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A neuroma develops when a nerve is compressed, injured or pinched, causing swelling and pain. A neuroma in the area between the third and fourth toes, or between the second and third toes, is known as a Morton?s neuroma. Morton?s neuroma causes sharp, burning pain and numbness in the toes and foot. You may feel like you?ve stepped on a tiny hot coal and can?t get rid of it. At the same time, you?ll have the disconcerting experience of not being able to feel your toes. Sometimes the nerve tissue becomes so thickened you can feel or see a lump.
Pronation of the foot can cause the metatarsal heads to rotate slightly and pinch the nerve running between the metatarsal heads. This chronic pinching can make the nerve sheath enlarge. As it enlarges it than becomes more squeezed and increasingly troublesome. Tight shoes, shoes with little room for the forefoot, pointy toeboxes can all make this problem more painful. Walking barefoot may also be painful, since the foot may be functioning in an over-pronated position.
The symptoms of a Morton’s neuroma are classic in nature. The patient complains of a burning , tingling, slightly numb feeling (dysesthesias) which radiates out to the toes on either side of the interspace that is involved. For instance, a Morton’s neuroma of the third interspace will result in pain between the third and fourth toes, and a neuroma in the second interspace will cause pain between the second and third toes. The symptoms are usually aggravated by wearing shoes, particularly those with high heels. Symptoms are relieved by walking in flat, wide shoes or going barefoot. Rarely will the patient experience pain when sitting or laying down.
Metatarsal bones will be examined clinically, and often an x-ray will be taken to assess the particular case and ensure against other conditions, including fracture. When the foot is examined by a doctor, he may feel a characteristic ?click,? referred to as Mulder?s sign, and the interspaces between toe bones will often be tender. The doctor may put pressure on these areas to localize the site of pain and test for other conditions, including calluses or stress fractures. Range of motion tests will also be applied to rule out arthritis or joint inflammations. X-rays may be required to ensure there are no stress fractures or arthritis within the joints that join the toes to the foot. Tenderness in one or more metatarsal bones may imply a pre-stress fracture or stress-fracture. An ultrasound scan may be used to confirm diagnosis of Morton?s Neuroma, as x-ray will not detect the condition, (but can confirm that the bones are uninjured).
Non Surgical Treatment
If your Morton’s neuroma is painful, your doctor usually will begin treatment with conservative therapies, including a switch to shoes with low heels, wide toes and good arch support. Padding techniques, including metatarsal pads or toe crest pads. Shoe inserts (orthotics) to help correct any mechanical imbalance in the foot. Anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brand names) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn and other brand names) A local injection of anesthetic and corticosteroid medication into the affected area. Inflamed or injured nerves can take months to improve, even after the underlying problem has been corrected.
About one person in four will not require any surgery for Morton’s neuroma and their symptoms can be controlled with footwear modification and steroid/local anaesthetic injections. Of those who choose to have surgery, about three out of four will have good results with relief of their symptoms. Recurrent or persisting (chronic) symptoms can occur after surgery. Sometimes, decompression of the nerve may have been incomplete or the nerve may just remain ‘irritable’. In those who have had cutting out (resection) of the nerve (neurectomy), a recurrent or ‘stump’ neuroma may develop in any nerve tissue that was left behind. This can sometimes be more painful than the original condition.
It is not always possible to prevent a Morton’s neuroma. However, you probably can reduce your risk by wearing comfortable shoes that have low heels, plenty of toe space and good arch support.