Overview

During certain activities, particularly weight-bearing activities (e.g. walking or running) a compressive force, is sometimes placed on the interdigital nerves and surrounding soft tissue, between the metatarsal bones (this is often the case with tight fitting shoes or in patients with flat feet). If this force is repetitive enough and beyond what the nerve and soft tissue can withstand, swelling to the nerve and soft tissue may occur. This may result in pain, tenderness, pins and needles or numbness in the forefoot or toes. When this happens, the condition is known as a Morton’s neuroma.

Causes

The exact cause is unknown. Doctors believe the following may play a role in the development of this condition. Wearing tight shoes and high heels. Abnormal positioning of toes. Flat feet. Forefoot problems, including bunions and hammer toes. High foot arches. Morton neuroma is more common in women than in men.

Symptoms

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.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Initial diagnosis of Morton’s neuroma is based on your description of the type and location of pain and discomfort in the foot. The diagnosis will be confirmed by a physical exam of the foot, including checking for mechanical abnormalities in the foot, squeezing the side of the foot, which will usually cause pain when Morton’s neuroma is present. Examination of your shoes to check for excess wear in parts of the shoe, check to see whether the shoes are too tight. Imaging tests evaluate the foot and surrounding structures. This may be done with X-ray, MRI scan, Ultrasound. Injections of local anesthetic can also be used for diagnosis.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treaments may include wearing wider shoes to reduce the squeezing force on the foot. Adding a specially made padding to shoes to offload the pressure on the ball of the foot (called a metatarsal dome) Addressing the foot and lower limb biomechanics. This involves looking at foot stability and if needed prescribing an orthotic device to correct your foot position. Anesthetic & Cortisone injections. This is done when the above treatments are insufficient. The trauma is sometimes so great that conservative treatment cannot control the inflammation or cause of the pain. A series of injections are performed to control the inflammation or to temporarily settle the nerve. An ultrasound and cortisone injection can be prescribed by your podiatrist.

Surgical Treatment

Should the problem have progressed beyond the point where these measures are sufficient, the podiatric professional may recommend surgery. This procedure involves excision of the involved nerve mass. This will relieve the pain. Many patients report permanent numbness in the spot formerly affected by the neuroma, but prefer it to the pain. Most surgeries are successful; unfortunately, there are cases where the patient suffers another neuroma, sometimes in or near the same spot as before. A podiatric professional can explain the statistics of recurrence in various cases. If you suspect a neuroma, don?t wait for it to get better on its own. The earlier the diagnosis, the higher the likelihood that it can be treated with conservative measures. Don?t think that foot pain of any kind is inevitable, either, even if it runs in your family.