A neuroma is an often painful enlargement of one of your body?s nerves. Morton?s neuroma is the name used to describe nerve enlargement in your foot, particularly enlargement of one of the nerves traveling to your toes in your forefoot. Morton?s neuromas most commonly develop in one of your intermetatarsal nerves, one of many nerve branches within your foot that originated in your spine. Morton?s neuroma is more likely to affect women than men.
Although in many areas of medicine, it?s easy to pinpoint the exact source of a problem (the way a specific germ causes a certain illness with recognizable symptoms), neuromas are harder to categorize. While there isn?t really one exact cause, podiatric physicians tend to agree that a neuroma can occur in response to the irritation of a nerve by one or more factors. Abnormality in foot function or foot mechanics: In other words, a foot that doesn?t move the way science thinks it should. In general, this means a pronated foot (one with an excessive rolling motion when the patient is walking, running or doing any kind of activity), because it causes excessive strain on the nerve. If you are not certain whether or not this is a problem for you, ask your podiatric physician, who will be able to examine your feet, as well as the wear pattern on your shoe, and give you an answer. Foot mechanics, and problems with them, tend to run in families, so if you know that a relative has had foot pain similar to yours, be sure to mention it.
Many patients describe the sensation as a burning pain in the ball of the foot that often radiates to the toes. Initially, the pain may become much more apparent when the person wears tight, narrow or high-heeled shoes, or engages in activities which place pressure on the foot. Eventually, symptoms may be continuous and last for days, and even weeks. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans have revealed Morton’s neuroma lesions in patients who had no symptoms at all. Symptoms can become so disrupting that many affected individuals become anxious about walking, or even placing their foot on the ground.
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
Treatment options vary with the severity of each neuroma, and identifying the neuroma early in its development is important to avoid surgical correction. For simple, undeveloped neuromas, a pair of thick-soled shoes with a wide toe box is often adequate treatment to relieve symptoms, allowing the condition to diminish on its own. For more severe conditions, however, additional treatment or surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor. The primary goal of most early treatment regimens is to relieve pressure on areas where a neuroma develops. Your podiatric physician will examine and likely X-ray the affected area and suggest a treatment plan that best suits your individual case. Padding and Taping. Special padding at the ball of the foot may change the abnormal foot function and relieve the symptoms caused by the neuroma. Medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation caused by the neuroma. Orthotics. Custom shoe inserts made by your podiatrist may be useful in controlling foot function. Orthotics may reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the condition.
The ultimate success of a Morton?s neuroma treated surgically can be variable. In cases where the underlying problem is only an irritated nerve (a true Morton?s neuroma), then surgery will probably be curative (although it may take a few months for the foot to fully heal). But in many cases, forefoot pain is more complex. There may be an irritated nerve or two causing pain, but the real problem is often excessive loading of the lesser metatarsals. The generic term for this condition is metatarsalgia. When considering surgery, identifying and addressing these problems may lead to a better end result.