A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue that may develop in various parts of the body. The most common neuroma in the foot is a Morton?s neuroma, which occurs between the third and fourth toes. It is sometimes referred to as an intermetatarsal neuroma. ?Intermetatarsal? describes its location in the ball of the foot between the metatarsal bones. Neuromas may also occur in other locations in the foot. MortonThe thickening, or enlargement, of the nerve that defines a neuroma is the result of compression and irritation of the nerve. This compression creates enlargement of the nerve, eventually leading to permanent nerve damage.
Poorly fitted footwear can be a cause. Shoes that have a tight and narrow toe box can cause the never to become entrapped causing the pain. High heeled shoes abnormally place the metatarsals under extreme pressure which can cause Morton?s Neuroma. In cases of abnormal pronation, there can be significant motion between the 3rd and 4th metatarsals which can cause an irritation to the nerve that runs between them. This inflammation causes the pain.
The primary symptoms include sharp, shooting pain, numbness or paresthesia in the forefoot and extending distally into the toes, typically in the region of the third and fourth toes. Symptoms are aggravated with narrow toe box shoes or those with high heels. There is usually a reduction of symptoms when walking barefoot or wearing shoes with an appropriately wide toe box. Symptoms are also aggravated with shoes that are tied too tight.
During the examination, your physician will feel for a palpable mass or a "click" between the bones. He or she will put pressure on the spaces between the toe bones to try to replicate the pain and look for calluses or evidence of stress fractures in the bones that might be the cause of the pain. Range of motion tests will rule out arthritis or joint inflammations. X-rays may be required to rule out a stress fracture or arthritis of the joints that join the toes to the foot.
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.)
For severe or persistent pain, you may need surgery to remove the neuroma. Once the nerve is gone, you permanently lose feeling in the affected area. One alternative to surgery is to undergo neurolysis injections. These use chemical agents to block pain signals. Another alternative is to take a prescription pain reliever that alleviates nerve pain.
Ensuring that shoes are well fitted, low-heeled and with a wide toe area may help to prevent Morton's neuroma.