Put simply - Morton's neuroma is a swollen (inflamed) nerve in the ball of the foot, commonly between the base of the second and third toes. Patients experience numbness and pain in the affected area, which is relieved by removing footwear and/or massaging the foot. A neuroma is a tumor that arises in nerve cells, a benign growth of nerve tissue that can develop in various parts of the body. In Morton's neuroma the tissue around one of the nerves leading to the toes thickens, causing a sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot. A sharp severe pain, often described as a red hot needle may come on suddenly while walking. There may also be numbness, burning and stinging in the toes. Although it is labeled a neuroma, many say it is not a true tumor, but rather a perineural fibroma (fibrous tissue formation around nerve tissue).
The exact cause of Morton's neuroma is not known. However, it is thought to develop as a result of long-standing (chronic) stress and irritation of a plantar digital nerve. There are a number of things that are thought to contribute to this. Some thickening (fibrosis) and swelling may then develop around a part of the nerve. This can look like a neuroma and can lead to compression of the nerve. Sometimes, other problems can contribute to the compression of the nerve. These include the growth of a fatty lump (called a lipoma) and also the formation of a fluid-filled sac that can form around a joint (a bursa). Also, inflammation in the joints in the foot next to one of the digital nerves can sometimes cause irritation of the nerve and lead to the symptoms of Morton's neuroma.
Feelings of numbness, tingling or tenderness in the ball of the foot (the area just behind the base of the toes) are some of the first signs of a condition known as Morton?s Neuroma. However, the condition is somewhat unpredictable, and symptoms may vary from patient to patient. Generally, however, the discomfort gets worse rather than better, and the patient may feel pain or a burning sensation that radiates out to the toes. Eventually, wearing shoes becomes uncomfortable (or even unbearable), and the patient may complain that the feeling is similar to that of having a stone bruise, or walking on a marble or pebble constantly, even though no there is no trauma to the skin, and no visible bump or lump on the sole of the foot.
An MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) is used to ensure that the compression is not caused by a tumor in the foot. An MRI also determines the size of the neuroma and whether the syndrome should be treated conservatively or aggressively. If surgery is indicated, the podiatrist can determine how much of the nerve must be resected. This is important, because different surgical techniques can be used, depending on the size and the position of the neuroma. Because MRIs are expensive, some insurance companies are reluctant to pay for them. If the podiatrist believes an MRI is necessary, he or she can persuade the insurance company to pay for it by presenting data to support the recommendation.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treaments may include wearing wider shoes to reduce the squeezing force on the foot. Adding a specially made padding to shoes to offload the pressure on the ball of the foot (called a metatarsal dome) Addressing the foot and lower limb biomechanics. This involves looking at foot stability and if needed prescribing an orthotic device to correct your foot position. Anesthetic & Cortisone injections. This is done when the above treatments are insufficient. The trauma is sometimes so great that conservative treatment cannot control the inflammation or cause of the pain. A series of injections are performed to control the inflammation or to temporarily settle the nerve. An ultrasound and cortisone injection can be prescribed by your podiatrist.
Surgery to remove the neuroma may be recommended if more conservative treatment does not solve the problem. While surgery usually relieves or completely removes the symptoms, it often leaves a permanent numb feeling at the site of the neuroma.
While Morton?s Neuroma has been an ongoing topic of clinical investigation, the condition is in some cases difficult to either treat or prevent. Experimental efforts involving the injection of muscle or bone with chemicals such as alcohol, as well as suturing, and covering affected areas with silicone caps have been attempted, with varying success.