A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue that may develop in various parts of the body. The most common neuroma in the foot is a Morton?s neuroma, which occurs between the third and fourth toes. It is sometimes referred to as an intermetatarsal neuroma. ?Intermetatarsal? describes its location in the ball of the foot between the metatarsal bones. Neuromas may also occur in other locations in the foot. MortonThe thickening, or enlargement, of the nerve that defines a neuroma is the result of compression and irritation of the nerve. This compression creates enlargement of the nerve, eventually leading to permanent nerve damage.
There are many reasons to develop a neuroma. Improper shoe gear is probably the most likely cause. Repetitive activity and excessive pressure on the ball of the foot are common. Heredity and genetic factors may also be involved. In many cases the structure of the foot may predispose the condition. Associated conditions that may cause neuroma include: bunion, hammer toes, ligament laxity, and/or a tight calf muscle. Some patients may have thinning of the fat pad on the ball of the foot, which may result in increased pressure of the nerves. Tight pointy shoes (and high heels) without padding may induce pain in the ball of the foot. Neuroma may occur suddenly, or develop over time.
Symptoms typically include pain, often with pins and needles on one side of a toe and the adjacent side of the next toe. Pain is made worse by forefoot weight bearing and can also be reproduced by squeezing the forefoot to further compress the nerve. Pressing in between the third and forth metatarsals for example with a pen can also trigger symptoms.
To diagnose Morton's neuroma the podiatrist commonly palpates the area to elicit pain, squeezing the toes from the side. Next he or she may try to feel the neuroma by pressing a thumb into the third interspace. The podiatrist then tries to elicit Mulder's sign, by palpating the affected interspace with one hand and squeezing the entire foot at the same time with the other hand. In many cases of Morton's neuroma, this causes an audible click, known as Mulder's sign. An x-ray should be taken to ensure that there is not a fracture. X-rays also can be used to examine the joints and bone density, ruling out arthritis (particularly rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis).
Non Surgical Treatment
In developing a treatment plan, your foot and ankle surgeon will first determine how long you?ve had the neuroma and evaluate its stage of development. Treatment approaches vary according to the severity of the problem. For mild to moderate neuromas, treatment options may include Padding techniques provide support for the metatarsal arch, thereby lessening the pressure on the nerve and decreasing the compression when walking. Placing an icepack on the affected area helps reduce swelling. Custom orthotic devices provided by your foot and ankle surgeon provide the support needed to reduce pressure and compression on the nerve. Activities that put repetitive pressure on the neuroma should be avoided until the condition improves. Wear shoes with a wide toe box and avoid narrow-toed shoes or shoes with high heels. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Treatment may include injections of cortisone, local anesthetics or other agents.
Surgery to excise the neuroma is usually performed under general anaesthetic in a day surgery facility. After surgery you will have to keep your foot dry for two weeks. Generally neuroma surgery allows for early weight bearing and protection in some type of post op shoe gear. Some neuromas may reoccur, but this is rare. Most studies on patient satisfaction after neuroma surgery show approximately 90% reduction of pain and about 85% of all patients rated the overall satisfaction with the results as excellent or good.