If you sometimes feel that you are “walking on a marble,” and you have persistent pain in the ball of your foot, you may have a condition called Morton’s neuroma. A neuroma is a benign tumor of a nerve. Morton’s neuroma is not actually a tumor, but a thickening of the tissue that surrounds the digital nerve leading to the toes. Morton’s neuroma occurs as the nerve passes under the ligament connecting the toe bones (metatarsals) in the forefoot. Morton’s neuroma most frequently develops between the third and fourth toes, usually in response to irritation, trauma or excessive pressure. The incidence of Morton’s neuroma is 8 to 10 times greater in women than in men.
Morton’s neuroma is an inflammation caused by a buildup of fibrous tissue on the outer coating of nerves. This fibrous buildup is a reaction to the irritation resulting from nearby bones and ligaments rubbing against the nerves. Irritation can be caused by Wearing shoes that are too tight. Wearing shoes that place the foot in an awkward position, such as high heels. A foot that is mechanically unstable. Repetitive trauma to the foot such as from sports activities like tennis, basketball, and running. Trauma to the foot caused by an injury such as a sprain or fracture. It is unusual for more than one Morton’s neuroma to occur on one foot at the same time. It is rare for Morton’s neuroma to occur on both feet at the same time.
Pain is usually increased by forefoot weight bearing activities (such as running), with narrow-fitting footwear, or with high heeled shoes. It is usually painful to firmly touch the affected region and, in chronic cases, pain and sometimes an audible click, may be heard when squeezing the foot and toes together with the hand. Often a localized area of swelling may be evident at the site of injury.
Diagnosis of Morton?s Neuroma typically involves a physical examination of the affected foot. Your health care provider will ask you about your symptoms and examine your feet and toes. He will manipulate your toes, pushing them from side to side and squeezing on the spaces in between. This physical exam will allow your health care provider to feel for any lumps that may be present under the soft tissue of your feet. Your health care provider may also listen for any clicking sounds that your bones may be making. Known as Muldor?s Sign, this clicking is common amongst sufferers of foot neuroma. Occasionally, an x-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is performed to help rule out any breaks, sprains, or fractures in your foot.
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.
Operative treatment of Morton?s neuroma should be entertained only after failure of non-operative management. Standard operative treatment involves identifying the nerve and cutting (resecting) it proximal to the point where it is irritated/injured. This is usually done through an incision on the top (dorsal) aspect of the foot, although an incision on the sole (plantar) aspect of the foot can be used. Some physicians will attempt to treat Morton?s neuroma by releasing the intermetatarsal ligament, and freeing the nerve of local scar tissue. This may also be beneficial.