This is a painful condition affecting a small nerve in the foot. It occurs when the five long bones that run the length of the foot get pushed together, pinching the nerve in between. This friction on the nerve causes it to thicken and inflame causing pain. The condition gets its name from an American surgeon, George Morton.
Morton's neuroma develops for several reasons. The primary reason is wearing narrow toe-box shoes, which compress the metatarsal heads. Certain anatomical factors also make nerve compression more likely with the narrow toe box shoes. In some people fibers, the medial and lateral plantar nerves converge close to the heads of the third and fourth metatarsals. This junction creates a larger nerve structure between the metatarsal heads making it more vulnerable to compression.
Morton's neuroma can cause a very painful burning or sharp pain in your foot that feels worse when you walk. It may feel like a small lump inside the ball of your foot. It is usually between the third and fourth toes, but it can also be between other toes.
X-rays of your affected foot will not show a neuroma, as neuromas are made up of soft tissue. X-rays may be helpful, however, in helping rule in osteoarthritis or a stress fracture as the cause of your symptoms. Ultrasonography and MRI are sometimes used to help diagnose neuromas, although they are often ineffective. The clinical diagnosis by a foot care expert with experience treating this health problem is usually the most effective way to diagnose neuromas. Your podiatrist will attempt to duplicate your neuroma symptoms by pressing on the involved nerve at various points, and he or she may try to cause a clicking of your nerve that indicates nerve enlargement.
Non Surgical Treatment
Anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended to dull the pain and lessen swelling. Neuropathic pain medications such as the antionvulsants and / or antidepressants may be tried as well. Many are able to recover from this issue at home by icing the area, resting the feet, and by avoiding wearing narrow or tight shoes. If these remedies do not work to alleviate symptoms, the doctor may give special devices to separate the toes and avoid the squeezing of the nerve. Steroid injections may reduce pain and swelling. Surgery may be required if these do not help.
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.