Morton's metatarsalgia is a condition associated with a painful neuroma* on the digital nerve causing pain in the foot. Charcterised by perineural fibrosis and nerve degeneration due to repetitive irritation, is thought to be due to irritation of the digital nerve caused by repeated trauma, ischemia or entrapment of the nerve, occurs most frequently in women aged 40-50 who wear high-heeled, pointed-toe shoes. The neuroma occurs at the level of the metatarsal necks. The common digital nerve to the third/fourth metatarsal spaces is most often affected, although other interspaces can be involved.
A Morton's neuroma commonly occurs due to repetitive weight bearing activity (such as walking or running) particularly when combined with tight fitting shoes or excessive pronation of the feet (i.e. "flat-feet"). The condition is also more common in patients with an unstable forefoot allowing excessive movement between the metatarsal bones. A Morton's neuroma can also occur due to certain foot deformities, trauma to the foot, or the presence of a ganglion or inflamed bursa in the region which may place compressive forces on the nerve.
Episodes of pain are intermittent. Patients may experience 2 attacks in a week and then none for a year. Recurrences are variable and tend to become more frequent. Between attacks, no symptoms or physical signs occur. Two neuromas coexist on the same foot about 2-3% of the time. Other diagnoses should be considered when 2 or more areas of tenderness are present.
The diagnosis of a Morton's neuroma can usually be made by the doctor when the history of pain suggests it and the examination elicits the symptoms. The foot is generally tender when the involved area is compressed and symptoms of pain and sometimes tingling can be elicited when the sides of the foot are squeezed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound testing can be used to confirm the diagnosis if necessary.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are various options for treating the condition, depending on its severity. Self-treatment. Here are some simple steps that may improve symptoms. Wear supportive shoes with a wide toe box. Do not lace the forefoot of the shoe too tightly. Shoes with shock-absorbent soles and proper insoles are recommended. Do not wear tight or pointed toed shoes or shoes with heels more than 2 inches high. Use over-the-counter shoe pads to relieve pressure. Apply an ice pack to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling. Rest your feet and massage the painful area. There are drugs that may temporarily relieve the pain and other symptoms of Morton?s neuroma. Long-term use of these medications is not recommended. Anti-inflammatory drugs-Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, may be taken orally to reduce pain and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be administered by direct injection into the skin. Local anesthetic. An anesthetic injection will temporarily relieve pain by numbing the affected nerve. Orthotics. These are custom-designed shoe inserts that can reduce some of the pain associated with Morton?s neuroma. Sometimes padding is placed around the toe area, and tape is applied to hold the padding in place.
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.