The nerves located on the bottom of the foot between the metatarsal heads (the bone of the toe closest to the foot) supply feeling, or sensation, to the toes. One of these nerves may become irritated by the ligament located above it, causing it to become thickened and painful. Generally this problem occurs most often between the third and fourth toes, but it can occur between the second and third toes as well. It is uncommon for a neuroma to be located between the first and second or fourth and fifth metatarsals. Rarely is there more than one neuroma in a foot.
A Morton's neuroma commonly occurs due to repetitive weight bearing activity (such as walking or running) particularly when combined with tight fitting shoes or excessive pronation of the feet (i.e. "flat-feet"). The condition is also more common in patients with an unstable forefoot allowing excessive movement between the metatarsal bones. A Morton's neuroma can also occur due to certain foot deformities, trauma to the foot, or the presence of a ganglion or inflamed bursa in the region which may place compressive forces on the nerve.
The most common presenting complaints include pain and dysesthesias in the forefoot and corresponding toes adjacent to the neuroma. Pain is described as sharp and burning, and it may be associated with cramping. Numbness often is observed in the toes adjacent to the neuroma and seems to occur along with episodes of pain. Pain typically is intermittent, as episodes often occur for minutes to hours at a time and have long intervals (ie, weeks to months) between a single or small group of multiple attacks. Some patients describe the sensation as "walking on a marble." Massage of the affected area offers significant relief. Narrow tight high-heeled shoes aggravate the symptoms. Night pain is reported but is rare.
Based on the physical examination, your doctor usually can diagnose a Morton's neuroma without additional testing. A foot X-ray may be ordered to make sure that there isn't a stress fracture, but it will not show the actual neuroma. If the diagnosis is in doubt, your doctor may request magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Once a diagnosis is obtained, it is essential to begin treatment immediately. Your podiatric physician will advise you on the most effective means. If caught early enough, good foot care, shoes that fit properly, and/or orthoses may eliminate the need for any further intervention. Other conservative measures might include oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS), physical therapy, ultrasound or other non-invasive measures. If that doesn?t work, your podiatric physician might use injectable steroids, and/or a local anesthetic around the neuroma to reduce inflammation and pain. Many patients report relief after these measures are taken.
If pain persists with conservative care, surgery may be an appropriate option. The common digitial nerve is cut and the Mortons neuroma removed. This will result is numbness along the inside of the toes affected, and there is a small chance the end of the nerve will form a Stump Neuroma. Approximately 75% of people receive symptom resolution for Mortons Neuroma with conservative care.
Ensuring that shoes are well fitted, low-heeled and with a wide toe area may help to prevent Morton's neuroma.