The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Pain in the Ball of the Foot? Could Be Morton’s Neuroma.

Posted by on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

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Some people say Morton’s neuroma feels like they are walking on a marble lodged in the ball of the foot. They say that sharp pain radiates from the ball of the foot out to the third and fourth toes, similar to the sensation of hitting the elbow’s funny bone. Often times, Mortons neuroma causes a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot and a stinging or numbness in the toes. This is one of the conditions we treat at our NYC Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

What Is Morton’s Neuroma? What Causes It?

Experts are not precisely sure what causes Morton’s neuroma, but it seems to develop as the result of irritation, pressure or injury to one of the nerves in the foot. Surgeons believe the metatarsal bones squeeze the nerve, while the ligament that joins the bones entraps the nerve, causing pain, inflammation and irritation. Over time, this injury results in the thickening of the nerve tissue, a benign tumor-like structure called a neuroma. The aggravation of a nerve can be caused by high heeled shoes with a tight toe box (which may explain why this condition is eight to 10 times’ more common in women than men), high arches or flat feet, bunions, hammertoes, or high-impact sports like running, karate and basketball.

How Is Morton’s Neuroma Treated?

A podiatrist will always first recommend a more conservative treatment, when possible. Sometimes just a change in footwear — trading in those heels for softer soled, wide toe-box shoes — can help tremendously. Custom orthotics or foot pads can relieve irritation, by allowing the bones to spread out and reducing pressure on the nerve. Rest, ice and massage are also recommended practices. Injections of corticosteroid medication or alcohol injections can reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. A procedure called chemical neurolysis uses ethanol to destroy the neuroma, without surgery. Studies show that anywhere from 80 to 100% of people following these conservative methods can find relief, with a relatively quick recovery period.

When Is Mortons Neuroma Surgery Needed?

Foot doctors only recommend surgery when all other methods have failed to produce results. Risks of surgery include infection, toe stiffness, or a recurrent neuroma. Numbness is a common side effect, but it usually subsides over time. Surgery may be done under local or general anesthesia.

A small incision is made on the top of the foot between the toes affected by the neuroma. The inflamed tissue and nerve will be removed and the incision is then closed with stitches. These stitches can be removed in the doctor’s office in seven to 10 days. Full activities can usually be resumed within three to six weeks.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.