Morton's neuroma is characterized by foot pain that is usually between the 3rd and 4th toes. It mainly affects women from the age of fifty onwards.
Also known as Morton's disease or Morton's neuroma, Morton's neuroma results in pain in the foot and more particularly in the third intermetatarsal space. This pain, caused by compression of the nerve located between the 3rd and 4th toe, can also be felt between the other toes. This compression causes swelling and thickening of the tissues around the nerve which causes pain.
Symptoms of Morton's neuroma include:
- pain in the foot during walking
- feeling of having a pebble in the shoe or a needle against the skin
- electrical sensation in the toes
- numbness of the toes
- inflammation of the foot
There is little research into Morton's neuroma and its exact causes are unknown, but specialists agree that it develops as a result of injury or excessive compression of the nerve. Some factors can encourage the development of Morton's disease, such as wearing very tight shoes or high heels which, by exerting constant pressure and irritation, could lead to poor tissue regeneration. An abnormality of the foot (e.g. flat or arched foot) could also be a cause of Morton's neuroma as well as an abnormal position of the toes. Repetitive sports exercises such as running or tennies has also been associated with Morton's Neuroma, which can exert further pressure on the ball of the foot. Other sports such as ballet or skating have also been linked to the condition as they often require tight-fitted footwear.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Whilst benign, Morton's neuroma can be very painful and can hinder daily activities if it doesn't improve. It can usually be dealt with through home treatment which can help relieve pressure on the affected region of the foot. These can include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Alongside medication, other at-home treatments can include:
- stretching and massaging the foot to loosen tendons and ligaments
- strengthening exercises for the ankles and toes
- application of ice to the affected region
- resting the foot
- physical therapy
If the pain persists, corticosteroid injections may also be considered. In any case, the person who suffers from a Morton's neuroma will have to wear wider shoes and low heels. In some cases, surgery to remove the neuroma will be necessary to relieve the pain. In order to make a more accurate diagnosis of Morton's neuroma, a doctor may use imaging tests such as:
Type of treatment will depend on the severity and the period of time a patient experiences symptoms. Those who suffer with Morton's neuroma are advised to see a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen after two weeks of home treatment.