If you’re struggling with burning or pain in the ball of your foot, it could be Morton’s Neuroma. An estimated 1 in 3 people have this condition, and women are up to ten times more likely to develop it. But what is Morton's Neuroma? What are Morton's neuroma symptoms? How about Morton's neuroma causes and how do you treat it? We’ll cover all of this and more, including natural treatments in this blog.
What is Morton’s Neuroma?
Morton’s Neuroma is a thickening of the tissue surrounding the nerves in your toes. It causes pain in the ball of the foot, usually between the third and fourth toes. Some people describe the condition as feeling like you have a rock in your shoe.
Morton’s Neuroma causes could be an injury, irregular/repetitive pressure, or irritation of the nerves in your toes. Playing certain sports or wearing high-heeled shoes can increase the risk of Morton’s Neuroma.
Ballet and skiing both require tight-fitting shoes, which can increase the risk of this condition. Sports with repetitive movements that put pressure on the ball of the foot, like racquet sports or running, can also increase the risk of Morton’s Neuroma.
Some foot deformities can also make you more vulnerable and be one of Morton's neuroma causes including:
- High arches
Women are far more likely to develop Morton’s Neuroma, but this is a condition that can affect anyone.
Improper footwear is one of the major causes of this condition. Wearing shoes that are too tight or have high heels can put excess pressure on the nerves in your toes. This can cause irritation, which thickens the nerve gradually and eventually causes pain.
Morton’s Neuroma Symptoms
The most common symptom of Morton’s Neuroma is pain, but there are some people who experience no symptoms at all. One small study found that 33% of 85 participants had Morton’s Neuroma, but had no pain.
Those that do have symptoms normally experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Burning pain in the ball of the foot that may extend to the toes
- Stinging or numbness
- Feeling like there’s a rock in your shoe
Symptoms may get worse if you’re wearing tight, narrow shoes or high heels. Runners may feel pain when they’re pushing off of the starting block.
How is Morton’s Neuroma Diagnosed?
Diagnosing this condition can be tricky because in most cases, there are no outward signs. Pain is the primary symptom for most people.
The process starts with a physical exam. Your doctor will check the ball of your foot for tender areas or masses. Doctors also look for a “clicking” feeling between the bones of the feet. This is a common characteristic of Morton’s Neuroma.
In some cases, imaging tests may be required, such as:
- Ultrasounds, which are highly effective at revealing neuromas and other soft tissue abnormalities.
- X-rays. Most doctors will order X-rays of the foot just to rule out other causes, such as a fracture.
- MRIs, which are also effective at visualizing soft tissues.
Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor will recommend treatment. In most cases, treatments are conservative.
Morton’s Neuroma Treatment
Most doctors will recommend conservative treatments for Morton’s Neuroma. More aggressive and invasive options are really only reserved for the worst of cases where relief just cannot be found otherwise.
The most common conventional treatments for this condition include:
Shoe Inserts and New Footwear
Many people develop Morton’s Neuroma because they wear improper footwear. The first step to fixing the problem is to change your footwear and/or use shoe inserts.
Foot pads and arch supports can help take the pressure off the ball of the foot and bring some pain relief. Depending the severity of the condition, your doctor may prescribe a custom-made insert that’s molded to your foot’s natural contours.
Most people will be able to find the right inserts and pads over the counter.
It’s best to avoid high-heeled or narrow, tight shoes to prevent the condition from getting worse. Look for wider shoes with a low heel or no heel at all and a soft sole.
Corticosteroid injections may be used to help reduce inflammation and swelling along the nerve. These injections can bring some pain relief, but they're not without risk.
One of the best things you can do for your foot is give it a rest. This is not always a practical or feasible option for patients, but it can speed up the healing process significantly.
Try to keep your foot elevated and rested.
Natural Remedies for Morton’s Neuroma
Along with conservative treatments, there are also natural remedies that may help with the pain of Morton’s Neuroma, including:
Cannabidiol (CBD) may help with the pain of Morton’s Neuroma. One study found that topical CBD could help reduce arthritis-related inflammation and pain in animals. Other research shows that CBD may help reduce neuropathic pain (nerve pain), which is difficult to treat with regular medication.
Topical CBD pain creams may provide localized pain relief without the potential side effects caused by conventional pain medications.
Massage may be effective at bringing pain relief and promoting relaxation. Along with alleviating pressure on the nerves and muscle tension, massage therapy can also help stimulate blood flow to the area to encourage healing.
It’s important to note that some forms of massage may not be appropriate for Morton’s Neuroma. In fact, deep tissue and other similar types of massage can actually aggravate the condition and make symptoms even worse.
It’s important to work with a massage therapist who understands this condition and has experience working on clients with Morton's neuroma.
The use of essential oils has been found to have many benefits such as having anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. Many preformulated pain-reducing creams and gels have essential oils mixed in for this reason and have been used for nerve pain. A few essential oils that may be used for Morton's neuroma include:
- Lavender was the focus of a 2015 study on treating both pain and inflammation on rats' paws. They found that not only did the lavender help reduce inflammation but also had antinociceptive properties.
- Rosemary was used along with acupressure in a study involving stroke survivors with shoulder pain. The participants that received the rosemary oil blend showed a higher reduction in pain than the control group.
- Peppermint Oil has been shown to relieve pain for a variety of conditions with its anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
Exercises and Stretches
Your doctor may provide you with a list of exercises and stretches to help with the pain and reduce the tension and inflammation.
Start slowly with exercises and stretches. The last thing you want to do is aggravate the condition or make it worse.
Exercises and stretches will focus mainly on the lower leg, Achilles tendon, calf, and plantar fascia.
What is the Outlook for Morton’s Neuroma?
Conservative and at-home treatments are usually effective enough to kick Morton’s Neuroma to the curb.
One study from 2011 found that 41% needed no further treatment after changing their footwear. Of the participants who received injections, 47% required no further treatment.