Put simply - Morton's neuroma is a swollen (inflamed) nerve in the ball of the foot, commonly between the base of the second and third toes. Patients experience numbness and pain in the affected area, which is relieved by removing footwear and/or massaging the foot. A neuroma is a tumor that arises in nerve cells, a benign growth of nerve tissue that can develop in various parts of the body. In Morton's neuroma the tissue around one of the nerves leading to the toes thickens, causing a sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot. A sharp severe pain, often described as a red hot needle may come on suddenly while walking. There may also be numbness, burning and stinging in the toes. Although it is labeled a neuroma, many say it is not a true tumor, but rather a perineural fibroma (fibrous tissue formation around nerve tissue).
The exact cause of Morton's neuroma is not known. However, it is thought to develop as a result of long-standing (chronic) stress and irritation of a plantar digital nerve. There are a number of things that are thought to contribute to this. Some thickening (fibrosis) and swelling may then develop around a part of the nerve. This can look like a neuroma and can lead to compression of the nerve. Sometimes, other problems can contribute to the compression of the nerve. These include the growth of a fatty lump (called a lipoma) and also the formation of a fluid-filled sac that can form around a joint (a bursa). Also, inflammation in the joints in the foot next to one of the digital nerves can sometimes cause irritation of the nerve and lead to the symptoms of Morton's neuroma.
Often, no outward signs (such as a lump or unusual swelling) appear from the condition. Neuroma pain is most often described as a burning discomfort in the forefoot. Aching or sudden shooting pain in the forefoot is also common. All running sports, especially distance running can leave an athlete vulnerable to Morton?s Neuroma, which may appear or flare up in the middle of a run or at the end. The sufferer often has the desire to remove his shoe and rub the afflicted foot. Should the Neuroma be of sufficient size, or if footwear is particularly tight or uncomfortable, the painful condition may be present during normal walking. Numbness in the foot may precede or accompany Neuroma pain.
In some cases your doctor will be able to feel the Morton's as a swelling in the middle of your foot. However they may also suggest an X-ray or a blood test - this is normally to rule our other causes of the pain such as arthritis. The most accurate way to diagnose Morton?s itself is with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment for Morton?s neuroma will depend on how long you've had the condition and its severity. Simple non-surgical treatments are effective for some people. Others may need surgery. If Morton's neuroma is diagnosed early, treatment will aim to reduce the pressure on the affected nerve. This is usually the nerve between the third and fourth toe bones (metatarsals). Your GP or podiatrist (foot specialist) may recommend changing the type of shoes you usually wear, shoes with a wider toe area may help ease the pressure on the nerve in your foot. Using orthotic devices, such as a support for the arch of your foot to help relieve the pressure on the nerve. Anti-inflammatory painkillers or a course of steroid injections into the affected area of your foot may help ease the pain and inflammation. Alcohol and local anaesthetic is injected into your foot using ultrasound for guidance, studies have shown that this type of treatment is effective. Resting your foot and massaging your toes may also help to relieve the pain. You can make an ice pack by freezing a small bottle of water and rolling it over the affected area.
Interdigital neurectomy (removal of the diseased nerve) in right hands, should give satisfactory results almost all the time. Some of the reasons behind failure is when not enough nerve is dissected, mistakes in initial diagnosis, or bad handling of adjacent nerves, tendons and joint capsules during the operation. It is very common and acceptable to have some numbness in the area where the nerve used to be. This never causes any discomfort and often gets better in few years. It is crucial to address the biomechanical pathologies underlying the impingement of the nerve during and after the surgery.