If you sometimes feel that you are “walking on a marble,” and you have persistent pain in the ball of your foot, you may have a condition called Morton’s neuroma. A neuroma is a benign tumor of a nerve. Morton’s neuroma is not actually a tumor, but a thickening of the tissue that surrounds the digital nerve leading to the toes. Morton’s neuroma occurs as the nerve passes under the ligament connecting the toe bones (metatarsals) in the forefoot. Morton’s neuroma most frequently develops between the third and fourth toes, usually in response to irritation, trauma or excessive pressure. The incidence of Morton’s neuroma is 8 to 10 times greater in women than in men.
Various factors have been implicated in the precipitation of Morton’s neuroma. Morton’s neuroma is known to develop as a result of chronic nerve stress and irritation, particularly with excessive toe dorsiflexion. Poorly fitting and constricting shoes (ie, small toe box) or shoes with heel lifts often contribute to Morton’s neuroma. Women who wear high-heeled shoes for a number of years or men who are required to wear constrictive shoe gear are at risk. A biomechanical theory of causation involves the mechanics of the foot and ankle. For instance, individuals with tight gastrocnemius-soleus muscles or who excessively pronate the foot may compensate by dorsiflexion of the metatarsals subsequently irritating of the interdigital nerve. Certain activities carry increased risk of excessive toe dorsiflexion, such as prolonged walking, running, squatting, and demi-pointe position in ballet.
What are the symptoms of Morton?s neuroma? A sharp or stinging pain between the toes when standing or walking. Pain in the forefoot between the toes. Swelling between the toes. Tingling (?pins and needles?) and numbness. Feeling like there is a ?bunched up sock? or a pebble or marble under the ball of the foot.
Your doctor will suspect that you have a Morton’s neuroma based on the nature and location of your foot pain. He or she may ask questions about your shoes – what type of shoes you usually wear and whether these shoes have narrow toes or high heels. To rule out other causes of foot pain, your doctor may ask questions about your medical history, especially any history of arthritis, nerve and muscle problems or previous injury to your foot or leg.
Non Surgical Treatment
Sclerosing alcohol injections are an increasingly available treatment alternative if the above management approaches fail. Dilute alcohol (4%) is injected directly into the area of the neuroma, causing toxicity to the fibrous nerve tissue. Frequently, treatment must be performed 2-4 times, with 1-3 weeks between interventions. An 60-80% success rate has been achieved in clinical studies, equal to or exceeding the success rate for surgical neurectomy with fewer risks and less significant recovery. If done with more concentrated alcohol under ultrasound guidance, the success rate is considerably higher and fewer repeat procedures are needed. Radio Frequency Ablation is also used in the treatment of Morton’s Neuroma The outcomes appear to be equally or more reliable than alcohol injections especially if the procedure is done under ultrasound guidance.
Surgery may be considered in patients who have not responded adequately to non-surgical treatments. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the approach that is best for your condition. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure performed. Regardless of whether you?ve undergone surgical or nonsurgical treatment, your surgeon will recommend long-term measures to help keep your symptoms from returning. These include appropriate footwear and modification of activities to reduce the repetitive pressure on the foot.