During certain activities, particularly weight-bearing activities (e.g. walking or running) a compressive force, is sometimes placed on the interdigital nerves and surrounding soft tissue, between the metatarsal bones (this is often the case with tight fitting shoes or in patients with flat feet). If this force is repetitive enough and beyond what the nerve and soft tissue can withstand, swelling to the nerve and soft tissue may occur. This may result in pain, tenderness, pins and needles or numbness in the forefoot or toes. When this happens, the condition is known as a Morton's neuroma.
There are orthoses and corrective shoes that can effectively alleviate disturbances to foot mechanics. A podiatric physician can prescribe the best corrective footwear and shoe inserts for all activities, work, exercise, play, walking, shopping and more, based on an analysis of the patient?s foot and his or her lifestyle. Improper footwear. Podiatric physicians have long believed that constricting, narrow, poor-fitting shoes with a tight or pointed toe box tend to compress the end of the foot, leading to abnormal motion of the foot and to excessive pressure in the area of the nerve. High-heeled shoes are a particular culprit here, since they put pressure on the area around wearer?s toes and the ball of the foot.
The symptoms of Morton?s Neuroma tend to come and go over time. They are typically exacerbated by physical activity or by wearing certain shoes. Morton?s Neuroma symptoms include sharp pain in the ball of the foot, pain radiating to the tips of the toes, burning pain in the second, third, or fourth toes, numbness in the toes, sensation of a lump between the toes.
Podiatrists conduct a physical examination and may order imaging tests, such as x-ray or MRI scan to diagnose Morton's neuroma. Conservative treatment options include custom-fitted orthotics, medication, and/or alcohol injections designed to harden the nerve. However, most patients with Morton's neuroma need minor surgery.
Non Surgical Treatment
Once a diagnosis is obtained, it is essential to begin treatment immediately. Your podiatric physician will advise you on the most effective means. If caught early enough, good foot care, shoes that fit properly, and/or orthoses may eliminate the need for any further intervention. Other conservative measures might include oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS), physical therapy, ultrasound or other non-invasive measures. If that doesn?t work, your podiatric physician might use injectable steroids, and/or a local anesthetic around the neuroma to reduce inflammation and pain. Many patients report relief after these measures are taken.
If symptoms do not respond to any of the above measures then surgery may be suggested. This involves a short 30 minute operation to either remove tissue to take pressure off the nerve or to remove the nerve causing the pain. The surgery can be done as a day case but it will be two or three weeks before you can be fully active on your feet. There may be some lingering numbness afterwards if the nerve is removed. But surgery is successful in around 80% of cases. There is a small risk of complications such as infection and thickening of the skin on the soles of the feet.
How can Morton?s neuroma be prevented? Do not wear tight shoes or high-heeled shoes for prolonged periods. Do wear shoes with a wide toe box so that your toes are not squeezed or cramped. Do wear athletic footwear with enough padding to cushion the balls of the feet when exercising or participating in sports.