Morton neuromas are focal areas of symptomatic perineural fibrosis around a plantar digital nerve of the foot. The abnormality is non-neoplastic and does not represent a true neuroma. It may more correctly be known as Morton?s metatarsalgia. The condition is thought to be due to chronic entrapment of the nerve by the intermetatarsal ligament. It most often occurs in middle-aged individuals and is many times more common in women than men. Approximately 30% of asymptomatic middle-aged persons have the radiological pathologic findings of a Morton?s neuroma.
There are orthoses and corrective shoes that can effectively alleviate disturbances to foot mechanics. A podiatric physician can prescribe the best corrective footwear and shoe inserts for all activities, work, exercise, play, walking, shopping and more, based on an analysis of the patient?s foot and his or her lifestyle. Improper footwear. Podiatric physicians have long believed that constricting, narrow, poor-fitting shoes with a tight or pointed toe box tend to compress the end of the foot, leading to abnormal motion of the foot and to excessive pressure in the area of the nerve. High-heeled shoes are a particular culprit here, since they put pressure on the area around wearer?s toes and the ball of the foot.
The primary symptoms include sharp, shooting pain, numbness or paresthesia in the forefoot and extending distally into the toes, typically in the region of the third and fourth toes. Symptoms are aggravated with narrow toe box shoes or those with high heels. There is usually a reduction of symptoms when walking barefoot or wearing shoes with an appropriately wide toe box. Symptoms are also aggravated with shoes that are tied too tight.
The clinical symptoms should quickly lead your doctor to suspect a neuroma. When examined, the doctor may feel a "click" which is known as Mulder's sign. There may be tenderness in the interspace. The metatarsal bones will also be examined both clinically (and often with an xray). Tenderness at one of the metatarsal bones can suggest an overstress reaction (pre-stress fracture or stress fracture) in the bone. An ultrasound scan can confirm the diagnosis and is a less expensive and at this time, at least as sensitive a test as an MRI. An x-ray does not show neuromas, but can be useful to "rule out" other causes of the pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment options vary with the severity of each neuroma, and identifying the neuroma early in its development is important to avoid surgical correction. For simple, undeveloped neuromas, a pair of thick-soled shoes with a wide toe box is often adequate treatment to relieve symptoms, allowing the condition to diminish on its own. For more severe conditions, however, additional treatment or surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor. The primary goal of most early treatment regimens is to relieve pressure on areas where a neuroma develops. Your podiatric physician will examine and likely X-ray the affected area and suggest a treatment plan that best suits your individual case. Padding and Taping. Special padding at the ball of the foot may change the abnormal foot function and relieve the symptoms caused by the neuroma. Medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation caused by the neuroma. Orthotics. Custom shoe inserts made by your podiatrist may be useful in controlling foot function. Orthotics may reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the condition.
When conservative measures are unsuccessful, surgery can be a good choice in the treatment of Morton's neuroma. The operation for Morton's neuroma does not require an overnight hospital stay. The anesthetic used is an ankle block, which completely numbs the foot during the surgery. The physician removes the neuroma from an incision made on the top of the foot between the involved metatarsal heads. The nerve to the interspace is exposed and cut next to the metatarsal heads.