The nerves located on the bottom of the foot between the metatarsal heads (the bone of the toe closest to the foot) supply feeling, or sensation, to the toes. One of these nerves may become irritated by the ligament located above it, causing it to become thickened and painful. Generally this problem occurs most often between the third and fourth toes, but it can occur between the second and third toes as well. It is uncommon for a neuroma to be located between the first and second or fourth and fifth metatarsals. Rarely is there more than one neuroma in a foot.
Morton’s neuroma is an inflammation caused by a buildup of fibrous tissue on the outer coating of nerves. This fibrous buildup is a reaction to the irritation resulting from nearby bones and ligaments rubbing against the nerves. Irritation can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight, wearing shoes that place the foot in an awkward position, such as high heels, a foot that is mechanically unstable, repetitive trauma to the foot such as from sports activities like tennis, basketball, and running. Trauma to the foot caused by an injury such as a sprain or fracture. It is unusual for more than one Morton’s neuroma to occur on one foot at the same time. It is rare for Morton’s neuroma to occur on both feet at the same time.
Pain is usually increased by forefoot weight bearing activities (such as running), with narrow-fitting footwear, or with high heeled shoes. It is usually painful to firmly touch the affected region and, in chronic cases, pain and sometimes an audible click, may be heard when squeezing the foot and toes together with the hand. Often a localized area of swelling may be evident at the site of injury.
You should visit a doctor or podiatrist (foot doctor) if you have pain or tingling that does not stop. Your health care provider will examine your feet and will apply pressure on the spaces between the bones of the toes to determine the location of the foot pain. The doctor may order X-rays to rule out other conditions associated with foot pain, such as a stress fracture or arthritis. X-rays alone will not show whether or not a neuroma is present, so an ultrasound scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test may be done to confirm the diagnosis. A diagnostic procedure called an electromyography is sometimes used to rule out nerve conditions that may cause symptoms like those of associated with Morton?s neuroma.
Non Surgical Treatment
Nonsurgical treatment is tried first. Your doctor may recommend any of the following. Padding and taping the toe area, shoe inserts, changes to footwear, for example wearing shoes with wider toe boxes or flat heels, Anti-inflammatory medicines taken by mouth or injected into the toe area, nerve blocking medicines injected into the toe area, other painkillers, physical therapy. Anti-inflammatories and painkillers are not recommended for long-term treatment. In some cases, surgery is needed to remove the thickened tissue and inflammed nerve. This helps relieve pain and improve foot function. Numbness after surgery is permanent.
Operative treatment of Morton?s neuroma should be entertained only after failure of non-operative management. Standard operative treatment involves identifying the nerve and cutting (resecting) it proximal to the point where it is irritated/injured. This is usually done through an incision on the top (dorsal) aspect of the foot, although an incision on the sole (plantar) aspect of the foot can be used. Some physicians will attempt to treat Morton?s neuroma by releasing the intermetatarsal ligament, and freeing the nerve of local scar tissue. This may also be beneficial.
Although the exact causes of neuromas are not completely known, the following preventive steps may help. Make sure your exercise shoes have enough room in the front part of the shoe and that your toes are not excessively compressed. Wear shoes with adequate padding in the ball of the foot. Avoid prolonged time in shoes with a narrow toe box or excessive heel height (greater than two inches).