Morton?s neuroma is a swollen nerve in the distal portion of the foot. The enlarged portion of the nerve represents scarring within the plantar nerve that occurs after chronic compression and/or repetitive injury. This may come about when the toes are squeezed together for too long, as can occur with the chronic use of high heels. The nerve that runs between your toes will swell and thicken. This can cause pain when walking. The symptoms of Morton?s neuroma can include burning pain in the foot, the feeling of a lump inside your foot, pain between the third and fourth toes typically but it can occur between other toes.
A Morton?s Neuroma are a result of complex biomechanical changes that occur in your feet. There are a number of theories as to the exact cause of the scarring and thickening, but it basically boils down to overload of the tissue structure. The body lays down scar tissue to try to protect the overloaded structure. Tight-fitting shoes may exacerbate a Morton?s Neuroma. Shoes such as high heels and shoes with tight toe boxes (eg womens fashion shoes and cowboy boots) are particularly damaging to the toes. These shoes have a sloping foot bed and a narrow toe box. The slope causes the front of the foot to bear your weight. The angle of the toe box then squeezes your toes together. Footwear is not the only cause of a Morton?s Neuroma. Injuries to the foot can also be a factor in developing the condition by changing your foot biomechanics. Poor foot arch control leading to flat feet or foot overpronation does make you biomechanically susceptible to a neuroma.
There may be pain at the end of the push-off phase when walking or running, and this pain is generally worse when the client is wearing shoes as opposed to being barefoot. Clients may also report a relief of symptoms by massaging the foot, which may spread the metatarsal heads and mobilize the entrapped nerve.
Your health care provider can usually diagnose this problem by examining your foot. A foot x-ray may be done to rule out bone problems. MRI or high-resolution ultrasound can successfully diagnose Morton’s neuroma. Nerve testing (electromyography) cannot diagnose Morton’s neuroma, but may be used to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms. Blood tests may be done to check for inflammation-related conditions, including certain forms of arthritis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Most non-operative treatment is usually successful, although it can take a while to figure out what combination of non-operative treatment works best for each individual patient. Non-operative treatment may include the use of comfort shoe wear. The use of a metatarsal pad to decrease the load through the involved area of the plantar forefoot. A period of activity modification to decrease or eliminate activities, which may be exacerbating the patient?s symptoms. For example, avoiding long periods of standing or other activities that result in significant repetitive loading to the forefoot can be very helpful. Wearing high heels should be avoided. Local can help decrease inflammation associated with the nerve. However, this does not necessarily address the underlying loading forces that maybe causing the injury to the nerve in the first place. It has been proposed that an alcohol injection in and around the nerve will cause a controlled death to the nerve and subsequently eliminate symptoms. In theory, this may be helpful. In practice, adequate prospective studies have not demonstrated the benefit of this procedure above and beyond the other standard, non-operative treatments available. In addition there is the concern that the alcohol will cause excessive scarring and damage to other important structures in the 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.
It is not always possible to prevent a Morton’s neuroma. However, you probably can reduce your risk by wearing comfortable shoes that have low heels, plenty of toe space and good arch support.