Morton’s neuroma is a painful foot condition that occurs when a nerve, usually between the third and fourth toes, expands and becomes compressed. Shoes, particularly high heels or shoes with tight toe boxes, and walking often make the pain worse. In some cases, patients with Morton’s neuroma find short-term pain relief when they do not put weight on the affected foot.
The exact cause of Morton?s neuroma is not known, but the choice of footwear seems be a factor. Wearing high heels (shoes with heels over 2 inches) can put extra pressure on the balls of the feet. Wearing tight or pointed toed shoes may squeeze the toes together or otherwise constrict their movement. For that reason, women are about 8 to 10 times more likely to develop Morton?s neuroma compared with men. People who are born with flat feet, high arches, or an abnormal position of the toes are more prone to developing Morton?s neuroma. This may be due to instability around the toe joints. Certain conditions that develop over time, such as bunions or hammer toes, are also associated with Morton?s neuroma. Some sports that involve running, including tennis and other racquet sports, can also increase the chance of developing Morton?s neuroma due to trauma or injury to the foot.
While the condition may at first only appear during heavy repetitive stress or when wearing particular shoes which aggravate the foot, the Neuroma can become increasingly inflamed and produce more constant discomfort, lasting days or weeks. Runners may experience pain pushing off from starting blocks. Tight or narrow shoes as well as high heels likewise aggravate the Neuroma. A checklist of symptoms includes burning pain, occasionally numbness in the ball of the foot. Radiating pain from the ball of the foot to the toes. Intensifying pain during activity and when wearing shoes. Occasional numbness, discomfort, tingling or ?electrical shock sensation? in the toes. Pain between the third and fourth toes, often occurring from the outer side of one toe to the inner side of the adjoining toe. Pain upon leaving the starting blocks in running sports.
Plain x-rays of the foot may demonstrate that one or more of the metatarsals are long (Figure #5). Not uncommonly, the second and/or third metatarsal may be long relative to the third or fourth. This can create a situation where excessive load is occurring in and around the vicinity of the interdigital nerve.
Non Surgical Treatment
Once a diagnosis is obtained, it is essential to begin treatment immediately. Your podiatric physician will advise you on the most effective means. If caught early enough, good foot care, shoes that fit properly, and/or orthoses may eliminate the need for any further intervention. Other conservative measures might include oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS), physical therapy, ultrasound or other non-invasive measures. If that doesn?t work, your podiatric physician might use injectable steroids, and/or a local anesthetic around the neuroma to reduce inflammation and pain. Many patients report relief after these measures are taken.
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.