Posted on: 20 June 2016Share
Human feet are wonders of natural design and are able to take all kinds of punishment without complaint. However, they are not invulnerable, and incremental damage suffered over time can cause a range of chronic conditions. One of these nasty foot conditions is known as Morton's neuroma, and many patients who suffer from this illness choose to accept the risks and pain of corrective surgery to cure it. However, podiatrists can offer a range of non-surgical treatments that can reduce or even eliminate symptoms without going under the knife.
What is Morton's neuroma?
A neuroma occurs when part of a nerve becomes thickened and inflamed, generally as a result of long-term irritation or compression. Morton's neuroma occurs when a neuroma appears on one of the nerves that provide sensation to the ends of the feet, which lie between the metatarsals (the bones that connect your toes to the main body of the foot). This neuroma often appears on the nerve between the third and fourth toes but can also occur between the second and third toes.
What are the symptoms of Morton's neuroma?
The nerve swelling that characterises a case of Morton's neuroma can cause the following symptoms:
- Strange sensations: In the early stages of the condition, the swollen nerve often produces tingling and/or burning sensations around the affected area. You may also experience temporary numbness, particularly after exercise. Many sufferers feel like there is something stuck under the sole of their foot, such as a small stone.
- Pain: Pain caused by Morton's neuroma is centred around the swollen section of nerve, and tends to become more intense during and immediately after exercise. This pain becomes more frequent and intense if the condition is not treated.
- Weakness: You may notice that the toes close to the affected nerve are weaker than they should be, and your balance during standing and walking may be impaired.
How can podiatrists treat Morton's neuroma non-surgically?
Surgical treatments for Morton's neuroma often involve removal of the affected nerve, and while this is a very effective approach (particularly for chronic sufferers), it permanently diminishes nervous sensation in the affected foot. As an alternative, podiatrists can offer the following non-invasive treatments:
- Conventional pain relief: Your podiatrist may supply you with oral painkillers, generally non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Ice packs and compression bandages can also help relieve pain.
- Intravenous pain relief: In more severe cases, you may be given corticosteroid injections directly into the affected area, but these are only a short-term solution due to the risk of unpleasant side effects. Alcohol injections can also help to reduce swelling and are supplied by some podiatrists.
- Orthotic devices: Taking pressure off the affected nerve can help it return to its normal state, and you may be supplied with cushioned sole pads to reduce pressure during physical activity. Padded and shaped insoles can also help.
- Gait correction: Morton's neuroma can be caused or exacerbated by improper gait, and a number of issues such as fallen arches, overpronation and hammer toe can place undue pressure on the nerves of the feet. Your podiatrist will analyse your gait and help you to correct any problems that may be affecting your neuroma.