What Is a Neuroma?
A neuroma is a nerve condition commonly referred to as a pinched nerve. Neuromas of the foot involve a thickening of the nerve tissue and are often found between the third and fourth toes. This condition is painful, and can cause numbness and burning sensation between the toes and in the ball of the foot.
Patients who believe they are suffering from this condition should seek a podiatric specialist at the first sign of pain or discomfort as neuromas tend to get worse if left untreated.
Causes and Symptoms of Neuroma
It’s unknown exactly what causes a neuroma of the foot, but a number of factors can lead to one. People who have high arches or flat feet are more susceptible to neuromas due to the instability those traits can cause around the toe joints. Neuromas can also form after trauma that caused nerve damage, resulting in inflammation or nerve swelling. In some cases, neuromas can occur from simple repetitive activity such as running.
Shoes that squeeze the toes together, high-heeled shoes, or repeated work-related foot stress can also result in a neuroma.
Neuroma symptoms include:
- The sensation of a pebble being stepped on or pushed against.
- A burning pain in the ball of the foot that may extend into the toes.
- Tingling or numbness in the toes.
Relief can often come from removing the shoe and rubbing the affected area. However, a neuroma will not go away on its own. Symptoms may arise and subside depending on the type of shoes being worn and how much time patients spend on their feet.
Types of Neuromas
Neuromas can occur in many regions of the body; specifically, a neuroma of the foot is called a Morton’s neuroma. While this type of neuroma typically develops between the third and fourth toes, it can also occur between the second and third toes. It is rare for neuromas to develop elsewhere on the foot.
Neuroma Diagnosis and Treatment
The podiatrist may examine the foot to feel for the thickened tissue or a painful area. An x-ray, ultrasound or an MRI may also be needed to help diagnose a neuroma.
Diagnosing a neuroma early is key to avoiding surgery. Early treatment options are designed to relieve pressure and include special padding, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and custom shoe inserts.
If conservative treatment options are unsuccessful or the neuroma has progressed too far, surgery may be an option, where the inflamed and enlarged nerve is removed, often in an outpatient procedure. Recovery time is typically just a few weeks.
To help relieve the pain of a neuroma at home, patients should wear shoes with plenty of toe room, avoid high heels, look for shoes that offer adequate support, and rest, ice and massage the painful area for relief.