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This is a painful condition affecting a small nerve in the foot. It occurs when the five long bones that run the length of the foot get pushed together, pinching the nerve in between. This friction on the nerve causes it to thicken and inflame causing pain. The condition gets its name from an American surgeon, George Morton.
Some experts believe that other foot conditions may also be associated with Morton’s neuroma. This is because other conditions may cause the metatarsal bones to rub against the nerve in your foot. Foot problems that may increase your risk of developing Morton’s neuroma include abnormally positioned toes, high arches, where the arch or instep of your foot is raised more than normal, flat feet, low arches or no arches at all, bunions a bony swelling at the base of the toe. Hammer toe, where the toe is bent at the middle joint. Being active and playing sport can make the painful symptoms of Morton’s neuroma worse. In particular, running or sports that involve running, such as racquet sports, can place extra pressure on the nerve in your foot, which can aggravate the problem.
Outward signs of Morton’s neuroma, such as a lump, are extremely rare. Morton’s neuroma signs and symptoms, which usually occur unexpectedly and tend to worsen over time, include, pain on weight bearing (while walking) – a shooting pain affecting the contiguous halves of two toes, which may be felt after only a short time (of weight bearing). Sometimes there may be a dull pain rather than a sharp one. Most commonly, pain is felt between the third and fourth toes. Typically, a patient will suddenly experience pain while walking and will have to stop and remove their shoe. Burning. Numbness. Parasthesia, tingling, pricking, or numbness with no apparent long-term physical effect. Commonly known as pins-and-needles. A sensation that something is inside the ball of the foot.
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
The first line of treatment is to try modifying footwear. Often simply wearing broader fitting shoes can reduce pressure on the neuroma and so reduce pain. Orthotic inserts can also help as they can again help reduce pressure on certain parts of the foot. Padding and taping the toe area is another option. In some cases a steroid injection into the foot may be suggested. This can be done as a day case without the need for anaesthesia and helps reduce inflation of the nerve. It can halt the pain in round 70 % of cases. Sometimes a combination of alcohol and local anaesthesia may be injected as this helps reduce pain.
If symptoms do not respond to any of the above measures then surgery may be suggested. This involves a short 30 minute operation to either remove tissue to take pressure off the nerve or to remove the nerve causing the pain. The surgery can be done as a day case but it will be two or three weeks before you can be fully active on your feet. There may be some lingering numbness afterwards if the nerve is removed. But surgery is successful in around 80% of cases. There is a small risk of complications such as infection and thickening of the skin on the soles of the feet.