Put simply - Morton's neuroma is a swollen (inflamed) nerve in the ball of the foot, commonly between the base of the second and third toes. Patients experience numbness and pain in the affected area, which is relieved by removing footwear and/or massaging the foot. A neuroma is a tumor that arises in nerve cells, a benign growth of nerve tissue that can develop in various parts of the body. In Morton's neuroma the tissue around one of the nerves leading to the toes thickens, causing a sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot. A sharp severe pain, often described as a red hot needle may come on suddenly while walking. There may also be numbness, burning and stinging in the toes. Although it is labeled a neuroma, many say it is not a true tumor, but rather a perineural fibroma (fibrous tissue formation around nerve tissue).
In many cases, a neuroma may develop as a result of excessive loading on the front of the foot. Sometimes, a patient?s anatomic alignment in the forefoot contributes to the overload. There may be some cases where the neuroma develops spontaneously, for no obvious reason. However, once the nerve is irritated, pressure from walking, and from the adjacent bony prominences (metatarsal heads), as well as from the intermetatarsal ligament that binds the heads together, all may contribute to persistent pain. Repetitive pressure on the nerve causes localized injury with resulting scarring and fibrosis of the nerve. This leads to symptoms in the distribution of the nerve.
Symptoms include: pain on weight bearing, frequently after only a short time. The nature of the pain varies widely among individuals. Some people experience shooting pain affecting the contiguous halves of two toes. Others describe a feeling like having a pebble in their shoe or walking on razor blades. Burning, numbness, and paresthesia may also be experienced. Morton's neuroma lesions have been found using MRI in patients without symptoms.
The doctor will perform an examination of your feet as well. He or she may palpate your feet and flex them in specific ways that will indicate the presence of a neuroma. X-rays are often used to rule out other problems, such as fractures, bone spurs, arthritis or other problems with the bones in the toes or foot. In some cases, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be helpful to confirm the presence of a neuroma.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wear shoes with plenty of room for the toes to move, low heels, and laces or buckles that allow for width adjustment. Wear shoes with thick, shock-absorbent soles, as well as proper insoles that are designed to keep excessive pressure off of the foot. High-heeled shoes over two inches tall should be avoided whenever possible because they place undue strain on the forefoot. Resting the foot and massaging the affected area can temporarily alleviate neuroma pain. Use an ice pack to help to dull the pain and improve comfort. Use over-the-counter shoe pads. These pads can relieve pressure around the affected area.
For severe or persistent pain, you may need surgery to remove the neuroma. Once the nerve is gone, you permanently lose feeling in the affected area. One alternative to surgery is to undergo neurolysis injections. These use chemical agents to block pain signals. Another alternative is to take a prescription pain reliever that alleviates nerve pain.