How to relieve Morton’s neuroma
Morton’s neuroma is a type of benign growth of nerve tissue that presents on the foot. It usually develops between the the third and fourth toes, and can be quite painful.
Other names for the condition are Morton’s metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuralgia, Morton nerve entrapment, Morton’s disease, plantar neuroma and intermetatarsal neuroma.
This type of growth occurs due to swollen nerves at the ball of the foot.
Quick facts on Morton’s neuroma
- While it is a growth of nerve tissue, they are not cancerous.
- As it develops, the afflicted will experience pain in the ball of the foot.
- Surgery is often very effective, but should only be performed when all other alternatives have been exhausted.
- It is not quite known how the growth develops, but some causes are known, such as wearing high heels or playing some sports.
Morton’s neuroma often only require patients to change the type of footwear they are accustomed to, take painkillers, or receive steroid injections. Surgery is an effective treatment, but should only be considered if all other options have failed or are insufficient to address the needs of the patient.
Treatment is dependent on a few factors, such as:
- the severity of your symptoms
- how long these symptoms have been present
- whether other home remedies have been successful
Earlier diagnosis can lower the likelihood that surgical intervention will be necessary.
If the symptoms experienced are too debilitating, then your physician may suggest the following:
- Corticosteroid injections: These steroid injections can be helpful by reducing inflammation and pain, but only a small amount of injections are typically advised, as they can harbor some nasty side-effects, such as hypertension (otherwise known as high blood pressure) and weight gain.
- Alcohol sclerosing injections: Alcohol injections can help reduce the size of the Morton’s neuromas, as well as help reduce pain. Typically, only 4-7 injections are needed, and are administered about once a week.
Morton’s neuroma surgery
When all else fails, surgery may be the only viable treatment option, though typically it would only be considered after symptoms have persisted for about a year.
The conclusive drawback to surgery is that it may result in total numbness in the toes, which can be permanent.
The surgery aims to remove either the problematic nerve or the pressure on the nerve by making incisions on the surrounding ligaments or fibrous tissue.
Two surgical approaches that are commonly used:
- Dorsal approach: This method involves a top-down approach, and can lead to a quicker recovery as the patient does not receive stitches on the load-bearing bottom of their foot.
- Plantar approach: This approach takes a bottom-up approach, and often requires that the patient take a recovery time of about 3 weeks off of their feet by using crutches. The scarring that can come from this procedure can cause discomfort in the future, but the incision is more precise and doesn’t require cutting of other parts of the foot.
There is a slight risk for infection on the toes following the surgery.
Symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma
The sensation caused by Morton’s neuroma can feel like a burning in the ball of the foot.
Areas affected can also experience numbness that goes away when footwear is removed and the foot is massaged.
With Morton’s neuroma, the tissues around the nerves leading to the toes swells, which causes the sharp, burning sensation in the ball of the foot.
Very seldomly will there be an visible symptom, such as a lump, but, those signs that do occur will develop suddenly and will often worsen over time.
The primary symptom that appears is pain in the foot while bearing weight. Typically it appears after a short time walking, and can also present in adjacent sides of two toes.
Uncommonly, there can be a dull pain rather than a sharp pain, but normally whatever the pain, it is felt between the third and fourth toes.
Other symptoms can include:
- burning pain, typically described as if a red hot poker was pinching at the bottom of the foot while walking
- numbness in the toes
- Paresthesia, or a tingling numbness that doesn’t last
- a sensation that something is inside the ball of the foot
Most descriptions of the burning pain account that it starts at the ball of the foot then spreads to the toes.
Tighter footwear and more strenuous activities can make the symptoms appear more aggressively, and can make them last for longer periods of time, up to weeks at a time.
In rare cases, no symptoms may be present in a patient that has a Morton’s neuroma.