Morton’s neuroma is an injury to the nerve between the toes, which causes thickening and pain. It commonly affects the nerve that travels between the third and fourth toes.
See also: Foot pain
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Morton’s neuroma is more common in women than in men.
The exact cause is unknown. However, some experts believe the following may play a role in the development of this condition:
Abnormal positioning of toes
Forefoot problems, including bunions and hammer toes
High foot arches
Tight shoes and high heels
Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include:
Tingling in the space between the third and fourth toes
Sharp, shooting, or burning pains in the ball of your foot (and sometimes toes)
Pain that increases when wearing shoes or pressing on the area
Pain that gets worse over time
In rare cases, nerve pain occurs in the space between the second and third toes. This is not a common form of Morton’s neuroma, but treatment is similar.
Signs and tests
Your healthcare provider can usually diagnose this problem by examining your foot. A foot x-ray may be done to rule out bone problems. MRI or high-resolution ultrasound can successfully diagnose Morton’s neuroma.
Nerve testing (electromyography) cannot diagnose Morton’s neuroma, but may be used to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms.
Blood tests may be done to check for inflammation-related conditions, including certain forms of arthritis.
Nonsurgical treatment is tried first. Your doctor may recommend any of the following:
- Padding and taping the toe area
- Shoe inserts
- Changes to footwear (for example, shoes with wider toe boxes)
- Anti-inflammatory medicines taken by mouth or injected into the toe area
- Nerve blocking medicines injected into the toe area
- Other painkillers
- Physical therapy
Anti-inflammatories and painkillers are not recommended for long-term treatment.
In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the thickened tissue. This can help relieve pain and improve foot function. Numbness after surgery is permanent, but should not be painful.
Nonsurgical treatment does not always improve symptoms. Surgery to remove the thickened tissue is successful in about 85% of cases.
Morton’s neuroma can make walking difficult. Persons with this foot condition may also have trouble performing activities that put pressure on the foot, such as pressing the gas pedal of an automobile. It may hurt to wear certain types of shoes, such as high-heels.
Calling your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider if you have persistent pain or tingling in your foot or toe area.
Avoid ill-fitting shoes. Wear shoes with a wide toe box.