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.
Some say that this condition should not be called Morton's neuroma as, in fact, it is not actually a neuroma. A neuroma is a non-cancerous (benign) tumour that grows from the fibrous coverings of a nerve. There is no tumour formation in Morton's neuroma. The anatomy of the bones of the foot is also thought to contribute to the development of Morton's neuroma. For example, the space between the long bones (metatarsals) in the foot is narrower between the second and third, and between the third and fourth metatarsals. This means that the nerves that run between these metatarsals are more likely to be compressed and irritated. Wearing narrow shoes can make this compression worse.
You may initially experience a tingling sensation in the space between your toes, which gets worse over time. This leads to cramp in your toes and a sharp shooting or burning pain on the ball of your foot or at the base of your toes. The pain is often worse when walking or wearing shoes that press on the affected area. This is caused by irritation of the nerve between your toe bones (metatarsal bones). The tingling will eventually lead to pain, which can get worse over time. You may also experience cramping of your toes. The pain is usually felt as a sharp shooting or burning pain on the ball of the foot or at the base of the toes, which is often made worse when you're walking. Some people with Morton's neuroma feel anxious about walking or even placing their foot on the ground. The pain is likely to be more intense if you wear tight shoes, so wearing shoes that have more room in the toe area can help. Rubbing your foot may also lessen the pain.
The doctor will perform an examination of your feet as well. He or she may palpate your feet and flex them in specific ways that will indicate the presence of a neuroma. X-rays are often used to rule out other problems, such as fractures, bone spurs, arthritis or other problems with the bones in the toes or foot. In some cases, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be helpful to confirm the presence of a neuroma.
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.)
When conservative measures are unsuccessful, surgery can be a good choice in the treatment of Morton's neuroma. The operation for Morton's neuroma does not require an overnight hospital stay. The anesthetic used is an ankle block, which completely numbs the foot during the surgery. The physician removes the neuroma from an incision made on the top of the foot between the involved metatarsal heads. The nerve to the interspace is exposed and cut next to the metatarsal heads.