Morton’s neuroma is a condition that affects one of the nerves between the toes. It’s also known as Morton’s metatarsalgia or interdigital neuroma. In Morton’s neuroma, fibrous tissue develops around the nerve, which becomes irritated and compressed. This causes severe pain on the ball of the foot and at the base of the toes. Morton’s neuroma can occur on one foot or both feet. It usually affects the nerve between the third and fourth toes, but sometimes the second and third toes are affected.
When a nerve is pinched between bones, the result is swelling of the nerve. It is this swelling which is referred to as a Neuroma. When the condition occurs in the foot, it is known as a Morton?s Neuroma. Morton?s Neuroma is technically not a tumor. Rather, it is a thickening of the tissue that surrounds the digital nerves leading to the toes. These nerves allow for physical sensation on the skin of the toes. The region of inflammation is found where the digital nerve passes under the ligament connecting the toe bones (metatarsals) in the forefoot. Morton?s Neuroma commonly develops between the third and fourth toes, generally as a result of ongoing irritation, trauma or excessive pressure. In some cases, the second and third toes are involved. Morton?s Neuroma is confined to one foot in most cases, though it can occur in both, particularly in athletes such as runners.
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.
The most common condition misdiagnosed as Morton’s neuroma is metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint synovitis. When pain occurs in the third interspace, the clinician may misdiagnose the condition as Morton’s neuroma instead of MTP synovitis, which may manifest very much like Morton’s neuroma. MTP synovitis is distinguished from Morton’s neuroma by subtle swelling around the joint, pain localized mainly within the joint, and pain with forced toe flexion. Palpation of the MTP joint is performed best with a pinching maneuver from the dorsal and plantar aspects of the joint to elicit tenderness of the joint. Other conditions often misdiagnosed as Morton’s neuroma include the following. Stress fracture of the neck of the metatarsal. Rheumatoid arthritis and other systemic arthritic conditions. Hammertoe. Metatarsalgia (ie, plantar tenderness over the metatarsal head) Less common conditions that have overlapping symptoms with Morton’s neuroma include the following. Neoplasms. Metatarsal head osteonecrosis. Freiburg. steochondrosis. Ganglion cysts. Intermetatarsal bursal fluid collections. True neuromas.
Non Surgical Treatment
Most non-operative treatment is usually successful, although it can take a while to figure out what combination of non-operative treatment works best for each individual patient. Non-operative treatment may include the use of comfort shoe wear. The use of a metatarsal pad to decrease the load through the involved area of the plantar forefoot. A period of activity modification to decrease or eliminate activities, which maybe exacerbating the patient?s symptoms. For example, avoiding long periods of standing or other activities that result in significant repetitive loading to the forefoot can be very helpful. Wearing high heels should be avoided. Local corticosteroid injections can help decrease inflammation associated with the nerve. However, this does not necessarily address the underlying loading forces that maybe causing the injury to the nerve in the first place. It has been proposed that an alcohol injection in and around the nerve will cause a controlled death to the nerve and subsequently eliminate symptoms from the nerve. In theory, this may be helpful. In practice, adequate prospective studies have not demonstrated the benefit of this procedure above and beyond the other standard non-operative treatments available. In addition there is the concern that the alcohol will cause excessive scarring and death of other important structures in the area.
Surgery may be considered in patients who have not responded adequately to non-surgical treatments. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the approach that is best for your condition. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure performed. Regardless of whether you?ve undergone surgical or nonsurgical treatment, your surgeon will recommend long-term measures to help keep your symptoms from returning. These include appropriate footwear and modification of activities to reduce the repetitive pressure on the foot.
Although the exact causes of neuromas are not completely known, the following preventive steps may help. Make sure your exercise shoes have enough room in the front part of the shoe and that your toes are not excessively compressed. Wear shoes with adequate padding in the ball of the foot. Avoid prolonged time in shoes with a narrow toe box or excessive heel height (greater than two inches).