Morton’s Neuroma: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

Are you feeling consistent pain at the ball of your foot or in-between your toes? There is a solid chance you might have Morton’s Neuroma. It is an ailment that usually occurs due to high heels and tight shoes and is more common amongst females. If you see early signs of Morton's Neuroma, you should check it out, depending on how bad it has become and its cause. Read this article to learn all you need to know, including how to prevent Morton’s Neuroma, its causes, and what to do if you have it.

A neuroma is when nerve tissue thickens, which can happen in any body part. Morton's neuroma, also known as intermetatarsal neuroma, occurs when there is inflammation of the nerve between the toe bones that has sustained an injury or is irritated. It is the thickening of the tissues around the toe's nerves. Morton's neuroma usually results in persistent pain at the ball of the foot or in-between toes, making it very difficult to walk correctly. It feels like you are standing on a pebble in your shoes, and is usually found between the third and fourth toes. It is necessary to treat it when noticed because, without treatment, it will only get worse.

Symptoms and Causes

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Here are Morton’s Neuroma symptoms you should look out for and some of the reasons they form.

Symptoms of Morton's neuroma

Though there are no outward symptoms of Morton's Neuroma, you will experience the following, which is how you know you have the disease:

  • Pain in the foot: Morton’s Neuroma causes persistent burning pains at the third and fourth toes and the ball of your foot. The pain can extend from the ball of your foot to the tips of your toes.
  • Numb toes: The disease makes the toes go numb and creates a tingling sensation in the foot. However, there will not be any noticeable swelling around the foot. It has no persistent physical consequence.
  • Discomfort: Morton’s Neuroma brings discomfort, making you feel like there is a pebble, stone, or a fold of sock between your toes. The discomfort can get worse if you wear high heels or tight shoes. Morton’s neuroma grows according to the following pattern:
  • Symptoms start occurring. At this start, they only happen once in a while when performing activities that put stress on the foot.
  • During the second stage, symptoms go when your shoes are removed, when the foot is massaged, or avoiding activities that strain the feet.
  • During the third stage, the symptoms get worse as time goes on and occur more frequently, even when no pressure is placed on the foot.
  • Lastly, the symptoms become almost unbearable; at this stage, the changes to the nerve become permanent. Ensure that you see your doctor or a medical professional before this stage.

What Causes Morton's Neuroma?

You can get Morton's neuroma through the following ways:

  • Foot deformities: Some people are born with or develop different foot problems over time, such as hammer toes, flat feet, bunions, high arches, etc. These deformities increase your chances of developing or worsening Morton's Neuroma if you have it already. Ensure to see a doctor if you have any deformities so they can be treated.
  • Footwear: The type of shoes you wear can help you reduce or increase your chances of having Morton's Neuroma. High heels, tight and narrow shoes pressure the feet or toes, increasing the chances of infection, while loose shoes help you reduce the risk.
  • Sports: Some sporting activities, including but not limited to tennis and running, cause a lot of stress on the feet. Some other sporting activities can cause Morton's Neuroma due to the gear needed, such as rock climbing, requiring you to wear tight shoes that pressure your toes.
  • Injury or irritation: Injuries on the foot can lead to Morton's Neuroma. It is essential to treat any injury and ensure no irritation is affecting your foot to reduce your risk of developing it.

Morton's Neuroma Diagnosis - How to Diagnose the Problem?

Morton's Neuroma Diagnosis is diagnosed with a physical exam, either by yourself, with the help of friends, or by a doctor.

During the physical examination,

  • The examiner will look at your foot to check for masses between your toes.
  • The examiner will put pressure between different toe bones to find out the point of origin of the pain.

X-ray scans don't show Morton's neuroma, but they can help eliminate the other reasons you might have foot pain. When everything else has been eliminated, e.g., fracture or arthritis, if Morton's Neuroma is the last one remaining, you've been diagnosed with it. Morton's Neuroma ultrasound and MRI can also be used to diagnose or confirm the cause of the pain felt.

Electromyography is a procedure that measures electrical activity in the muscles and nerves. Doctors can also use it to eliminate the possibility of nerve problems that mimic the symptoms caused by Morton's Neuroma.

Is it possible to do it at home?

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It is not entirely possible to diagnose Morton's Neuroma at home because it is very easy to mistake a different nerve problem as Morton's neuroma, and that can have repercussions if the wrong steps are taken. Make sure to see your doctor if the burning feeling doesn’t improve after you have done everything you can to relieve stress and pressure from your foot.

