Mortons Neuroma is a common painful condition involving compression of nerves between the long bones of the forefoot just before they enter the toes. Commonly this involves the 3rd and 4th toes, however may affect the 2nd and 3rd toes. Repeated trauma or compression of these nerves causes the nerves to swell and thicken causing a Morton's neuroma to develop.
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 with a Morton's neuroma typically experience a sharp, shooting or burning pain, usually at the base of the forefoot or toes, which radiates into the two affected toes. Sometimes the pain may also radiate into the foot. The pain is often associated with the presence of pins and needles and numbness.
Negative signs include no obvious deformities, erythema, signs of inflammation, or limitation of movement. Direct pressure between the metatarsal heads will replicate the symptoms, as will compression of the forefoot between the finger and thumb so as to compress the transverse arch of the foot. This is referred to as Mulder?s Sign. There are other causes of pain in the forefoot. Too often all forefoot pain is categorized as neuroma. Other conditions to consider are capsulitis, which is an inflammation of ligaments that surrounds two bones, at the level of the joint. In this case, it would be the ligaments that attach the phalanx (bone of the toe) to the metatarsal bone. Inflammation from this condition will put pressure on an otherwise healthy nerve and give neuroma-type symptoms. Additionally, an intermetatarsal bursitis between the third and fourth metatarsal bones will also give neuroma-type symptoms because it too puts pressure on the nerve. Freiberg's disease, which is an osteochondritis of the metatarsal head, causes pain on weight bearing or compression.
Non Surgical Treatment
Relief of symptoms can often start by having a good pair of well fitting shoes fitted to your feet ensuring that the shoes don't squeeze your foot together. Once footwear is addressed patients may require a small pre-metatarsal pad to be positioned onto the insole of the shoe to help lift and separate the bones in the forefoot to alleviate the pressure on the nerve. If the patients foot structure and mechanics is found to be a contributing cause, a custom made orthotic is usually the most convenient and effective way to manage the problem. Sometimes an injection of local anaesthetic and steroid is recommended to assist in settling acute symptoms.
Surgery for Morton's neuroma is usually a treatment of last resort. It may be recommended if you have severe pain in your foot or if non-surgical treatments haven't worked. Surgery is usually carried out under local anaesthetic, on an outpatient basis, which means you won't need to stay in hospital overnight. The operation can take up to 30 minutes. The surgeon will make a small incision, either on the top of your foot or on the sole. They may try to increase the space around the nerve (nerve decompression) by removing some of the surrounding tissue, or they may remove the nerve completely (nerve resection). If the nerve is removed, the area between your toes may be permanently numb. After the procedure you'll need to wear a special protective shoe until the affected area has healed sufficiently to wear normal footwear. It can take up to four weeks to make a full recovery. Most people (about 75%) who have surgery to treat Morton's neuroma have positive results and their painful symptoms are relieved.
Wearing shoes that fit properly and that have plenty of room in the toe area may help prevent Morton's neuroma.