A Morton's neuroma is a benign (noncancerous) swelling along a nerve in the foot that carries sensations from the toes. The reason the nerve starts to swell is unknown. But once swelling begins, the nearby bones and ligaments put pressure on the nerve, causing more irritation and inflammation. This produces burning pain, numbness, tingling and other abnormal sensations in the toes. A Morton's neuroma also is called an interdigital neuroma, intermetatarsal neuroma or a forefoot neuroma.
Unfortunately, the cause of Morton?s Neuroma remains unknown to researchers. It is likely that a variety of factors may play a role in the development of this condition, including the presence of chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. Factors that may contribute to the development of Morton?s Neuroma include Wearing improperly fitting shoes can cause pressure on your foot, leading to swelling around the toe nerves. High heels are of particular concern as they cause a large amount of weight to be shifted to the ball of the foot. Repetitive activities like jogging, walking, and aerobics can also place a lot of pressure on the feet. This could lead to Morton?s Neuroma. Having a previous foot or muscle injury may cause you to hold your foot in a poor position when walking, contributing to nerve inflammation. Some people are just born with poorly shaped feet. People with extremely low arches or "flat feet" may suffer from Morton?s Neuroma more than others.
Morton?s neuroma is a progressive condition which means the symptoms typically get worse over time. Initially people often complain of a tingling or numbness at the base of their toes, typically in the space between the third and fourth toes, or, less commonly , between the second and third toes, which feels a bit like pins and needles. Over time the pain progresses and can feel like a stabbing or burning sensation in the ball of the foot under the toes. Some describe it as feeling as if they are standing on a stone. Normally the pain will get worse when you wear tight fitting shoes. Doing exercise that impacts on the foot such as jogging can also make the symptoms worse. The extent of the pain varies from person to person but in some cases it can be so intense that every step can feel acutely painful.
The diagnosis of a Morton's neuroma can usually be made by the doctor when the history of pain suggests it and the examination elicits the symptoms. The foot is generally tender when the involved area is compressed and symptoms of pain and sometimes tingling can be elicited when the sides of the foot are squeezed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound testing can be used to confirm the diagnosis if necessary.
Non Surgical Treatment
Rest. Continuing with normal training will increase pain and inflammation and prevent the injury from healing. Wear a metatarsal pad under the forefoot which will raise and spread the bones of the forefoot taking the pressure off the nerve. Wearing metatarsal pads in the shoes under the forefoot spreads the metatarsals creating more space for the nerve. See a sports injury professional who can advise on treatment and rehabilitation. Orthotic inserts may be required to correct any biomechanical dysfunction of the foot.
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.
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.