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.
Occupational hazards. Individuals whose jobs place undue stress on their forefeet (with or without wearing improper footwear) are among those who complain of neuromas. Podiatric physicians report that individuals who work on ladders, or who perform activities on their knees (such as doing landscaping, carpeting, flooring, or other work on the ground) are at risk for this problem, too, since these activities cause stress to the nerve near the ball of the foot. Those who engage in high-impact activities that bring repetitive trauma to the foot (running, aerobics, etc.) have a better than average chance of developing a neuroma at the site of a previous injury. To put it more simply, if you have sustained a previous injury to your foot (a sprain, stress fracture, etc.), that area of your foot will be more prone to neuroma development than an area that has not been injured. However, sports injuries aren?t automatically a ticket to neuromas. Trauma caused by other forms of injury to the foot (dropping heavy objects, for example) can also cause a neuroma to develop at the site of the previous injury. Much though we hate to say it, sometimes neuromas just develop and nobody knows why. The patient doesn?t have a previous injury, is wearing properly fitted shoes, and doesn?t stress his/her feet with any specific activity but the neuroma develops anyway. It is important to remember that some of the factors listed above can work alone, or in combination with each other, to contribute to the formation of 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.
To diagnose Morton's neuroma the podiatrist commonly palpates the area to elicit pain, squeezing the toes from the side. Next he or she may try to feel the neuroma by pressing a thumb into the third interspace. The podiatrist then tries to elicit Mulder's sign, by palpating the affected interspace with one hand and squeezing the entire foot at the same time with the other hand. In many cases of Morton's neuroma, this causes an audible click, known as Mulder's sign. An x-ray should be taken to ensure that there is not a fracture. X-rays also can be used to examine the joints and bone density, ruling out arthritis (particularly rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis).
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial treatment for Morton?s Neuroma may include non-prescription anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling. These may consist of standard analgesics such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). Massaging the painful region three times daily with ice. Change of footwear. Avoid tight shoes, high heels or any footwear that seems to irritate the condition. Low heeled shoes with softer soles are preferable. Arch supports and foot pads to help reduce pressure on the nerve. In some cases, a physician may prescribe a customized shoe insert, molded to fit the contours of the patient?s foot. Reducing activities causing stress to the foot, including jogging, dancing, aerobic activity or any high impact movements of the foot. Injections of a corticosteroid medication to reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerve and reduce pain. Occasionally other substances may be injected in order to ?ablate? the Neuroma. (The overuse of injected steroids is to be avoided however, as side effects, including weight gain and high blood pressure can result.)
Surgery for neuroma most often involves removing affected nerve in the ball of the foot. An incision is made on the top of the foot and the nerve is carefully removed. Surgeon must remove the nerve far enough back so that the nerve doesn?t continue to become impinged at the ball of the foot. Alternatitvely, another type of surgery involves releasing a tight ligament that encases the nerve. Recovery after Morton?s neuroma (neurectomy) surgery is generally quick. Typically patients are walking on the operated foot in a post-surgical shoe for 2 - 4 weeks, depending on healing. Return to shoes is 2-6 weeks after the surgery. Factors that may prolong healing are age, smoking, poor nutritional status, and some medical problems.