A neuroma is a nerve condition that can happen in many parts of the body, often causing tingling and numbness as well as swelling. It is a noncancerous growth that develops when the nerve tissue becomes pinched or irritated.
When a neuroma occurs in the toes—specifically on the bottom of the foot, between the third and fourth toes—and causes pain between this area and the ball of the foot, it is called Morton’s neuroma. Sometimes, patients describe the symptoms as feeling as if you are walking on a pebble or that the sock you are wearing has bunched up uncomfortably under your toes.
Whenever anything irritates this nerve between the toes, it can lead to a neuroma. One of the most common causes is wearing high heels or any type of shoe that forces the foot into a small toe box. Additionally, people who have existing foot deformity issues, such as bunions or flat feet, are at a higher risk of developing a foot neuroma. Middle-aged women are also more likely to develop Morton's neuroma.
Many times, home remedies can improve the condition and lead to pain relief. However, if Morton’s neuroma is not treated, or if the issue causing the tissue to be compressed is not eliminated, the nerve growth will continue to get bigger. This can lead to permanent nerve damage.
A doctor can help you understand what type of nonsurgical or surgical treatment is best for your unique neuroma condition.
Here are some terms that a medical professional may reference when discussing neuromas with you:
- Foot Neuromas: While foot neuromas can occur in various places in the feet, Morton’s neuromas only occur between the third and fourth metatarsals (toe bones).
- Interdigital Neuromas: These occur between the digits (toes) of the foot.
- Intermetatarsal Ligaments: Morton's neuroma can appear when the intermetatarsal nerve is trapped by the deep intermetatarsal ligament of the foot.
- Metatarsals: The five long bones in the foot are the metatarsals. The metatarsals are divided into three parts: the base, the body, and the metatarsal head.
- Traumatic Neuromas: When a nerve has been pinched or compressed due to a specific injury or trauma, it is called a traumatic neuroma.
- Web Space: This is the skin webbing between the toes, where neuroma pain is often felt.
Home Treatments to Avoid or Improve Morton's Neuroma
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications: These over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms of swelling and nerve pain.
- Massage: Massaging the ball of the foot can help open up the area between the bones (metatarsals) and help reduce pain.
- Orthotics: Shoe inserts (orthotics) and padding can be used on the affected area to help relieve pain caused by neuromas of the foot. They can be purchased over the counter, but a doctor can also make custom orthotics for a patient with specific needs.
- Proper Shoes: To avoid a neuroma, or to relieve pain if you already have one, don't wear high-heeled shoes or shoes that are narrow-toed or tight-fitting.
A doctor will perform a physical examination and will likely schedule an X-ray prior to offering treatment in order to better see the nerve damage. Here are some examples of treatments he or she may recommend for a neuroma:
- Alcohol Injections: Sometimes used as an alternative to surgery, alcohol injections can help destroy the neuroma.
- Corticosteroid Injections: One nonsurgical treatment option is an ultrasound-guided corticosteroid injection. This procedure is also known as a cortisone injection.
If conservative treatments do not relieve the foot pain caused by your neuroma, neuroma surgery may be recommended by your doctor.
If the condition is severe, especially if it includes burning pain that makes walking difficult, the best option may be to remove the problematic nerve altogether. Other times, a doctor may recommend relieving the pressure on the nerve by cutting nearby tissue, such as a ligament.
Keeping You in Motion at Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute
Our specialty-trained foot specialist, Paul J. Gruszka, M.D., and our specialty-trained podiatrists, Rachel L. Stern, D.P.M., Brian T. Damitz, D.P.M., Aaron K. Ruter, D.P.M., and Hassan Usmani, D.P.M., can diagnose and treat your neuroma. Our foot specialists also provide any follow-up care you may need. While it may be possible to treat your condition without surgery, if surgery is required, our doctors can expertly perform the procedure that is needed.
To schedule an appointment with one of our experienced podiatrists, please call (219) 921-1444 or request an appointment online.