Morton’s Neuroma is the most common neuroma in the foot. It occurs in the forefoot area (the ball of the foot) at the base of the third and fourth toes. It is sometimes referred to as an intermetatarsal neuroma. “Intermetatarsal” describes its location in the ball of the foot between the metatarsal bones (the bones extending from the toes to the midfoot). A neuroma is a thickening, or enlargement, of the nerve as a result of compression or irritation of the nerve. Compression and irritation creates swelling of the nerve, which can eventually lead to permanent nerve damage.
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.
Episodes of pain are intermittent. Patients may experience 2 attacks in a week and then none for a year. Recurrences are variable and tend to become more frequent. Between attacks, no symptoms or physical signs occur. Two neuromas coexist on the same foot about 2-3% of the time. Other diagnoses should be considered when 2 or more areas of tenderness are present.
Morton?s neuroma can be identified during a physical exam, after pressing on the bottom of the foot. This maneuver usually reproduces the patient?s pain. MRI and ultrasound are imaging studiesthat can demonstrate the presence of the neuroma. An x-ray may also be ordered to make sure no other issues exist in the foot. A local anesthetic injection along the neuroma may temporarily abolish the pain, and help confirm the diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wearing shoes that provide enough room in the toe box is also the first step in treating Morton?s neuroma. For instant relief when pain flares up, try taking your shoes off and rubbing the area. The nerve can get trapped below the ligament, and rubbing can move it back to its natural position. Your doctor or a foot-care specialist may recommend lower heels and metatarsal pads. These pads provide cushioning under your neuroma and better arch support to redistribute your weight. If you keep pressure off the toes and wear wide enough shoes, the problem may gradually disappear.
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.