What is Morton’s neuroma, and how do we treat it?
A Morton’s neuroma is irritation and swelling of a small nerve between the bones at the front of the foot. It is usually felt between the 3rd and 4th toe and is often associated with poor foot biomechanics and wearing the wrong footwear. Morton’s neuroma can cause a lot of pain. Patients often describe the pain as feeling like there is a ‘stone in their shoe’.
There are different ways to treat Morton’s neuroma. This will often include correcting the biomechanics of the foot, reviewing footwear and addressing any muscle tightness and weakness. Here are a few top tips you can try yourself:
- Avoid wearing tight slip-on shoes especially if you have quite wide feet
- Leather lace-up shoes are normally more comfortable
- Ensure your shoes are not too small for you. Here is a quick test: there should be a thumb width from the end of the shoe to your big toe. If there is not, you need to go up a size! (In one study, up to 90% of people wore shoes too small for them)
- Stretch your calf muscles regularly
- Strengthen the intrinsic muscles of your foot. One of our expert physiotherapists will be able to provide you with a bespoke rehabilitation plan
- Use an off the shelf orthotic to support the arches of your feet or a ‘metatarsal pad’. These can be purchased from most pharmacists
If you come to see one of our highly specialised physiotherapists we will be able to confirm the correct diagnosis. This may involve a diagnostic ultrasound scan to differentiate between other problems which can present similarly to Morton’s neuroma, such as bursitis, plantar plate injuries and stress fractures of the foot. We will also examine your foot biomechanics, assess the way you walk and assess your muscle strength.
Morton’s neuroma can cause pain for prolonged periods if left untreated. If the nerve becomes very irritated and enlarged, it may not respond to these simple conservative treatments and may require intervention such as an injection and, rarely, may even require surgical removal.
What is Morton’s neuroma pain?
As the nerve becomes irritated between the bones in the forefoot, it will begin to thicken. Unfortunately, this causes the nerve to become even more pinched and impinged, and often the pain becomes worse. Patients often feel pain when they are walking for prolonged periods. As the nerve becomes more irritated, the pain can become quite constant and can shoot into the toes.
Symptoms include a sharp pain felt at the front of the foot. Again, often described as having a stone or something sharp in the shoe. The pain is frequently exacerbated by impact, e.g. runners can often feel severe pain every time their foot strikes the floor.
How long does it take for Morton’s neuroma to settle?
Unfortunately, Morton’s neuroma pain can stay for a very long time, mainly when there are significant biomechanical issues or if the person does a lot of impact activity and wears sub-optimal footwear, for example, if their shoes are too tight for them.
How do you treat Morton’s neuroma?
We would start by correcting the mechanics of walking and running. We would look at muscle length and strength relationship, and consider orthotics. Depending on how thickened the nerve has become, it may require an injection and, in some cases, occasionally may require surgical review.
At Complete, we can perform a full assessment of the foot. This includes a diagnostic ultrasound scan to ascertain the correct diagnosis. If the symptoms are failing to improve we may offer an injection (using ultrasound guidance) using a combination of steroid and local anaesthetic to reduce the pain and inflammation around the nerve.