Neuromas of the foot are a painful thickening and inflammation of the tissue that surrounds nerves leading to the toes. Also known as Morton's neuroma or intermetatarsal neuroma, the condition usually occurs between the third and fourth toes, though neuromas can also form between toes two and three.
Are you feeling pain on the bottom of your foot, between your toes—or like there's a pebble in your shoe—while walking? A neuroma may be to blame.
Getting prompt treatment for a neuroma is essential. Left untreated, neuromas can worsen over time, resulting in reduced mobility and permanent nerve damage. Don't risk it. A skilled podiatrist can help you resolve a neuroma, so you can get back on your feet. Here's what you should know about this common foot condition, including the wide-ranging treatment options available at Grandville Foot and Ankle.
Neuroma Causes and Risk Factors
Neuromas form when the tissue around nerves to the toes swell. In turn, this causes nearby ligaments and bones to apply excessive pressure to the affected nerve(s), leading to even more irritation and inflammation.
Though the exact cause of neuromas isn't known, the following factors are associated with the development of this painful condition.
- Shoe choice. Wearing shoes that fit poorly, or put excessive pressure on the balls of the feet and compress the toes—or restrict their movement—creates ideal conditions for neuromas to form.
- Foot shape. Biomechanical features like flat feet, high arches, or inherited deformities can cause instability of the toe joints, which increases the risk of developing neuromas.
- Certain medical conditions. Obesity, as well as foot conditions such as hammertoes or bunions, can make you more likely to suffer from neuromas.
- High-impact sports and activities. Running, tennis, racquetball, and other sports that place a lot of pressure on the balls of the feet can raise your risk for neuromas. Additionally, snow skiers and rock climbers also face an increased risk, due to the use of tight shoes that compress the toes.
- Trauma. A traumatic injury to the toes or forefoot—such as dropping a heavy object on them—can irritate the nerves that go to the toes, resulting in the inflammation and swelling that allows neuromas to develop.
- Occupational stress. Jobs that require workers to spend long hours on their feet can lead to the kind of repetitive foot stress that aggravates nerves, raising the risk for neuromas.
Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis
Neuromas can cause a number of uncomfortable and abnormal sensations, such as:
- Numbness in the ball of the foot
- Tingling between the toes that gets progressively worse
- Sharp, shooting, or burning pain in the ball of the foot or at the base of the toes
- Swelling and inflammation between the toes
- Feeling like there's a pebble in your shoe, or you're standing on a bunched-up or folded part of your sock
Typically, neuroma symptoms ease up at night and can worsen while walking, or after wearing restrictive shoes or spending a lot of time on your feet.
Since there are no visible signs associated with neuromas, correctly diagnosing this condition requires a thorough examination by an experienced podiatrist. In addition to the physical exam, the doctor may also use diagnostic tools like X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, and range of motion tests to confirm a neuroma diagnosis.
Because neuromas worsen over time, the sooner you see a podiatrist, the more treatment options are available. If you catch a neuroma in its earliest stages, treatment may be as simple as choosing better-fitting shoes, using store-bought shoe inserts, icing and resting the affected foot, and taking over-the-counter meds for pain management.
However, as the condition progresses, you may require professional interventions like custom inserts and orthotics, corrective shoes, or cortisone injections. When home remedies and conservative medical treatments fail to sufficiently relieve pain, surgery may be necessary to address your foot and heel pain.