Morton's Neuroma -- Causes and
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January 29, 2011, last updated June 7, 2016

By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist

You may never have heard about Morton's neuroma, but,
chances are, you may get it. Morton’s neuroma – first
described by Thomas Morton in 1876 – is a common form
of foot pain.

In fact, according to  a 1997 study from the University of
Zurich and a 2000 report from Massachusetts General
Hospital, up to
33 percent of the population suffers from
Morton’s neuroma.

You’re more likely to develop Morton’s neuroma if you’re a
woman – the female to male ratio is 4:1 according to an
article by Thomas M Schaller, MD at Michigan State

And if your taste is for high heeled shoes – particularly
narrow pairs – you’re even more likely to suffer as Morton’
s neuroma is made worse by constrictive footwear.

Morton's neuroma is a painful foot condition that can make
walking difficult. Even when surgery is an option, it can
cause permanent numbness in your foot, according to a
2016 study from Johns Hopkins University School of

What is Morton’s Neuroma?

A neuroma is a thickening of the nerve tissue. You can
suffer from a neuroma in various places on the body. In
the foot, the most common neuroma is Morton’s neuroma
and it occurs between the third and fourth toes. Morton’s
neuroma, also called Morton's metatarsalgia, Morton's
neuralgia, plantar neuroma and intermetatarsal neuroma, is
a benign condition and is not normally dangerous. It can,
however, be painful and irritating, making it difficult to
walk and to enjoy sports or everyday activities. In some
cases, Morton’s neuroma can lead to permanent nerve

What Are The Causes of Morton’s Neuroma?

Morton’s neuroma is caused by compression and irritation
of the nerve in the foot. This leads to the enlargement of
the nerve which causes the neuroma.

Basically, with Morton's neuroma, the nerve in your foot
gets trapped in the third metatarsal space in your foot.

Any number of things can cause this compression and
irritation. High heels or shoes with a tapered toe are the
top offenders as they force the foot into a tight space,
compressing the nerve. People with foot deformities such
as bunions or hammertoes are at greater risk of developing
Morton’s neuroma.

Are you a runner or a tennis player? Activities that involve
repetitive irritation on the ball of the foot such as running
can lead to a neuroma in the foot.

What Are The Symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma?

Although Morton’s neuroma is not a household name you
should be able to recognize the symptoms if you’re
suffering from it. Morton's neuroma can cause metarsalgia,
which is pain in the balls of your feet.

Symptoms of Morton's neuroma include a feeling that there
is an object or a lump in the ball of the foot, or that you’ve
got something bunched up in your sock. You may also feel
a tingling, burning or
numbness in the foot. Morton’s
neuroma usually starts gradually and the symptoms go
away when you remove the offending shoe. However if
untreated the symptoms can get worse and worse, making
it difficult to reverse the changes in the nerve. (Read more
about other
causes of burning or numbness in your feet.)

if you ever feel as though you have Morton's neuroma, you
should make sure that your doctor also checks for the
presence of a rheumatoid noid in your feet. Rheumatoid
noids often occur at the same time as Morton's neuroma,
according to a 2012 study from Royal Gwent Hospital in the
UK. So, when you have your Morton's neuroma treated,
you should also undergo treatment for rheumatoid
in your feet.

Are There Remedies for Morton’s Neuroma?

1. Surgery May Not be Necessary. If you’ve caught it early,
Morton’s neuroma will usually not require surgery.

Use Padding. For mild to moderate Morton’s neuroma,
the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
recommends padding techniques that support your
metatarsal arch, reducing the pressure on the nerve. You
can also wear special orthotic devices that provide support
for your foot.

Ice Can Help. Ice on the affected nerve reduces swelling
and pain.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. Morton's neuroma pain can
also be relieved by oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) and cortisone injections.

Modify Activities to Relieve Morton's Neuroma. Often
modifying the behavior that helped cause the Morton’s
neuroma is the best way to get rid of it. For instance, avoid
running on hard surfaces or take a break from intense
tennis games until the condition improves.

Avoid High Heels and Too Tight Shoes. And no matter
how good they look, high heels with a narrow toe will not
help your foot health. Choose low shoes with a wide toe to
help cure your Morton’s neuroma. In all cases, avoid
that are too tight if you have Morton's neuroma.

Massage Can Help Morton's Neuroma. According to
Kevin Berry, MD, Resident Physician at the Physical
Medicine and Rehabilitation Department, University of
Colorado Hospital, massage of the affected area offers
significant relief to Morton's neuroma sufferers and can be
used as part of a treatment plan.

Massage works by creating space between the metatarsals.
Massaging the whole leg can also positively affect the
nerves that end in the toes and reduce tension, allowing
the affected nerve to function more freely.


Use Capsaicin, an  Ingredient in Pepper, to Relieve
Morton's Neuroma

Doctors from Johns Hopkins University have had some
success in treating Morton's neuroma with capsaicin.
Capsaicin is the ingredient in all peppers that makes them

In 2016, the doctors conducted a study of 58 patients with
Morton's neuroma. After injecting a local anesthetic
(lidocaine) into the affected area, they then injected
capsaicin (at a concentration of 0.1mg) also. After two to
three weeks, the patients reported significant pain relief.]

When is Surgery The Only Option?

If your foot doesn’t respond after modifying your behavior
or supporting the nerve, or you’ve left it too long for
treatment, surgery for Morton’s neuroma may be the only

In a 2008 study from the Clínica Universitaria de Navarra,
Spain, 50 patients underwent surgery for Morton’s
neuroma and all but two achieved total nerve pain relief.
According to 1989 research from the National Tochigi
Hospital, Japan, neurolysis as a surgical treatment is
preferable to neurectomy, which has previously been seen
as the surgery of choice for Morton’s neuroma.  

A 1992 study from Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine, Baltimore also stressed the benefits of neurolysis
after achieving complete pain relief in four out of five
patients, with the fifth achieving good pain relief.

Whether you treat Morton’s neuroma with surgery or less
invasive methods, changing your routine to be more foot-
friendly will help prevent painful foot problems in the

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