Morton’s neuroma is a condition that affects one of the nerves between the toes. It’s also known as Morton’s metatarsalgia or interdigital neuroma. In Morton’s neuroma, fibrous tissue develops around the nerve, which becomes irritated and compressed. This causes severe pain on the ball of the foot and at the base of the toes. Morton’s neuroma can occur on one foot or both feet. It usually affects the nerve between the third and fourth toes, but sometimes the second and third toes are affected.
Occupational hazards. Individuals whose jobs place undue stress on their forefeet (with or without wearing improper footwear) are among those who complain of neuromas. Podiatric physicians report that individuals who work on ladders, or who perform activities on their knees (such as doing landscaping, carpeting, flooring, or other work on the ground) are at risk for this problem, too, since these activities cause stress to the nerve near the ball of the foot. Those who engage in high-impact activities that bring repetitive trauma to the foot (running, aerobics, etc.) have a better than average chance of developing a neuroma at the site of a previous injury. To put it more simply, if you have sustained a previous injury to your foot (a sprain, stress fracture, etc.), that area of your foot will be more prone to neuroma development than an area that has not been injured. However, sports injuries aren?t automatically a ticket to neuromas. Trauma caused by other forms of injury to the foot (dropping heavy objects, for example) can also cause a neuroma to develop at the site of the previous injury. Much though we hate to say it, sometimes neuromas just develop and nobody knows why. The patient doesn?t have a previous injury, is wearing properly fitted shoes, and doesn?t stress his/her feet with any specific activity but the neuroma develops anyway. It is important to remember that some of the factors listed above can work alone, or in combination with each other, to contribute to the formation of neuroma.
Episodes of pain are intermittent. Patients may experience 2 attacks in a week and then none for a year. Recurrences are variable and tend to become more frequent. Between attacks, no symptoms or physical signs occur. Two neuromas coexist on the same foot about 2-3% of the time. Other diagnoses should be considered when 2 or more areas of tenderness are present.
A doctor can usually identify Morton’s neuroma during a physical exam. He or she will squeeze or press on the bottom of your foot or squeeze your toes together to see if it hurts. Your doctor may also order an X-ray of your foot to make sure nothing else is causing the pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
Pain is the main reason that you seek treatment for a neuroma. Analgesics may help. Inflammation it best eased via ice therapy and techniques or exercises that deload the inflammed structures. Anti-inflammatory medications may help. Your physiotherapist will use an array of treatment tools to reduce your pain and inflammation. These include: ice, electrotherapy, acupuncture, deloading taping techniques, soft tissue massage and orthotics to offload the irritated nerve. One of the biggest factors in relieving pain may be changing or modifying your footwear. This may mean adding felt, foam or gel products to your shoe to help offload the area, or looking at avoiding tight fitting heels or shoes.
Surgery for neuroma most often involves removing affected nerve in the ball of the foot. An incision is made on the top of the foot and the nerve is carefully removed. Surgeon must remove the nerve far enough back so that the nerve doesn?t continue to become impinged at the ball of the foot. Alternatitvely, another type of surgery involves releasing a tight ligament that encases the nerve. Recovery after Morton?s neuroma (neurectomy) surgery is generally quick. Typically patients are walking on the operated foot in a post-surgical shoe for 2 – 4 weeks, depending on healing. Return to shoes is 2-6 weeks after the surgery. Factors that may prolong healing are age, smoking, poor nutritional status, and some medical problems.
How can Morton?s neuroma be prevented? Do not wear tight shoes or high-heeled shoes for prolonged periods. Do wear shoes with a wide toe box so that your toes are not squeezed or cramped. Do wear athletic footwear with enough padding to cushion the balls of the feet when exercising or participating in sports.