Also known as Morton's Interdigital Neuroma, Morton's Metatarsalgia, Morton's Neuralgia, Plantar Neuroma, Intermetatarsal Neuroma) What is a Morton's neuroma? Morton's neuroma is a condition characterized by localized swelling of the nerve and soft tissue located between two of the long bones of the foot (metatarsals - figure 1), which can result in pain, pins and needles, or numbness in the forefoot or toes.
Morton's neuroma may be the result of irritation, pressure or injury. In some cases its cause is unknown. In the majority of cases only one nerve is affected. Having both feet affected is extremely rare. A high percentage of patients with Morton's neuroma are women who wear high-heeled or narrow shoes. Patients with Morton's neuroma may need to change their footwear, take painkillers or steroid injections, while others may require surgery to either remove the affected nerve or release the pressure on it.
There may be pain at the end of the push-off phase when walking or running, and this pain is generally worse when the client is wearing shoes as opposed to being barefoot. Clients may also report a relief of symptoms by massaging the foot, which may spread the metatarsal heads and mobilize the entrapped nerve.
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose a Morton's neuroma. Investigations such as an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT scan or bone scan may sometimes be used to assist with diagnosis, assess the severity of the injury and rule out other conditions.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial therapies are nonsurgical and can involve one or more of the following treatments Changes in footwear. Avoid high heels or tight shoes, and wear wider shoes with lower heels and a soft sole. This enables the bones to spread out and may reduce pressure on the nerve, giving it time to heal. Custom shoe inserts and pads also help relieve irritation by lifting and separating the bones, reducing the pressure on the nerve. One or more injections of a corticosteroid medication can reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerve, bringing some relief. Massaging the affected area can provide some momentary relief. Several studies have shown that a combination of roomier, more comfortable shoes, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, custom foot orthoses and cortisone injections provide relief in over 80 percent of people with Morton?s Neuroma. If conservative treatment does not relieve your symptoms, your physician may discuss surgical treatment options with you.
The ultimate success of a Morton?s neuroma treated surgically can be variable. In cases where the underlying problem is only an irritated nerve (a true Morton?s neuroma), then surgery will probably be curative (although it may take a few months for the foot to fully heal). But in many cases, forefoot pain is more complex. There may be an irritated nerve or two causing pain, but the real problem is often excessive loading of the lesser metatarsals. The generic term for this condition is metatarsalgia. When considering surgery, identifying and addressing these problems may lead to a better end result.