Nerves are sensitive. This only makes sense—they are what allows your body to feel everything. The nervous tissue itself, however, is extremely susceptible to changes and conditions that may compress it. Damage to nerves in the forefoot can lead to painful problems like Morton’s neuroma.
Pinched and Painful
Morton’s neuroma is a painful injury that develops in your forefoot. It’s the result of abnormal pressure or trauma to a nerve in between the heads of your metatarsal bones found in the ball of the foot. It most commonly affects the nerve between the second and third metatarsals.
Unlike other neuromas, which are nerve tumors that grow in response to abnormal stress, this condition is actually a thickening or swelling of the nervous tissue. This impairs the nerve and causes it to misfire painfully. You may develop tingling, burning, and numbness in the ball of your foot that might radiate into your toes. Some people complain of feeling like they’re standing on a pebble or a wrinkle in their socks. The discomfort tends to worsen over time.
Many different issues can contribute to this condition. Anything that compresses the toes and metatarsal bones can help create Morton’s neuroma. One of the most common factors is wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or that apply excessive pressure to the ball of your foot. Footwear that is too narrow or has a pointed toe box squeezes the forefoot and puts pressure on the digits. High heels shift your body weight forward and directs extra pressure to the ball of the foot.
Certain natural foot shapes, like abnormally high or low arches, strain the forefoot and increase your risk for developing the problem. Pre-existing conditions, like bunions or hammertoes, may contribute to the issue as well. Repetitive stress can also be a problem for the forefoot nerves, so running and other sports may also increase your risk for the condition.
Easing the Aggravation
The majority of Morton’s neuroma cases can be managed using only conservative methods, particularly if you take care of the problem early on. Dr. Sanjay Patel and our expert staff will need to carefully examine your feet to rule out other possible conditions and identify the contributing factors. Then we can begin targeted treatment.
The most important step will be to reduce the pressure on your forefoot. Relieving the pressure on the nervous tissue helps it heal. This may mean taking a break from your hard-impact activities and changing your footwear. Avoid wearing high heels or other shoes that squeeze the toes or direct pressure onto the ball of the foot. Instead, choose supportive models with wide toe boxes and low heels. You may need orthotics to help correct abnormal biomechanics and better cushion the forefoot.
Ice the ball of the foot to discourage swelling and irritation in the nerve. A simple metatarsal pad in your shoe can help cushion the ball of the foot when you walk. For stubborn nerve pain, we may recommend anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes direct injections of medicine can help shrink the nerve and reduce the pressure. If conservative therapies are not able to adequately manage the discomfort, you may need surgery to decompress—or entirely remove—the damaged nerve tissue.
Morton’s neuroma is a painful problem that can make normal activities and wearing some shoes fairly unpleasant. Taking care of the problem properly can help with the discomfort, however. Let Dr. Sanjay Patel and our expert staff at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. help you. To make an appointment, call either of our two offices—203-876-7736 for the Milford location, or 203-288-4055 for the Hamden office—or fill out our contact form.