This condition has various other names and you may also see it referred to as Morton's metatarsalgia, Morton's disease, Morton nerve entrapment, intermetatarsal neuroma or plantar neuroma. It involves the nerve that is located between the bones in your toes, which may become enlarged, through the growth of nerve tissue, or irritated. While it can occur at any point on the foot, it most often seems to affect the space between the third and fourth toes in particular, and is a surprisingly common and extremely painful condition.Causes of Morton's Neuroma
To this day there is no definitive answer to this question, but through various studies medical professionals have uncovered a number of factors that can seem to impact upon its development. Some of these include:
- Choice of footwear. Wearing shoes that give the toes very little space and push them together seems to encourage the development of Morton's neuroma. For this reason the condition is more commonly found among women, since constrictive footwear is more prevalent among the female population.
- Frequent injuries. Feet that are heavily used and subject to high-impact movements on a regular basis are more likely to suffer from Morton's neuroma. For this reason you will often find that former tennis players, basketball players and runners will have the condition.
Another interesting fact that many studies have discovered is that it is extremely rare for a person to have more than a single Morton's neuroma on one foot, and even rarer that an individual will experience the condition in both feet simultaneously.Symptoms of Morton's Neuroma
As we have already mentioned, symptoms of Morton's neuroma are most commonly experienced between the third and fourth toes, but may also occur between other toes. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- You may experience a burning sensation in the affected toes, accompanied by sharp pains and numbness.
- These sensations are often exaggerated when you are on your feet.
- It may feel as though you have a lump in between the toes that are affected by the condition.
Many patients have reported that these symptoms are generally less severe after:
- Removing their footwear.
- Moving their toes.
- Massaging their feet.
The treatment option recommended to you will largely depend on how severe the symptoms that you are suffering from are and how long you have been experiencing them for. As with most other conditions, the faster you seek medical advice and have the condition checked, the better the chance you have of not needing surgery.Basic Treatments
This list features "non-invasive" treatment options that will typically be recommended unless your case of Morton's neuroma is particularly severe.
- Changing footwear. Tight shoes are the devil when it comes to Morton's neuroma and must be avoided at all costs. Instead, make sure you wear shoes that offer a good level of support and possess a wider-than-normal toe section, which will ensure your toes have adequate space and are able to move. it's also important to make sure you don't tie your shoes up too tightly, as this will push your toes together too. Shock absorbent soles and high quality insoles are other desirable features to look for in your shoes.
- Simple pads. These are available over the counter in most pharmacies without the need for a prescription and do a good job of separating your toes, relieving pressure in the process.
- Ice pack. The tissue in the affected area will often be swollen and applying ice packs can help to relieve pain and swelling.
- Rest. Staying off your feet as much as possible is mandatory and will help to prevent your toes from swelling up. Combine this with a light massage to relieve pain.
In cases where these simple treatments aren't able to make much of a difference, your doctor may recommend you have either surgery completed or perhaps take some form of medication in order to correct the problem. The main options are usually:
- Injections. It may be possible to improve the condition through the injection of specific steroids into the affected area.
- Cryogenic neuroablation. This is not a permanent solution to the problem and involves exposing the affected nerve to extremely low temperatures, which can stop it from communicating pain signals to your brain.
- Decompression surgery. Excessive pressure placed on the nerve can sometimes cause more significant levels of pain, and during this type of surgery, the surgeon will attempt to reduce this pressure by cutting into the tissue and structures that surround the nerve, which in this case usually involve the ligaments in your toes.
- Removing the nerve. If everything else fails, it may be necessary to take out the nerve altogether, as then it won't be able to transmit pain signals at all. However, while on a vast majority of occasions this proves to be an effective form of treatment for Morton's neuroma, it is usually "held back" as a last resort, since the procedure may result in you being left with a permanent numb sensation in the toes that are affected by the condition.
While medical studies are still being conducted to learn more about Morton's neuroma, the information we already have suggests that by wearing more spacious footwear, taking anti-inflammatory medication, utilizing customized orthotic devices and having cortisone injections, it's possible to sooth the pain felt in over three-quarters of cases. However, should more conservative treatments fail to have much of an impact, a medical professional may well advise you that a surgical procedure is necessary to provide pain relief. The surgery options we mentioned above are considered to be very effective and don't require a lengthy recovery period afterwards.