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.
The exact cause of Morton?s neuroma is not known, but the choice of footwear seems be a factor. Wearing high heels (shoes with heels over 2 inches) can put extra pressure on the balls of the feet. Wearing tight or pointed toed shoes may squeeze the toes together or otherwise constrict their movement. For that reason, women are about 8 to 10 times more likely to develop Morton?s neuroma compared with men. People who are born with flat feet, high arches, or an abnormal position of the toes are more prone to developing Morton?s neuroma. This may be due to instability around the toe joints. Certain conditions that develop over time, such as bunions or hammer toes, are also associated with Morton?s neuroma. Some sports that involve running, including tennis and other racquet sports, can also increase the chance of developing Morton?s neuroma due to trauma or injury to the foot.
Patients will often experience a clicking feeling in the forefoot followed by a sharp shooting pain or a sensation of numbness or pins and needles extending into ends of their toes. Tight narrow fitting shoes may often exacerbate these feelings which become worse after long periods of standing or walking. Once the Mortons nueroma progresses symptoms will become more frequent and often more intense.
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
You may be able to treat this problem at home. Avoid wearing tight, pointy, or high-heeled shoes. Choose well-fitted shoes with plenty of room for your toes. Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Take anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. These include ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (such as Aleve). Rest your feet when you can. Reduce activities that put pressure on the toes, such as racquet sports or running. Try massaging your foot to relax the muscles around the nerve. If these steps do not relieve your symptoms, your doctor may have you use special pads or devices that spread the toes to keep them from squeezing the nerve. In some cases, a doctor may give a steroid shot to reduce swelling and pain. If these treatments do not help, your doctor may suggest surgery.
For severe or persistent pain, you may need surgery to remove the neuroma. Once the nerve is gone, you permanently lose feeling in the affected area. One alternative to surgery is to undergo neurolysis injections. These use chemical agents to block pain signals. Another alternative is to take a prescription pain reliever that alleviates nerve pain.