Morton's neuroma is a condition that affects one of the nerves between the toes. It's also known as Morton's metatarsalgia or interdigital neuroma. In Morton's neuroma, fibrous tissue develops around the nerve, which becomes irritated and compressed. This causes severe pain on the ball of the foot and at the base of the toes. Morton's neuroma can occur on one foot or both feet. It usually affects the nerve between the third and fourth toes, but sometimes the second and third toes are affected.
Experts are not sure what exactly causes Morton's neuroma. It seems to develop as a result of irritation, pressure or injury to one of the digital nerves that lead to the toes, which triggers a body response, resulting in thickened nerve tissue (neuroma). Feet conditions/situations that can cause the bones to rub against a nerve include high-heeled shoes, especially those over 2 inches (5cm), or a pointed or tight toe box which squash the toes together. This is probably why the condition is much more common in females than in males. High-arched foot, people whose feet have high arches are much more likely to suffer from Morton's neuroma than others. Flat feet, the arch of the foot collapses. The entire sole of the foot comes into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. A bunion, a localized painful swelling at the base of the big toe, which enlarges the joint. Hammer toe, a deformity of the proximal interphalangeal joint of the second, third, or fourth toe causing it to be permanently bent. Some high-impact sporting activities including running, karate, and court sports. Any sport that places undue pressure on the feet. Injuries, an injury or other type of trauma to the foot may lead to a neuroma.
People with Morton's neuroma usually complain of pain that can start in the ball of the foot and shoot into the affected toes. However, some people just have toe pain. There may also be burning and tingling of the toes. The symptoms are usually felt up the sides of the space between two toes. For example, if the nerve between the third and fourth long bones (metatarsals) of the right foot is affected, the symptoms will usually be felt up the right-hand side of the fourth toe and up the left-hand side of the third toe. Some people describe the pain that they feel as being like walking on a stone or a marble. Symptoms can be made worse if you wear high-heeled shoes. The pain is relieved by taking your shoe off, resting your foot and massaging the area. You may also experience some numbness between the affected toes. Your affected toes may also appear to be spread apart, which doctors refer to as the 'V sign'. The symptoms can vary and may come and go over a number of years. For example, some people may experience two attacks of pain in a week and then nothing for a year. Others may have regular and persistent (chronic) pain.
The diagnosis of a Morton's neuroma can usually be made by the doctor when the history of pain suggests it and the examination elicits the symptoms. The foot is generally tender when the involved area is compressed and symptoms of pain and sometimes tingling can be elicited when the sides of the foot are squeezed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound testing can be used to confirm the diagnosis if necessary.
Non Surgical Treatment
The good news is that the pain can often be relieved fairly easily with the right softer styled orthotic (even in those cases where there is concurrent plantar plate tears and capsulitis!), but its important to remeber that even if your no longer in pain, there is no magic cure to speeding up the healing process so one must take care of their feet for 6-12 weeks. As a rule of thumb a neuroma should always be treated conservatively where possible. This means icing and resting the area, trying to remove the causative factors, and providing postural control and support via metatarsal domes or, if needed, specialised pre-made or custom made orthotics.
If other therapies have not worked it may be necessary to perform surgery. As surgery may result in permanent numbness in the affected toe, doctors ten to use this procedure as a last resort. However, in most cases surgery is extremely effective. The patient usually receives a local anesthetic. Surgery involves either removing the nerve, or removing the pressure on the nerve. Two surgical approaches are possible. The dorsal approach, the surgeon makes an incision on the top of the foot, allowing the patient to walk soon after surgery, because the stitches are not on the weight-bearing side of the foot. The plantar approach, the surgeon makes an incision on the sole of the foot. In most cases the patient will be in crutches for about three weeks. The resulting scar may make walking uncomfortable. However, with this approach the neuroma can be reached easily and resected without cutting any structures. There is a small risk of infection around the toes after surgery.