Diagnosing Mortons Neuroma

Overview

Morton’s Neuroma is a common foot problem associated with pain, swelling and/or an inflammation of a nerve, usually at the ball-of-the-foot between the 3rd and 4th toes. Symptoms of this condition include sharp pain, burning, and even a lack of feeling in the affected area. Morton’s Neuroma may also cause numbness, tingling, or cramping in the forefoot.

Causes

The source of this pain is an enlargment of the sheath of an intermetatarsal nerve in the foot. This usually occurs in the third intermetatarsal space, the space between the third and fourth toes and metatarsals. It occurs here, at the site third intermetatarsal nerve, since this intermetatarsal nerve is the thickest being comprised of the joining of two different nerves. It also may occur in the other intermetatarsal areas, with the second interspace being the next most common location.

Symptoms

It usually occurs in between the 3rd and 4th toes (about 65% of cases) as is pictured to the right. It is less commonly found in the 2nd webspace, and rarely at all in the 1st or 4th webspaces. You can also experience pins and needles and/or numbness as a result of the nerve being affected. The condition tends to occur predominantly in middle aged females.

Diagnosis

To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will examine your feet. He or she will look for areas of tenderness, swelling, calluses, numbness, muscle weakness and limited motion. To check for a Morton’s neuroma, your doctor will squeeze the sides of your foot. Squeezing should compress the neuroma and trigger your typical pain. In some cases, your doctor will find numbness in the webbed area between the affected toes. Pain in two or more locations on one foot, such as between both the second and third toes and the third and fourth toes, more likely indicates that the toe joints are inflamed rather than a Morton’ neuroma.

Non Surgical Treatment

The first line of treatment is to try modifying footwear. Often simply wearing broader fitting shoes can reduce pressure on the neuroma and so reduce pain. Orthotic inserts can also help as they can again help reduce pressure on certain parts of the foot. Padding and taping the toe area is another option. In some cases a steroid injection into the foot may be suggested. This can be done as a day case without the need for anaesthesia and helps reduce inflation of the nerve. It can halt the pain in round 70 % of cases. Sometimes a combination of alcohol and local anaesthesia may be injected as this helps reduce pain.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery for Morton’s neuroma is usually a treatment of last resort. It may be recommended if you have severe pain in your foot or if non-surgical treatments haven’t worked. Surgery is usually carried out under local anaesthetic, on an outpatient basis, which means you won’t need to stay in hospital overnight. The operation can take up to 30 minutes. The surgeon will make a small incision, either on the top of your foot or on the sole. They may try to increase the space around the nerve (nerve decompression) by removing some of the surrounding tissue, or they may remove the nerve completely (nerve resection). If the nerve is removed, the area between your toes may be permanently numb. After the procedure you’ll need to wear a special protective shoe until the affected area has healed sufficiently to wear normal footwear. It can take up to four weeks to make a full recovery. Most people (about 75%) who have surgery to treat Morton’s neuroma have positive results and their painful symptoms are relieved.

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