Morton's Neuroma Treatments

Morton's neuroma can be treated in two primary ways

A. Nonsurgical treatment (Morton's neuroma treatment at home) and

B. Surgery

Nonsurgical treatment (Morton's neuroma treatment at home) These are some steps that you can take for Morton's Neuroma treatment before surgery is considered:

  1. Footwear changes
    Reduce the time spent wearing ill-fitted shoes, narrow shoes, or high heels, as they can all contribute to either having Morton's Neuroma or, if you already have it, the situation will worsen. Instead, wear better fitting and loose shoes with adequate space for your toes.
  2. Injection
    Injections should only be used after every other treatment has been tried to relieve pain, such as Steroids, Alcohol sclerosing (injection of alcohol solution), and you can take analgesics. These injections help reduce the amount of pain felt as a result of Morton's Neuroma.
  3. Ice pack:
    You can wrap ice packs or frozen peas in a towel to place on the area where the pain originates for 20 minutes every couple of hours. An ice pack helps remove the burning sensation being felt and the swelling, if any.
  4. Rest
    Resting the foot to give it time to heal and recover at various daily intervals is essential. Don't spend the whole day stressing your feet.
  5. Orthotic devices
    Orthotic devices are shoes for Morton’s neuroma, made available by a surgeon or doctor to help give the needed support to reduce the compression and pressure on the nerve of the feet. The shoes,arch support insoles, or heels are usually custom-made to fit your foot and provide the best comfort for them.
  6. Change in activities
    Completely stop or reduce, depending on the severity of your case, the number of activities that put a lot of pressure on the feet until things get better.
  7. Drugs
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, ibuprofen, or paracetamol are pain relievers that a doctor can prescribe to help reduce the pain felt in the feet.

What are the best insoles for Morton’s neuroma?

You can find some of the best insoles for Morton’s neuroma here.

What is the best orthotic for Morton's neuroma?

The best orthotic for Morton's neuroma is custom-made. Suppose your doctor, after his examination, determines that an orthotic would be best for you. In that case, your measurements will be taken, along with specifications from the doctor, and sent to a company that makes them.

Surgery

Morton's neuroma surgery is generally considered a last resort, only used on patients nonsurgical treatment didn't cure. The surgeon will examine the ankle and foot to determine the surgery and procedure best for you. The time needed to recover from the surgery depends on the type of surgery done.

Once the surgery is done, the surgeon will recommend ways to reduce the chances of Morton's neuroma returning. Some recommendations will include: wearing appropriate footwear, reducing pressure on your feet, reducing activities that increase your risk of Morton's neuroma, etc.

Morton’s neuroma surgery recovery tips:

  1. Wait two weeks before using your feet to move.
  2. Don’t drive for 6-8 weeks.
  3. Take 6-12 weeks off work.
  4. Don't do sports for six months.

Prevention of Morton’s Neuroma

You can prevent Morton's neuroma in the following ways:

  • You should not wear tight-fitting shoes or high heels for extended periods
  • Wear shoes that have enough space for your toes, so they aren't squeezed
  • Use athletic shoes that have padding to support your feet when doing sports or anything active
  • Have a good BMI. Make sure to maintain a reasonable body weight that doesn't put too much pressure on your feet
  • Athletes can discuss with trainers to do activities that put less strain on the feet

Risk factors for Morton's neuroma

The risk factors that can increase the chances of obtaining Morton's Neuroma are:

  • High heels
  • Sporting activities
  • Foot deformities

What can be done right now to prevent Morton’s Neuroma?

You can prevent Morton's neuroma by resting your feet, wearing appropriate shoes, and reducing pressure on the feet. You can also take part in exercises that can help stretch the lower part of your leg and improve the strength of your foot's arch. If you have tried these methods without success, see your doctor for a professional opinion.

Conclusion

Morton's neuroma results from inflammation of the nerves of the feet and is primarily found in, but not limited to, female adults. You can reduce your risk of getting Morton's neuroma by not wearing tight-fitting shoes, reducing the pressure on your feet, resting your feet, etc. While Morton's neuroma doesn’t have any physical features and doesn’t show outwardly, it can still be diagnosed by performing a physical examination, ruling out every cause of pain in the feet through various tests till it remains the only possible reason. Treatments such as buying orthotics for Morton’s neuroma can help improve and reduce the effect it has on you. Surgery, as a last option, should only be considered if other treatment methods don't work.