Mortons Neuroma is a common painful condition involving compression of nerves between the long bones of the forefoot just before they enter the toes. Commonly this involves the 3rd and 4th toes, however may affect the 2nd and 3rd toes. Repeated trauma or compression of these nerves causes the nerves to swell and thicken causing a Morton’s neuroma to develop.
A Morton’s neuroma commonly occurs due to repetitive weight bearing activity (such as walking or running) particularly when combined with tight fitting shoes or excessive pronation of the feet (i.e. “flat-feet”). The condition is also more common in patients with an unstable forefoot allowing excessive movement between the metatarsal bones. A Morton’s neuroma can also occur due to certain foot deformities, trauma to the foot, or the presence of a ganglion or inflamed bursa in the region which may place compressive forces on the nerve.
Feelings of numbness, tingling or tenderness in the ball of the foot (the area just behind the base of the toes) are some of the first signs of a condition known as Morton?s Neuroma. However, the condition is somewhat unpredictable, and symptoms may vary from patient to patient. Generally, however, the discomfort gets worse rather than better, and the patient may feel pain or a burning sensation that radiates out to the toes. Eventually, wearing shoes becomes uncomfortable (or even unbearable), and the patient may complain that the feeling is similar to that of having a stone bruise, or walking on a marble or pebble constantly, even though no there is no trauma to the skin, and no visible bump or lump on the sole of the foot.
During the examination, your physician will feel for a palpable mass or a “click” between the bones. He or she will put pressure on the spaces between the toe bones to try to replicate the pain and look for calluses or evidence of stress fractures in the bones that might be the cause of the pain. Range of motion tests will rule out arthritis or joint inflammations. X-rays may be required to rule out a stress fracture or arthritis of the joints that join the toes to the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
The best results are achieved with massage techniques that encourage spreading and mobilizing the metatarsal heads. Metatarsal spreading is one technique that can help reduce the detrimental effects of nerve compression. To perform this technique, pull the metatarsal heads (not just the toes) apart and hold them in this position to help stretch the intrinsic foot muscles and other soft-tissues. When this technique is combined with the use of toe spacers, it will be even more effective.
If conservative treatments haven’t helped, your doctor might suggest injections. Some people are helped by the injection of steroids into the painful area. In some cases, surgeons can relieve the pressure on the nerve by cutting nearby structures, such as the ligament that binds together some of the bones in the front of the foot. Surgical removal of the growth may be necessary if other treatments fail to provide pain relief. Although surgery is usually successful, the procedure can result in permanent numbness in the affected toes.
Always warm-up thoroughly before vigorous athletics. Avoid activities that cause pain. Stretch and strengthen the feet through gradual exercise.