Neuromas can be incredibly painful and debilitating. Not everyone will develop a neuroma, but understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment can better prepare you, should you have a neuroma in the future.
What is a neuroma?
A neuroma is a pinched nerve or a nerve tumor. It involves the thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves that leads to your toes. This thickening causes pressure against the nerve, irritating it and causing pain.
The most common type for neuroma is a Morton’s neuroma, or an intermetatarsal neuroma. These neuromas occur in between the third and fourth toe, however, neuromas can occur in other locations on the foot.
What causes a neuroma?
Anything which causes compression of a nerve can lead to a neuroma. Shoes with narrow toe boxes or high heels have been shown to cause neuromas, since both of these styles cause the toes to be forced and crammed into the toe box. Patients have found that switching to wider shoes or lower heels can help reduce neuroma symptoms.
If you have certain foot deformities, you can be at a higher risk for developing neuromas. These deformities include hammertoe, bunions, and flat feet. Similarly, anything which involves repetitive irritation to the ball of the foot can contribute to neuromas. Prior injuries can also be a factor in neuroma development.
Symptoms of neuromas
Neuromas can be painful. Often, the feeling caused by a neuroma is described as feeling like there is a small rock or pebble stuck in your shoe. Neuromas can also be accompanied by tingling or burning sensations. Some patients also feel shooting pains around the base of their toes of ball of their foot.
Neuromas are not accompanied by any visible symptoms, meaning you will not be able to see a lump where the neuroma is.
When to see a podiatrist
If you think you are developing symptoms of a neuroma, you should see your podiatrist as soon as possible. Not only will getting in early help you avoid severe pain, but an early diagnosis lessens the need for surgery or other invasive treatments. If neuromas are left untreated, they tend to get much worse.
Your podiatrist will most likely stimulate your foot to produce the symptoms. This could include pressing down on your feet where you felt the pain in the past. He or she is looking to feel a mass or tender spot, or for you to feel “clicking” between the bones of your foot. All of these symptoms indicate the presence of a neuroma.
If the podiatrist cannot feel the neuroma but your symptoms persist, there are other ways for it to be diagnosed. The most common of which being imaging tests, including X-rays, ultrasounds, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI’s).
Treatment of neuromas
Once a neuroma is properly diagnosed, the next step is treatment. Your podiatrist will most likely start with nonsurgical treatments, including:
- Orthotic devices
- Activity modifications
- Shoe modifications
- Injection therapy (cortisone, local anesthetics, or other agents)
If you try some of these options, but your neuroma does not improve, your podiatrist may recommend surgery.
Regardless of if you pursue nonsurgical or surgical treatment, you podiatrist will work with you to develop long-term treatment plans to prevent your neuroma from returning.
Seeking treatment for a neuroma as soon as possible is important so that you can return to a pain free life!