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Morton’s Neuroma: What is it and How to Stop the Pain

NeuromaA neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue that can develop in various parts of your body. In the foot, the most common occurring neuroma develops at the base of the third and fourth toes. This condition is referred to as Morton's neuroma.

There are typically no physical signs of Morton's neuroma, such as a lump or a knot. Instead, symptoms may include:

  • A sharp, achy or burning pain in the ball of your foot
  • Numbness, tingling, or cramping in the toes or forefoot
  • Feeling as if you're standing on a pebble in your shoe

While the exact cause of Morton's neuroma is unknown, the growth of the neuroma seems to occur in response to injury, pressure or irritation to one of the nerves that lead to the toes. People with certain foot deformities - bunions, hammertoes and flatfeet- are at higher risk for developing a neuroma. Women are also more likely to develop this condition as wearing high-heels or narrow-toed shoes can increase pressure on the toes. Other potential causes are activities that involve repetitive irritation to the ball of the foot, such as running.

Morton's neuroma can make walking and performing normal activities difficult and painful. Treatment options vary with the severity of each neuroma, and identifying the neuroma in its earliest stage of development is important to avoid more invasive treatments or surgical correction. Left untreated, neuromas tend to worsen, so it's always best to visit a podiatrist at the first sign of pain.

Early treatments aim to relieve or reduce pressure on the area around the affected toes. Depending on the severity of your neuroma, a podiatrist may recommend:

  • Modifications to footwear. Wide-toed shoes relieve pressure on the neuroma.
  • Shoe inserts, such as orthotics, or padding to provide support for the arch of the foot, which removes pressure from the nerve.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications can help ease any pain and inflammation. Ask your doctor first.
  • Icing to reduce inflammation.
  • Rest to lessen repetitive pressure on the neuroma.

In cases that don't respond to more conservative treatment, surgery to remove the neuroma can be avoided by performing a minimally invasive procedure to relieve the pain from Mortan's neuroma called radiofrquency nerve ablation.  Nerve ablation can permanently deaden the neuroma without missing time from work. There is minimal risk and disability with this relatvely new procedure. It's performed in our Surgery Center under local anesthesia. Dr. Orman can help you determine the best approach for your specific condition.

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