Patients with Morton?s neuroma present with pain in the forefoot, particularly in the ?ball? of the foot. However, not all pain in the forefoot is a Morton?s neuroma. In fact, most chronic pain in the forefoot is NOT the result of a Morton?s neuroma, but rather is from metatarsalgia – inflammation (synovitis) of the ?toe/foot? joints. The symptoms from Morton?s neuroma are due to irritation to the small digital nerves, as they pass across the sole of the foot and into the toes. Therefore, with a true Morton?s neuroma, it is not uncommon to have nerve-type symptoms, which can include numbness or a burning sensation extending into the toes. There are several interdigital nerves in the forefoot. The most common nerve to develop into a neuroma is between the 3rd and 4th toes. With a true neuroma, the pain should be isolated to just one or two toes.
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.
If you have a Morton?s neuroma, you may have one or more of these symptoms where the nerve damage is occurring, Tingling, burning, or numbness, pain, a feeling that something is inside the ball of the foot or a feeling that there?s something in the shoe or a sock is bunched up. The progression of a Morton?s neuroma often follows the following pattern. The symptoms begin gradually. At first they occur only occasionally, when wearing narrow-toed shoes or performing certain aggravating activities. The symptoms may go away temporarily by removing the shoe, massaging the foot, or by avoiding aggravating shoes or activities. Over time the symptoms progressively worsen and may persist for several days or weeks. The symptoms become more intense as the neuroma enlarges and the temporary changes in the nerve become permanent.
Metatarsal bones will be examined clinically, and often an x-ray will be taken to assess the particular case and ensure against other conditions, including fracture. When the foot is examined by a doctor, he may feel a characteristic ?click,? referred to as Mulder?s sign, and the interspaces between toe bones will often be tender. The doctor may put pressure on these areas to localize the site of pain and test for other conditions, including calluses or stress fractures. Range of motion tests will also be applied to rule out arthritis or joint inflammations. X-rays may be required to ensure there are no stress fractures or arthritis within the joints that join the toes to the foot. Tenderness in one or more metatarsal bones may imply a pre-stress fracture or stress-fracture. An ultrasound scan may be used to confirm diagnosis of Morton?s Neuroma, as x-ray will not detect the condition, (but can confirm that the bones are uninjured).
Non Surgical Treatment
Depending on your overall health, symptoms and severity of the neuroma, the condition may be treated conservatively and/or with surgery. Non-surgical methods for neuroma are aimed at decreasing and/or eliminating symptoms (pain). Wear proper supportive shoes. Use an arch support. Wear shoes with a wide toe box. Modify your activities. Lose weight. Wear shoes with cushion. Prescribe an oral anti-inflammatory medication. Anti-inflammatory medication is useful to significantly reduce pain and inflammation. A physical therapist may perform ultrasound and other techniques to reduce inflammation. You will also be instructed how to stretch your foot and leg properly. Padding and/or cushioning of the ball of the foot is an effective method of preventing physical irritation with shoes. A custom foot orthotic is a doctor prescribed arch support that is made directly from a casting (mold) of your feet, and theoretically should provide superior support compared to shoe insert that you would purchase from a pharmacy. A cortisone injection is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that is used to rapidly reduce the pain associated with an inflamed nerve. The pain relief that you may experience from the injection(s) is often temporary. Typically injection(s) are administered once every 2 months for a total of 3 injections or until the pain is resolved. A sclerosing alcohol injection is placed around the involved nerve to weaken its capacity to report pain. In other words, the alcohol injection will ?deaden? the affected nerve. The pain relief that you may experience from the injection(s) can be permanent. Typically injection(s) are administered once every week for a few weeks until the pain is resolved.
If symptoms do not respond to any of the above measures then surgery may be suggested. This involves a short 30 minute operation to either remove tissue to take pressure off the nerve or to remove the nerve causing the pain. The surgery can be done as a day case but it will be two or three weeks before you can be fully active on your feet. There may be some lingering numbness afterwards if the nerve is removed. But surgery is successful in around 80% of cases. There is a small risk of complications such as infection and thickening of the skin on the soles of the feet.
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.