Morton?s Neuroma is a pathological condition of the common digital nerve in the foot, most frequently between the third and fourth metatarsals (third inter-metatarsal space). The nerve sheath becomes abnormally thickened with fibrous (scar) tissue and the nerve fibres eventually deteriorate.This condition is named for the American surgeon, Thomas George Morton (1835-1903), who first recognised the condition in 1876. Incidentally his father was the dentist who discovered the anaesthetics; initially Nitrous oxide, the very gas used today in cryosurgery for the condition his son lent his name to? Morton?s neuroma.
The exact cause is as yet unclear. However there are a number of theories. Some expert s believe problems with the design of the foot makes some people more prone to Morton?s neuroma. Having flat feet or a high arch for example encourages the foot to slide forwards which can put excess pressure on the metatarsals. Bunions and hammer toes also increase the likelihood of developing Morton?s. However simply wearing high heels or any form of tight shoes that put pressure on the bones in the feet can also lead to a Morton?s . Typically the condition comes on between the age of 40 and 50. It is far more common in women than men – three out of four sufferers are women.
Patients with a Morton’s neuroma typically experience a sharp, shooting or burning pain, usually at the base of the forefoot or toes, which radiates into the two affected toes. Sometimes the pain may also radiate into the foot. The pain is often associated with the presence of pins and needles and numbness.
Based on the physical examination, your doctor usually can diagnose a Morton’s neuroma without additional testing. A foot X-ray may be ordered to make sure that there isn’t a stress fracture, but it will not show the actual neuroma. If the diagnosis is in doubt, your doctor may request magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
The most important factor in the treatment of Morton’s neuroma is changing footwear. Sometimes a cushioned dome pad can be worn inside the shoe and this helps spread the metatarsal heads and decrease pressure on the nerve. There are other products that can be worn between the toes with certain types of shoes or when the client is barefoot. These toe spacers will help reverse biomechanical patterns that aggravate the nerve compression. Massage can be helpful, but should not be performed with deep pressure between the metatarsal heads. Additional pressure in this region can aggravate the nerve compression and prolong the pathology.
If other therapies have not worked it may be necessary to perform surgery. As surgery may result in permanent numbness in the affected toe, doctors ten to use this procedure as a last resort. However, in most cases surgery is extremely effective. The patient usually receives a local anesthetic. Surgery involves either removing the nerve, or removing the pressure on the nerve. Two surgical approaches are possible. The dorsal approach, the surgeon makes an incision on the top of the foot, allowing the patient to walk soon after surgery, because the stitches are not on the weight-bearing side of the foot. The plantar approach, the surgeon makes an incision on the sole of the foot. In most cases the patient will be in crutches for about three weeks. The resulting scar may make walking uncomfortable. However, with this approach the neuroma can be reached easily and resected without cutting any structures. There is a small risk of infection around the toes after surgery.