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Morton's Neuroma

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Topic Overview

What is Morton's neuroma, and what causes it?

Morton's neuroma is a swollen or thickened nerve in the ball of your foot. When your toes are squeezed together too often and for too long, the nerve that runs between your toes can swell and get thicker. This swelling can make it painful when you walk on that foot. High-heeled, tight, or narrow shoes can make pain worse. Sometimes, changing to shoes that give your toes more room can help.

What are the symptoms?

Morton's neuroma can cause a very painful burning or sharp pain in your foot that feels worse when you walk. It may feel like a small lump inside the ball of your foot. It is usually between the third and fourth toes, but it can also be between other toes.

How is it diagnosed?

A doctor can usually identify Morton's neuroma during a physical exam. He or she will squeeze or press on the bottom of your foot or squeeze your toes together to see if it hurts. Your doctor may also order an X-ray of your foot to make sure nothing else is causing the pain.

How is it treated?

You may be able to treat this problem at home:

  • Avoid wearing tight, pointy, or high-heeled shoes. Choose well-fitted shoes with plenty of room for your toes.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. These include ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (such as Aleve).
  • Rest your feet when you can. Reduce activities that put pressure on the toes, such as racquet sports or running.
  • Try massaging your foot to relax the muscles around the nerve.

If these steps do not relieve your symptoms, your doctor may have you use special pads or devices that spread the toes to keep them from squeezing the nerve. In some cases, a doctor may give a steroid shot to reduce swelling and pain. If these treatments do not help, your doctor may suggest surgery.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 01, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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