 4th toes. A classic complaint is that patients feel as if they are ?walking on a stone or pebble? and/or ?feel as if the sock is rolled up in the shoe.? Pain is often worse when walking barefoot.
To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will examine your feet. He or she will look for areas of tenderness, swelling, calluses, numbness, muscle weakness and limited motion. To check for a Morton’s neuroma, your doctor will squeeze the sides of your foot. Squeezing should compress the neuroma and trigger your typical pain. In some cases, your doctor will find numbness in the webbed area between the affected toes. Pain in two or more locations on one foot, such as between both the second and third toes and the third and fourth toes, more likely indicates that the toe joints are inflamed rather than a Morton’ neuroma.
Non Surgical Treatment
Depending on your overall health, symptoms and severity of the neuroma, the condition may be treated conservatively and/or with surgery. Non-surgical methods for neuroma are aimed at decreasing and/or eliminating symptoms (pain). Wear proper supportive shoes. Use an arch support. Wear shoes with a wide toe box. Modify your activities. Lose weight. Wear shoes with cushion. Prescribe an oral anti-inflammatory medication. Anti-inflammatory medication is useful to significantly reduce pain and inflammation. A physical therapist may perform ultrasound and other techniques to reduce inflammation. You will also be instructed how to stretch your foot and leg properly. Padding and/or cushioning of the ball of the foot is an effective method of preventing physical irritation with shoes. A custom foot orthotic is a doctor prescribed arch support that is made directly from a casting (mold) of your feet, and theoretically should provide superior support compared to shoe insert that you would purchase from a pharmacy. A cortisone injection is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that is used to rapidly reduce the pain associated with an inflamed nerve. The pain relief that you may experience from the injection(s) is often temporary. Typically injection(s) are administered once every 2 months for a total of 3 injections or until the pain is resolved. A sclerosing alcohol injection is placed around the involved nerve to weaken its capacity to report pain. In other words, the alcohol injection will ?deaden? the affected nerve. The pain relief that you may experience from the injection(s) can be permanent. Typically injection(s) are administered once every week for a few weeks until the pain is resolved.
Surgery to remove the neuroma may be recommended if more conservative treatment does not solve the problem. While surgery usually relieves or completely removes the symptoms, it often leaves a permanent numb feeling at the site of the neuroma.
Women, particularly those who wear tight shoes, are at greatest risk for Morton?s neuroma. The best way to prevent the condition is to wear shoes with wide toe boxes. Tight, pointed shoes squeeze bones, ligaments, muscles and nerves. High heels may worsen the problem by shifting your weight forward. Over time, this combination can cause the nerves to swell and become painful.