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.
There are many reasons to develop a neuroma. Improper shoe gear is probably the most likely cause. Repetitive activity and excessive pressure on the ball of the foot are common. Heredity and genetic factors may also be involved. In many cases the structure of the foot may predispose the condition. Associated conditions that may cause neuroma include: bunion, hammer toes, ligament laxity, and/or a tight calf muscle. Some patients may have thinning of the fat pad on the ball of the foot, which may result in increased pressure of the nerves. Tight pointy shoes (and high heels) without padding may induce pain in the ball of the foot. Neuroma may occur suddenly, or develop over time.
Patients will often experience a clicking feeling in the forefoot followed by a sharp shooting pain or a sensation of numbness or pins and needles extending into ends of their toes. Tight narrow fitting shoes may often exacerbate these feelings which become worse after long periods of standing or walking. Once the Mortons nueroma progresses symptoms will become more frequent and often more intense.
X-rays of your affected foot will not show a neuroma, as neuromas are made up of soft tissue. X-rays may be helpful, however, in helping rule in osteoarthritis or a stress fracture as the cause of your symptoms. Ultrasonography and MRI are sometimes used to help diagnose neuromas, although they are often ineffective. The clinical diagnosis by a foot care expert with experience treating this health problem is usually the most effective way to diagnose neuromas. Your podiatrist will attempt to duplicate your neuroma symptoms by pressing on the involved nerve at various points, and he or she may try to cause a clicking of your nerve that indicates nerve enlargement.
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have Morton's neuroma, shoes with a wider toe area may be recommended. You can also take painkillers to help ease the pain. Steroid injections may also be given to treat the affected nerve. If these treatments don't work, surgery may be needed. This involves removing the thickened tissue around the nerve (and sometimes the nerve itself) to release the pressure.
Surgical treatment has provided relief in some cases while poor results and surgical complications have resulted in other cases. It is believed that ligament weakness, as opposed to the pinching of nerves in the foot, may be to blame for recurrent pain in these situations. For reasons which are not fully understood, the incidence of Morton?s Neuroma is 8 to 10 times greater in women than in men.