Neuromas: Painful Trapped Nerves

Know what it feels like to step on a LEGO brick, or get something trapped between your foot and your sock or sandal? A Morton’s neuroma can often feel similar—only you can’t just easily brush it aside. This relatively common condition can cause pain in the ball of your foot, right between your third and fourth toes, when you walk or stand.

What Is a Neuroma?

A neuroma, in the general sense, is any thickening of nerve tissue. It can occur in many different places in your body, but the most common problem spot (or at least the one that causes the most trouble) surrounds a nerve between the base of your third and fourth toes. This is a Morton’s neuroma, also sometimes known as an intermetatarsal neuroma.

This thickened mass of tissue may not be large enough for you to feel just with your fingers. However, when you place weight on your foot the thickened tissue presses against the nerve, leading to all sorts of potential problems.

The most common symptom is pain in the ball of your foot when standing or walking. It can also cause tingling, numbness, or burning sensations that may radiate into the toes and surrounding area, and with time may cause permanent nerve damage. Swelling may also be present.

Why Morton’s Neuromas Form

As with many other conditions, a Morton’s neuroma may have many contributing factors. The underlying problem is generally thought to be a response to injury or repetitive irritation and stress on the nerve in question.

Certain variations in foot shape, such as bunions, hammertoes, or a particularly flat or high arch may increase the odds of developing a neuroma due to the added stresses they place on and around the toe joints. Other common factors may include frequently wearing improper footwear (such as high heels or shoes that are too tight) and participation in high-impact athletic activity without adequate rest time.

Women are around 8-10 times more likely to develop a Morton’s neuroma than men, which may be the result of both biological and lifestyle factors.

Lifestyle and Conservative Treatments

Although surgery is the only way to “fix” a neuroma, you do have many less invasive options to prevent progression of tissue thickening and manage symptoms.

A change in footwear, away from high heels and towards styles with a little extra width and depth in the toe box area, can make a big difference. Likewise, tools that manage underlying conditions (such as arch supports or orthotics) can help deflect pressure away from the forefoot. You should also take a break from high-impact activity for a few weeks in order to reduce pain and swelling.

We also provide state-of-the-art laser therapy, along with other treatment solutions such as steroid injections, to help you control pain.

Surgical Treatment

Before considering surgery, we’ll exhaust all our other options first. However, if symptoms persist despite these efforts, we may recommend it. We specialize in neuroma surgery and will select a procedure based on the severity of your condition, as well as your personal needs and goals.

Morton’s neuroma surgery usually falls into one of two broad categories: decompression or removal. The goal of decompression surgery is to relieve pressure on the nerve by cutting nearby ligaments or other structures; the other alternative is to remove the growth itself. We will discuss all options with you, including the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, before pursuing surgery.

If the symptoms we’ve described above sound familiar to you—or if you have any other acute or chronic issues with your feet or ankles—please contact Dr. Harvey Danciger in Palm Desert, CA as soon as you are able. The earlier you pursue professional help, the more likely non-invasive courses of treatment will be successful. You can request an appointment by using our online contact form, or you can call our office directly at 760-568-0108.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle