Morton's neuroma is an inflammation of the nerves in the foot that go to the toes. Although the name includes the word ?neuroma,? it is not really a tumor. It can affect any of the toes in the foot. However, it most often affects the nerves that run between the third and fourth, or second and third toes.
The pain of Morton's neuroma occurs when the nerve connecting the toe bones (metatarsal bones) becomes irritated or compressed. The exact cause of the irritation is unknown, but it may be the metatarsal bones pressing against the nerve when the gap between the bones is narrow. This causes the nerve and surrounding tissue to thicken. Some experts believe that a number of other foot problems, including flat feet, high foot arches, bunions and hammer toes, may also play a role in Morton's neuroma.
Patients will often experience a clicking feeling in the forefoot followed by a sharp shooting pain or a sensation of numbness or pins and needles extending into ends of their toes. Tight narrow fitting shoes may often exacerbate these feelings which become worse after long periods of standing or walking. Once the Mortons nueroma progresses symptoms will become more frequent and often more intense.
Morton?s neuroma can be identified during a physical exam, after pressing on the bottom of the foot. This maneuver usually reproduces the patient?s pain. MRI and ultrasound are imaging studiesthat can demonstrate the presence of the neuroma. An x-ray may also be ordered to make sure no other issues exist in the foot. A local anesthetic injection along the neuroma may temporarily abolish the pain, and help confirm the diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial treatment for Morton?s Neuroma may include non-prescription anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling. These may consist of standard analgesics such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). Massaging the painful region three times daily with ice. Change of footwear. Avoid tight shoes, high heels or any footwear that seems to irritate the condition. Low heeled shoes with softer soles are preferable. Arch supports and foot pads to help reduce pressure on the nerve. In some cases, a physician may prescribe a customized shoe insert, molded to fit the contours of the patient?s foot. Reducing activities causing stress to the foot, including jogging, dancing, aerobic activity or any high impact movements of the foot. Injections of a corticosteroid medication to reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerve and reduce pain. Occasionally other substances may be injected in order to ?ablate? the Neuroma. (The overuse of injected steroids is to be avoided however, as side effects, including weight gain and high blood pressure can result.)
If your pain continues despite several months of conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the neuroma or to widen the space through which the affected nerve travels. These types of surgery often are done under local anesthesia. If your doctor removes a portion of the affected nerve along with the neuroma, you may develop permanent numbness between the toes.
It is not always possible to prevent a Morton's neuroma. However, you probably can reduce your risk by wearing comfortable shoes that have low heels, plenty of toe space and good arch support.