Morton's neuroma is a condition that affects one of the nerves that run between the long bones (metatarsals) in the foot. The exact cause is not certain. Symptoms include pain, burning, numbness and tingling between two of the toes of the foot. About a quarter of people just need simple treatments including modification of their footwear. Sometimes surgery is needed for long-standing (chronic) symptoms.
Some experts believe that other foot conditions may also be associated with Morton's neuroma. This is because other conditions may cause the metatarsal bones to rub against the nerve in your foot. Foot problems that may increase your risk of developing Morton's neuroma include abnormally positioned toes, high arches, where the arch or instep of your foot is raised more than normal, flat feet, low arches or no arches at all, bunions a bony swelling at the base of the toe. Hammer toe, where the toe is bent at the middle joint. Being active and playing sport can make the painful symptoms of Morton's neuroma worse. In particular, running or sports that involve running, such as racquet sports, can place extra pressure on the nerve in your foot, which can aggravate the problem.
If you have a Morton?s neuroma, you may have one or more of these symptoms where the nerve damage is occurring, Tingling, burning, or numbness, pain, a feeling that something is inside the ball of the foot or a feeling that there?s something in the shoe or a sock is bunched up. The progression of a Morton?s neuroma often follows the following pattern. The symptoms begin gradually. At first they occur only occasionally, when wearing narrow-toed shoes or performing certain aggravating activities. The symptoms may go away temporarily by removing the shoe, massaging the foot, or by avoiding aggravating shoes or activities. Over time the symptoms progressively worsen and may persist for several days or weeks. The symptoms become more intense as the neuroma enlarges and the temporary changes in the nerve become permanent.
Negative signs include no obvious deformities, erythema, signs of inflammation, or limitation of movement. Direct pressure between the metatarsal heads will replicate the symptoms, as will compression of the forefoot between the finger and thumb so as to compress the transverse arch of the foot. This is referred to as Mulder?s Sign. There are other causes of pain in the forefoot. Too often all forefoot pain is categorized as neuroma. Other conditions to consider are capsulitis, which is an inflammation of ligaments that surrounds two bones, at the level of the joint. In this case, it would be the ligaments that attach the phalanx (bone of the toe) to the metatarsal bone. Inflammation from this condition will put pressure on an otherwise healthy nerve and give neuroma-type symptoms. Additionally, an intermetatarsal bursitis between the third and fourth metatarsal bones will also give neuroma-type symptoms because it too puts pressure on the nerve. Freiberg's disease, which is an osteochondritis of the metatarsal head, causes pain on weight bearing or compression.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor will likely recommend trying conservative approaches first. Arch supports and foot pads fit inside your shoe and help reduce pressure on the nerve. These can be purchased over-the-counter, or your doctor may prescribe a custom-made, individually designed shoe insert, molded to fit the exact contours of your foot.
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.