Have you ever taken off your shoe, thinking there was a pebble inside, only to find nothing? You may be experiencing the effects of a neuroma. Morton’s neuroma is the term for a thickening of the tissue around the nerve between the third and fourth toes. It can be painful and lead to permanent damage if left untreated.
Symptoms of a Morton’s neuroma include sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot and a stinging or numb feeling in the toes. Symptoms show up only occasionally at first but will increase in intensity and become more persistent as the condition worsens. Over time, the tissue will thicken to the point where you may lose feeling in those toes.
As with many foot ailments, the causes are easily brought on by improper footwear. High heels that squeeze the toes together can lead to Morton’s neuroma. Some sports featuring tight footwear such as rock climbing, ballet, and skiing have been linked to neuroma development.
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Neuromas are also more likely to occur in those with high arches, flat feet, bunions, hammertoes, or other foot deformities. Your podiatrist will likely take x-rays to rule out other causes of pain (such as stress fractures) or perform an ultrasound to see what’s happening in your soft tissues.
If caught early, many patients can stop their pain and reverse the effects of a neuroma. Step one is to get the proper footwear. Choose shoes with a wide toe-box. If you must wear heels, try a wedge or a lower heel height. Make sure you relieve any pressure on your toes occasionally if you wear tight shoes throughout the day. Padding your shoes and adding arch supports can help along with over-the-counter pain relievers and corticosteroid injections. If the condition has been allowed to progress too far, surgery to loosen the tendon holding the toes or a complete removal of the affected nerve may be necessary, though this only occurs in approximately 20% of cases.
Morton’s neuroma is a common foot ailment that is easy to avoid and treat with a little bit of attention and the right shoes. If you feel as if you are constantly walking on a fold in your sock or a stone in your shoe, call your podiatrist to make an appointment today. Those pains aren’t just in your head; they’re in your foot! And we can help you with that.