Also known as Morton’s Interdigital Neuroma, Morton’s Metatarsalgia, Morton’s Neuralgia, Plantar Neuroma, Intermetatarsal Neuroma) What is a Morton’s neuroma? Morton’s neuroma is a condition characterized by localized swelling of the nerve and soft tissue located between two of the long bones of the foot (metatarsals – figure 1), which can result in pain, pins and needles, or numbness in the forefoot or toes.
Although in many areas of medicine, it?s easy to pinpoint the exact source of a problem (the way a specific germ causes a certain illness with recognizable symptoms), neuromas are harder to categorize. While there isn?t really one exact cause, podiatric physicians tend to agree that a neuroma can occur in response to the irritation of a nerve by one or more factors. Abnormality in foot function or foot mechanics: In other words, a foot that doesn?t move the way science thinks it should. In general, this means a pronated foot (one with an excessive rolling motion when the patient is walking, running or doing any kind of activity), because it causes excessive strain on the nerve. If you are not certain whether or not this is a problem for you, ask your podiatric physician, who will be able to examine your feet, as well as the wear pattern on your shoe, and give you an answer. Foot mechanics, and problems with them, tend to run in families, so if you know that a relative has had foot pain similar to yours, be sure to mention it.
Symptoms associated with a neuroma include a dull burning sensation radiating towards the toes, a cramping feeling, or even a stinging, tingling sensation that can be described as being similar to an electric shock. It is often worse when wearing shoes with most people finding the pain disappears when removing their shoes.
During the examination, your physician will feel for a palpable mass or a “click” between the bones. He or she will put pressure on the spaces between the toe bones to try to replicate the pain and look for calluses or evidence of stress fractures in the bones that might be the cause of the pain. Range of motion tests will rule out arthritis or joint inflammations. X-rays may be required to rule out a stress fracture or arthritis of the joints that join the toes to the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
If symptoms are severe or persistent and self-help measures did not help, the doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections, a steroid medication that reduces inflammation and pain is injected into the area of the neuroma. Only a limited number of injections are advised, otherwise the risk of undesirable side effects increases, including hypertension (high blood pressure) and weight gain. Alcohol sclerosing injections, studies have shown that alcohol injections reduce the size of Morton’s neuromas as well as alleviating pain. This is a fairly new therapy and may not be available everywhere. The doctor injects alcohol in the area of the neuroma to help sclerose (harden) the nerve and relieve pain. Injections are typically administered every 7 to 10 days. For maximum relief 4 to 7 injections are usually needed.
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.
To help reduce your chance of developing Morton’s neuroma avoid wearing tight and/or high-heeled shoes. Maintain or achieve ideal body weight. If you play sports, wear roomy, properly fitting athletic footwear.