Morton?s neuroma is inflammation, thickening, or enlargement of the nerve between the bones of the toes (metatarsal bones). The condition is also called intermetatarsal neuroma. The thickening is usually found between bones of the third and fourth toes of the foot, but sometimes it may develop between the second and third toes. It occurs when the medial plantar nerve near the bones of those toes becomes compressed or irritated, possibly because the metatarsal bones press against the nerve in the narrow gap between the toes. If left untreated, Morton?s neuroma can cause a sharp, burning, or shooting pain that often gets worse over time. The pain becomes worse when a person walks or stands on the ball of the foot. Sometimes the pain reaches the toes next to the neuroma and a sensation of tingling or numbness is felt.
Morton's neuroma develops for several reasons. The primary reason is wearing narrow toe-box shoes, which compress the metatarsal heads. Certain anatomical factors also make nerve compression more likely with the narrow toe box shoes. In some people fibers, the medial and lateral plantar nerves converge close to the heads of the third and fourth metatarsals. This junction creates a larger nerve structure between the metatarsal heads making it more vulnerable to compression.
Patients with a Morton's neuroma typically experience a sharp, shooting or burning pain, usually at the base of the forefoot or toes, which radiates into the two affected toes. Sometimes the pain may also radiate into the foot. The pain is often associated with the presence of pins and needles and numbness.
A GP (general practitioner, primary care physician) or a podiatrist (foot specialist doctor) will ask the patient to describe the pain as well as its intensity, when symptoms started, what types of shoes are worn, as well as some questions about their job, lifestyle and hobbies. The doctor will then examine the foot and try to locate the affected nerve. This may involve attempting to reproduce symptoms by manipulating the foot. In order to get a detailed image of the inside of the food, one of the following scans may be ordered. X-ray, this is a type of high-energy radiation. In low doses they are used to diagnose diseases and condition by making pictures of the inside of the body. In higher doses they are used to treat cancer. This procedure is non-invasive and painless. Ultrasound scan, high frequency sound waves are pointed at a specific part of the body, which in this case is the foot. The ultrasound waves bounce of tissues; their echoes are then converted into a picture, called a sonogram. This allows the doctor to get an inside view of the foot. This procedure is non-invasive and painless. MRI (magnetic resonance imagining) a device that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body. Unlike CT scanning or general x-ray studies, no ionizing radiation is involved with an MRI. This procedure is non-invasive and painless. The doctor will have to rule out other conditions which may have similar symptoms, including capsulitis, bursitis, or Freiberg's disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment involves a reduction in the inflammation and removing the impingement factor. Reduction in inflammation is achieved via rest, elevation, ice, and massage with anti-inflammatory gels. Removing foot wear and and/r wearing broad type footwear would also help. Injection therapy is useful in reducing symptoms but not very successful in providing long term relief. The only time when it is most appropriate is when the cause of the space occupying object is not a neuroma but an inflamed bursa. Injection would help to relieve symptoms, and often cortisone is not even necessary.
Operative treatment of Morton?s neuroma should be entertained only after failure of nonoperative management. Standard operative treatment involves identifying the nerve and cutting (resecting) it proximal to the point where it is irritate/injured. This is usually done through an incision on the top (dorsal) aspect of the foot, although in rare instances, an incision on the sole (plantar) aspect of the foot maybe used. An incision on the sole of the foot works very well, unless an excessive scar forms in which case it can be problematic. Some physicians will attempt to treat Morton?s neuroma by releasing the intermetatarsal ligament and freeing the nerve of local scar tissue. This may also be beneficial.