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Morton?s neuroma is inflammation, thickening, or enlargement of the nerve between the bones of the toes (metatarsal bones). The condition is also called intermetatarsal neuroma. The thickening is usually found between bones of the third and fourth toes of the foot, but sometimes it may develop between the second and third toes. It occurs when the medial plantar nerve near the bones of those toes becomes compressed or irritated, possibly because the metatarsal bones press against the nerve in the narrow gap between the toes. If left untreated, Morton?s neuroma can cause a sharp, burning, or shooting pain that often gets worse over time. The pain becomes worse when a person walks or stands on the ball of the foot. Sometimes the pain reaches the toes next to the neuroma and a sensation of tingling or numbness is felt.
Although the exact cause for this condition is unclear, a number of factors can contribute to the formation of a neuroma. Biomechanical deformities, such as a high-arched foot or a flat foot, can lead to the formation of a neuroma. These foot types bring on instability around the toe joints, leading to the development of the condition. Trauma can cause damage to the nerve, resulting in inflammation or swelling of the nerve. Improper footwear that causes the toes to be squeezed together is problematic. Avoid high-heeled shoes higher than two inches. Shoes at this height can increase pressure on the forefoot area. Repeated stress, common to many occupations, can create or aggravate a neuroma.
Outward signs of Morton’s neuroma, such as a lump, are extremely rare. Morton’s neuroma signs and symptoms, which usually occur unexpectedly and tend to worsen over time, include, pain on weight bearing (while walking) – a shooting pain affecting the contiguous halves of two toes, which may be felt after only a short time (of weight bearing). Sometimes there may be a dull pain rather than a sharp one. Most commonly, pain is felt between the third and fourth toes. Typically, a patient will suddenly experience pain while walking and will have to stop and remove their shoe. Burning. Numbness. Parasthesia, tingling, pricking, or numbness with no apparent long-term physical effect. Commonly known as pins-and-needles. A sensation that something is inside the ball of the foot.
Your health care provider can usually diagnose this problem by examining your foot. A foot x-ray may be done to rule out bone problems. MRI or ultrasound can successfully diagnose the condition. Nerve testing (electromyography) cannot diagnose Morton neuroma. But it may be used to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms. Blood tests may be done to check for inflammation-related conditions, including certain forms of arthritis.
Non Surgical Treatment
If your Morton’s neuroma is painful, your doctor usually will begin treatment with conservative therapies, including a switch to shoes with low heels, wide toes and good arch support. Padding techniques, including metatarsal pads or toe crest pads. Shoe inserts (orthotics) to help correct any mechanical imbalance in the foot. Anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brand names) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn and other brand names) A local injection of anesthetic and corticosteroid medication into the affected area. Inflamed or injured nerves can take months to improve, even after the underlying problem has been corrected.
Patients are commonly offered surgery known as neurectomy, which involves removing the affected piece of nerve tissue. Postoperative scar tissue formation (known as stump neuroma) can occur in approximately 20%-30% of cases, causing a return of neuroma symptoms. Neurectomy can be performed using one of two general methods. Making the incision from the dorsal side (the top of the foot) is the more common method but requires cutting the deep transverse metatarsal ligament that connects the 3rd and 4th metatarsals in order to access the nerve beneath it. This results in exaggerated postoperative splaying of the 3rd and 4th digits (toes) due to the loss of the supporting ligamentous structure. This has aesthetic concerns for some patients and possible though unquantified long-term implications for foot structure and health. Alternatively, making the incision from the ventral side (the sole of the foot) allows more direct access to the affected nerve without cutting other structures. However, this approach requires a greater post-operative recovery time where the patient must avoid weight bearing on the affected foot because the ventral aspect of the foot is more highly enervated and impacted by pressure when standing. It also has an increased risk that scar tissue will form in a location that causes ongoing pain.