A Common Foot Problem - Morton's Neuroma
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A Common Foot Problem - Morton's Neuroma

Morton's neuroma is a painful condition of the foot caused by a growth on the intermetatarsal plantar nerve. While surgery is the only permanent solution to this problem there are ways to temporary relief the pain through relatively inexpensive insoles and a change of footwear. Surgery can often be put off for several years.

A common foot problem causes millions of Americans to seek help in the podiatrist’s office. The problem I am referring to is the pain most often experienced under the ball of the foot. The pain is most often caused by a growth or neuroma on the intermetatarsal plantar nerve. The third and the fourth toe are most commonly affected although a neuroma can also involve other toes as well.

People, who suffer from this benign growth, often experience a constant dull pain which can escalate into a sharp, burning and piercing pain with every step. The pain is often described as a feeling similar to stepping on a hot nail or blade with a shooting pain through the foot.  Another often reported sensation is the numbness of the involved toes. Once the nerve is irritated or inflamed every step is usually painful.

Women are mostly affected by this condition due to their love for high heels. High heels, in particular those with a pointy toe box, tend to aggravate this condition. Other ways to cause a flare up of the pain is to walk barefoot for an extended period of time, wearing tight shoes, or even standing and/or walking for a long time.

There are several ways to relieve the pain from Morton’s neuroma.  Removing your shoes and elevating your foot is effective but not necessarily practical. Changing your footwear on the other hand brings extended relief. Shoes that have a wide toe box are not necessarily the most stylish footwear. Regardless of the style factor, this type of shoes offers support through a foot bed that supports your arch and indirectly relieves pressure on your metatarsal area of your foot. Good examples are shoes from a company called Birkenstock or Betula. Other shoes like thong sandals with a foot bed also give your foot room to expand and relieve the pressure and associated pain caused by the neuroma.

Insoles and inserts with a metatarsal support are also very effective and have the added advantage that they can be moved from one shoe to another. There are insoles available in drugstores that have metatarsal inserts within the insole that are interchangeable. They usually offer three metatarsal inserts in different heights. Compared to an orthopedic insole these insoles are very affordable with a price of around $ 20. These insoles mimic the effect of the felt metatarsal pads the podiatrist will often try as a first attempt to relieve your symptoms. Some insoles even offer a special heel cushion for those with additional foot problems like heel pain.

While changing your footwear or wearing insoles can slow down the progression of the neuroma, they cannot reverse the condition. If the condition is properly diagnosed in an early stage these changes may extend the time until more invasive procedures are necessary.  Surgery to remove the growth is usually the last resort as many people shy away from this permanent solution. The surgery is often avoided out of fear as the removal of the neuroma causes a partial, but permanent, numbness to the third and fourth toe.

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