What is a Neuroma?
A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue that may develop in various parts of the body. The most common neuroma in the foot is a Morton’s neuroma, which occurs between the third and fourth toes. It is sometimes referred to as an intermetatarsal neuroma. Intermetatarsal describes its location in the ball of the foot between the metatarsal bones. Neuromas may also occur in other locations in the foot.
The thickening of the nerve that defines a neuroma is the result of compression and irritation of the nerve. This compression creates enlargement of the nerve, causing the symptoms of Morton’s neuroma and eventually leading to permanent nerve damage.
Causes of Morton's Neuroma
Anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve can lead to the development of a neuroma. One of the most common offenders is wearing shoes that have a tapered toe box or high-heeled shoes that cause the toes to be forced into the toe box. People with certain foot deformities—bunions, hammertoes, flatfeet or more flexible feet—are at higher risk for developing a neuroma. Other potential causes are activities that involve repetitive irritation to the ball of the foot, such as running or court sports. An injury or other type of trauma to the area may also lead to a neuroma.
Symptoms Of Morton’s Neuroma
If you have a Morton’s neuroma, you may have one or more of these symptoms where the nerve damage is occurring:
- Tingling, burning or numbness
- A feeling that something is inside the ball of the foot
- A feeling that there is something in the shoe or a sock is bunched up
The progression of a Morton’s neuroma often follows this pattern:
The symptoms begin gradually. At first, they occur only occasionally when wearing narrow-toed shoes or performing certain aggravating activities.
The symptoms may go away temporarily by removing the shoe, massaging the foot or avoiding aggravating shoes or activities.
Over time, the symptoms progressively worsen and may persist for several days or weeks.
The symptoms become more intense as the neuroma enlarges and the temporary changes in the nerve become permanent.
Diagnosis Of Morton’s Neuroma
To arrive at a diagnosis, the the Calgary podiatrists at Feldman & Leavitt will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination, the doctor attempts to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot. Other tests or imaging studies may be performed like an ultrasound.
The best time to see your Calgary podiatrist is early in the development of symptoms. Early diagnosis of a Morton’s neuroma greatly lessens the need for more invasive treatments and may help you avoid surgery.
In developing a treatment plan, your Calgary podiatrist will first determine how long you have had the neuroma and will evaluate its stage of development. Treatment approaches vary according to the severity of the problem.
For mild to moderate neuromas, treatment options may include:
Padding. Padding techniques provide support for the metatarsal arch, thereby lessening the pressure on the nerve and decreasing the compression when walking.
Icing. Placing an icepack on the affected area helps reduce swelling.
Orthotic devices. Custom orthotic devices provided by your Calgary podiatrist provide the support needed to reduce pressure and compression on the nerve.
Activity modifications. Activities that put repetitive pressure on the neuroma should be avoided until the condition improves.
Shoe modifications. Wear shoes with a wide toe box and avoid narrow-toed shoes or shoes with high heels. Avoid having bare feet indoors on hard surfaces.
Medications. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation.
Injection therapy. Treatment may include injections of cortisone, local anesthetics, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Neither Dr Feldman or Dr Leavitt recommend the use of alcohol injections for neuromas.
When Is Surgery Needed?
Surgery may be considered in patients who have not responded adequately to nonsurgical treatments. Your Calgary podiatrist will determine the approach that is best for your condition. The length of the recovery period will vary depending on the procedure performed.
Regardless of whether you have undergone surgical or nonsurgical treatment, your surgeon will recommend long-term measures to help keep your symptoms from returning. These include appropriate footwear and modification of activities to reduce the repetitive pressure on the foot.
As a general rule, Morton's Neuroma procedures are performed on an out-patient basis in an Alberta Health Services (AHS) approved Surgical Center or in a Hospital. Surgical procedural costs are covered by AHS or the patient may opt for private surgery to avoid a waiting time. A visit to Feldman & Leavitt Foot And Ankle Specialists will CLEARLY define all available patient options.