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A neuroma is a thickening of the nerve that could eventually lead to damage.

The most common neuroma in the foot is a Morton's neuroma, which occurs at the base of the third and fourth toes. The thickening, or enlargement, of the nerve is the result of compression and irritation of the nerve.

If you have a Morton's neuroma, you will probably have one or more of these symptoms where the nerve damage in occurring:

  • Tingling, burning, or numbness
  • Pain
  • A feeling that something is inside the ball of the foot, or that there's a rise in the shoe or a sock is bunched up.

The symptoms of a Morton's neuroma usually begin gradually. At first they occur only occasionally, when wearing narrow-toed shoes or performing certain aggravating activities. The symptoms may go away temporarily by massaging the foot or by avoiding aggravating shoes or activities.

Over time the symptoms progressively worsen and may persist for several days or weeks. As the neuroma enlarges, the symptoms become more intense and the temporary changes in the nerve become permanent.

Treatment Options

To develop an effective treatment plan, your physician will evaluate your neuroma's stage of development. Treatment approaches vary according to the severity of the problem.

  • Padding. Padding can lessen pressure on the nerve and decrease compression when walking.
  • Icing. Placing an icepack on the affected area helps reduce swelling.
  • Orthotic devices. Custom orthotic devices provide the support needed to reduce pressure and compression on the nerve.
  • Activity modifications. Activities that put repetitive pressure on the neuroma should be avoided until the condition improves.
  • Changes in footwear. It's important to wear shoes with a wide toe box and avoid narrow-toed shoes or shoes with high heels.
  • Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation.
  • Injection therapy. If there is no significant improvement after initial treatment, injection therapy may be tried. Your physician will discuss the injection options with you.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the neuroma of the affected nerve.

Regardless of whether you undergo nonsurgical or surgical or treatment, there are a number of long-term measures to help keep your symptoms from returning. With the appropriate footwear and avoiding activities that cause repetitive pressure on the foot, you can enjoy your mobility without pain.

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