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If you’re suffering from unexplained pain or tingling in one or both feet, you could be suffering from Morton’s Neuroma. While the condition can be frustrating and hurtful, there’s good news. It can be prevented, and it is treatable.

What is Morton’s Neuroma?

It is a potentially painful condition that can impact the ball of your foot, most frequently between your third and fourth toes. Walking, running, and athletic activity occasionally puts an excessive amount of pressure on the balls of the feet. This leads to a thickening of the tissue around the nerves in the foot, which can develop into Morton’s Neuroma, or a plantar neuroma.

What are the symptoms?

The level and type of discomfort that Morton’s Neuroma sufferers feel varies by patient–every case is unique. Frequently, the patient feels as if they have a rock stuck in their shoe that they’re walking on and can’t get rid off. You might also feel:

  • pain, numbness and/or tingling at the ball of the foot, and/or around the third and fourth toes. This discomfort most often is intermittent.
  • burning feeling in the foot, sometimes shooting up into the leg
  • discomfort when walking, running or engaging in sports.

Another indication that Morton’s Neuroma might be behind your discomfort: the pain and other symptoms ease at night, or when you have been off your feet for extended periods. However, a number of Morton’s Neuroma sufferers (an estimated 33%) may not exhibit significant symptoms at all.

What causes Morton’s Neuroma?

While medical experts aren’t exactly certain what causes the condition, it seems to be connected to foot nerves being mashed, stretched, overworked or injured. A number of factors can increase the odds of Morton’s Neuroma occurring:

  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, or that put a great deal of pressure on the toes or balls of the feet, can lead to plantar flexion pain. In fact, Morton’s Neuroma is up to 10 times more likely to impact women, thanks to high heels or other slim-fitting footwear.
  • Running, tennis, volleyball and other intense physical activity can lead to Morton’s Neuroma–especially if enjoyed while wearing tight or slim-fitting shoes.
  • The natural shape of your foot could contribute to developing foot pain. Characteristics like flat feet, high arches, hammer toes or other existing conditions could increase your chances of developing Morton’s Neuroma.

How is it diagnosed?

If you think you may have Morton’s Neuroma, an orthopaedic exam can help confirm. During your appointment, your doctor may perform a number of procedures:

  • The doctor likely will conduct a physical exam. They may press on your foot around the area experiencing discomfort, feeling for a tender spot or a mass. You may experience a sensation of clicking between your foot bones.
  • X-rays could be ordered to help rule out other causes behind your foot pain, such as a stress fracture.
  • An ultrasound can be used to create images of your foot’s inner workings; this method often proves useful in revealing neuromas and other soft-tissue abnormalities.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is not typically used in Morton’s Neuroma diagnosis, because it can be expensive, and it may indicate neuromas in asymptomatic patients.

Man with Morton's Neuroma showing stretches to avoidWhat treatments are recommended?

If you suffer from Morton’s Neuroma, there are many options to deal with the condition and the persistent, annoying pain associated with it. Depending on the cause behind your case, severity of the pain and other factors, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments.

  • If your shoes are the likely cause, new footwear may be the solution. Your doctor may recommend avoiding high heels or tight shoes, replacing them with wider shoes that have a soft sole and little or no heals.
  • Stretching exercises targeting the afflicted area can provide relief. These might include stretching the lower leg, calf, and achilles muscles; and pointing and flexing your foot to help stretch the plantar fascia along the bottom of the foot.
  • Resting and just getting off your feet also can achieve relief–it eases pressure on the foot nerve and enables the inflammation to subside.
  • Applying an ice pack to the afflicted area also can help the inflamation go down.
  • Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter non-steroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Custom orthotics and pads can help relieve symptoms by lifting and separating the bones of the foot to reduce nerve pressure.
  • One or more corticosteroid injections could bring relief by reducing swelling and nerve inflammation.
  • While surgery is not commonly prescribed (the above remedies relieve the vast majority of cases), the doctor may recommend removal of a portion of the nerve. Treatment has a high success rate and typically a short recovery period; however, permanent numbness is a potential side effect.

Man with Morton's Neuroma stretching

If you believe you may be suffering from Morton’s Neuroma, consult an orthopaedic specialist as soon as possible. If left untreated, pain can worsen significantly over time–and the sooner you address the problem, the sooner you can achieve relief and get back to your life.

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