What is a Neuroma?
A neuroma is a painful condition, also known as a “pinched nerve” or a nerve tumor. A neuroma is a benign growth of nerve tissue frequently located between the third and fourth toes that cause pain, usually tingling, a burning sensation, or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot.
The main symptom associated with a neuroma is pain between the toes while walking. Those suffering from the condition often find relief by stopping their walk, taking off their shoe, and rubbing the affected area. Patients have described this type of pain as similar to having a stone in his or her shoe. Women comprise the vast majority group of people who develop neuromas.
- Pain in the forefoot and between the toes.
- Tingling and numbness in the ball of the foot.
- Pain in the ball of the foot when weight is placed on it.
- Swelling between the toes.
How Do You Get a Neuroma?
Although the exact cause of the neuroma condition is unclear, a number of factors can contribute to the development of a neuroma.
High-arched foot, flat foot, or other biomechanical deformities can lead to the formation of a neuroma. These types of feet can bring on instability around the toe joints, leading to the development of the condition.
Trauma to the foot can cause damage to the nerve, resulting in inflammation or swelling of the nerve.
Inappropriate footwear that causes the toes to be squeezed together is problematic. Avoid high-heeled shoes taller than two inches. Shoes at this height tend to increase pressure on the forefoot area.
Common to many occupations, repeated stress can aggravate or create a neuroma.
What Can You Do for Relief?
- Wear shoes with thick, shock-absorbent soles and proper insoles that are specially designed to keep excessive pressure off of the foot.
- Wear well-fitting shoes with plenty of room for the toes to move, low heels, and laces or buckles that allow for easy width adjustment.
- Avoid wearing high heels because they place undue strain on the forefoot and can lead to a number of foot problems.
- By resting the foot and massaging the affected area, neuroma pain can temporarily be alleviated. To help dull the pain and improve comfort, use an ice pack.
- For simple, undeveloped neuromas, a pair of thick-soled shoes with a wide toe box is often adequate treatment to relieve symptoms, allowing the condition to diminish on its own. For more severe cases, however, podiatric medical treatment or foot surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor.
- For pressure relief around the affected area, use over-the-counter shoe pads.
Treatment by Your Podiatric Physician
Treatment varies with the severity of each neuroma. Identifying the neuroma early in its development is important to avoid the need for surgical correction. Medical care from a podiatrist should be sought immediately at the first sign of pain or discomfort; if left untreated, neuromas tend to worsen.
The primary goal of most early treatment regimens is to relieve pressure on the areas where a neuroma has developed. Your podiatric physician will examine, then likely X-ray the affected area and suggest a treatment plan that best suits your individual case.
Padding and Taping: The adding of special padding at the ball of the foot may change the abnormal foot function and help to relieve symptoms caused by the neuroma.
Medication: Cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation caused by the neuroma.
Orthotic Devices: A podiatrist can make custom made shoe inserts to help control foot function. An orthotic device may also help reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the condition.
Surgical Options: When early treatments fail to work and the neuroma progresses past the threshold for such options, podiatric surgery may become necessary. The surgical procedure, which removes the inflamed and enlarged nerve, can usually be conducted on an outpatient basis, with a recovery time that often lasts just a few weeks. Your podiatric physician will thoroughly discuss the process with you, describing the surgical procedures to be used and the results you can expect. Any pain experienced following surgery is easily managed with medications prescribed to you by your podiatric physician.