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What is Morton's Neuroma?
Whether you’re a runner pounding the pavement or a fashionista balancing on sky-high heels, your feet are taking a beating. And when they’ve had enough, they fight back.
Increasingly, their weapon of choice is Morton’s neuroma— an otherwise harmless cyst that causes numbness, shooting or burning pain in the ball of your foot. It’s the result of repeated irritation or compression of a nerve or nearby tissue, usually between the second or third toe.
“Toes that are forced into a tight space for a long time are subjected to extra pressure that then causes swelling and pain,” explains John S. Steinberg, DPM, director of MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Podiatric Residency Program and a podiatric surgeon. “The same effect happens after repeated high-impact activities, including years of wearing high heels. Unfortunately, even minor pain may cause you to limp or change your gait, which leads to other problems because your natural walking mechanics are all off.”
Treatments for Morton's Neuroma
But the good news is that the pain and discomfort from Morton’s neuroma can go away with proper treatment, including some simple remedies you can try at home:
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling
- Soak the sore foot in alternating baths of comfortably hot and cold water
- Wear full-length, OTC arch supports with a solid shell
- Give your feet a break from high-impact activities and high heels
If the problem persists, foot specialists typically prescribe injections of cortisone or alcohol solution to reduce swelling; custom orthotics to correct foot mechanics and separate the toes; and/or physical therapy. Surgery—once the standard approach—is reserved for only the most extreme cases, notes Dr. Steinberg.
“Nowadays, foot surgeons or plastic surgeons can perform an external neurolysis, which releases ligaments and tight tissue from around the nerve to create space.”
But as any sports fan knows, the best defense is a good offense. To avoid developing Morton’s neuroma in the first place, Dr. Steinberg offers some commonsense advice.
“Change to shoes that are better fitting, so that toes will have the space and support they need.”