You've heard the word, but until you actually have one, you may not know what they actually are. According to the APMA ( American Podiatric Medical Association), a neuroma is a painful condition, also referred to as a "pinched nerve" or a nerve tumor. It is a benign growth of nerve tissue frequently found between the third and fourth toes and/or metatarsals. It brings on pain, a burning sensation, tingling, or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot. Let's answer some common questions regarding neuromas:
What Causes Neuromas?
There is not a clear explanation for the exact cause of this condition. A few factors that can contribute include: trauma to the nerve which will result in inflammation and swelling, improper footwear that may cause the toes to be squeezed together ( and yes, high heels ), stress fractures and biomechanics deformities, such as a high-arched foot or flat foot.
What Do Neuromas Feel Like?
Neuromas are described with a few key words and phrases: Pain, discomfort and the feeling that a sock is bunched up under your foot. The most common type of neuroma, called a Morton's neuroma usually causes burning pain, numbness or tingling at the base of the third, fourth or second toes. Pain also can spread from the ball of the foot out to the tips of the toes. In some cases, there also is the sensation of a lump, a rock or a "hot pebble" between the toes.
What Are The Treatment Options For Neuromas?
There are surgical and non-surgical options for neuromas. The treatment for a neuroma will vary depending on the severity of the problem. For mild to moderate neuromas, treatment options may include: added padding, icing, custom orthotics, activity modifications, shoe modifications ( see all styles), oral non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation and / or cortisone injections.
Is There A Way To Prevent Neuromas?
A proper diagnosis is always first to know whether or not you have a neuroma. Seeing a Podiatrist should be done at the first sign of pain or discomfort. If left untreated, neuromas tend to get worse. That being said, there are a few things you can do to prevent getting them. First, wear shoes with really good padding at the ball of the foot. Second, make sure your workout shoes have a wide enough toe box so your toes aren't getting pushed together. ( see all workout shoes ). Finally, limit your time in shoes with a narrow toe box and shoes with a heel greater then two inches. Although the exact causes of neuromas are not completely known, the following preventive steps may help:
- Make sure your exercise shoes have enough room in the front part of the shoe and that your toes are not excessively compressed.
- Wear shoes with adequate padding in the ball of the foot.
- Avoid prolonged time in shoes with a narrow toe box or excessive heel height (greater than two inches).
Surgery is rare as most people will respond well to non surgical treatment options and once your foot is back to feeling normal, your Podiatrist will most likely recommend measures to keep your symptoms from returning. These include appropriate footwear ( shop Neuroma footwear ) and modification of activities to reduce the repetitive pressure on the foot.
Proper footwear is always the best option to keep your feet healthy and feeling good.
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com