If you sometimes feel that you are "walking on a marble," and you have persistent pain in the ball of your foot, you may have a condition called Morton's neuroma. A neuroma is a benign tumor of a nerve. Morton's neuroma is not actually a tumor, but a thickening of the tissue that surrounds the digital nerve leading to the toes. Morton's neuroma occurs as the nerve passes under the ligament connecting the toe bones (metatarsals) in the forefoot. Morton's neuroma most frequently develops between the third and fourth toes, usually in response to irritation, trauma or excessive pressure. The incidence of Morton's neuroma is 8 to 10 times greater in women than in men.
Morton's neuroma is an inflammation caused by a buildup of fibrous tissue on the outer coating of nerves. This fibrous buildup is a reaction to the irritation resulting from nearby bones and ligaments rubbing against the nerves. Irritation can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight, wearing shoes that place the foot in an awkward position, such as high heels, a foot that is mechanically unstable, repetitive trauma to the foot such as from sports activities like tennis, basketball, and running. Trauma to the foot caused by an injury such as a sprain or fracture. It is unusual for more than one Morton's neuroma to occur on one foot at the same time. It is rare for Morton's neuroma to occur on both feet at the same time.
The symptoms of a Morton's neuroma are classic in nature. The patient complains of a burning , tingling, slightly numb feeling (dysesthesias) which radiates out to the toes on either side of the interspace that is involved. For instance, a Morton's neuroma of the third interspace will result in pain between the third and fourth toes, and a neuroma in the second interspace will cause pain between the second and third toes. The symptoms are usually aggravated by wearing shoes, particularly those with high heels. Symptoms are relieved by walking in flat, wide shoes or going barefoot. Rarely will the patient experience pain when sitting or laying down.
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
Simple treatments may be all that are needed for some people with a Morton's neuroma. They include the following. Footwear adjustments including avoidance of high-heeled and narrow shoes and having special orthotic pads and devices fitted into your shoes. Calf-stretching exercises may also be taught to help relieve the pressure on your foot. Steroid or local anaesthetic injections (or a combination of both) into the affected area of the foot may be needed if the simple footwear changes do not fully relieve symptoms. However, the footwear modification measures should still be continued. Sclerosant injections involve the injection of alcohol and local anaesthetic into the affected nerve under the guidance of an ultrasound scan. Some studies have shown this to be as effective as surgery.
Surgery for Morton's neuroma is usually a treatment of last resort. It may be recommended if you have severe pain in your foot or if non-surgical treatments haven't worked. Surgery is usually carried out under local anaesthetic, on an outpatient basis, which means you won't need to stay in hospital overnight. The operation can take up to 30 minutes. The surgeon will make a small incision, either on the top of your foot or on the sole. They may try to increase the space around the nerve (nerve decompression) by removing some of the surrounding tissue, or they may remove the nerve completely (nerve resection). If the nerve is removed, the area between your toes may be permanently numb. After the procedure you'll need to wear a special protective shoe until the affected area has healed sufficiently to wear normal footwear. It can take up to four weeks to make a full recovery. Most people (about 75%) who have surgery to treat Morton's neuroma have positive results and their painful symptoms are relieved.