Your nervous system is made up of two parts – the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system involves your brain and spinal column. This system has the responsibility for processing information collected by the vast network of nerves forming your peripheral nervous system. These peripheral nerves have the vital job of relaying sensory information to your spine and brain.
When everything is operating smoothly, it’s easy to take all of these systems for granted. Sometimes, though, there are problems in the nervous system. An example of this is a Morton’s neuroma, which can cause sharp nerve pain and phantom sensations in the front of your foot. Recognizing these symptoms and understanding the causes behind a neuroma is important so you know when to see one of our doctors here at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida.
Nerve Pain in the Front of Your Foot
Essentially, a neuroma is either thickened nerve tissue or the result of a tumor that grows around a nerve (which then compresses it and disrupts normal sensory communication). In the case of a Morton’s neuroma, the impacted nerve is most commonly located between your third and fourth toes and to a lesser extent the second and third toes.
With this kind of neuroma, there’s no outward appearance indicating the problem (like a bump or skin discoloration). Instead, its symptoms are sensory experiences. Often, you will recognize the neuroma by a painful burning sensation in the ball of your foot area or a tingling in your toes. Another common symptom is feeling as if you are standing on a nonexistent fold in your sock or a pebble in your shoe. In some cases, neuromas even causes numbness.
The neuroma is usually caused by pressure, irritation, or injury to the nerve that leads up to the toe. More specifically, the neuroma will sometimes develop due to excessively wearing shoes with high heels (which cause the forefoot to endure excessive pressure), participating in high-impact sports that feature repetitive trauma (like running or jumping), and certain inherent foot deformities. If you have abnormally-high foot arches, a bunion, flat feet, or a hammertoe condition, your risk for a neuroma is heightened.
Neuroma Treatment and Prevention
As you might expect, treatment for this medical condition will depend, in part, on the severity of your symptoms. Our hope is always to use nonsurgical options to effectively resolve the problem for you. Conservative treatment options include: arch supports, custom orthotic devices, cortisone injections, alcohol injections, and physical therapy. We may have you take a break from high-impact activities, switch your footwear (to shoes with deep and wide toe boxes), use an icing regimen, or take anti-inflammatory medications.
When conservative care does not produce the desired results, it’s time to explore surgical options. For a Morton’s neuroma, this can mean either decompression surgery or nerve removal. In decompression surgery, the approach is to relieve pressure on the nerve that is responsible for causing the problem in the first place. Nerve removal is typically a final option (since it may cause permanent numbness in the affected toes).
No matter which form of treatment we pursue, it is important to understand that failing to address this medical issue can lead to a permanent condition.
You may be able to lower your risk of developing a Morton’s neuroma when you keep excessive pressure off the affected nerve. In part, you can do this by limiting the amount of time you spend in high-heeled shoes. Besides lowering your risk of this condition, doing so will also decrease the likelihood of an Achilles tendon injury. If you work in an office environment—consider wearing a different, more comfortable pair of shoes on your commute to and from work–instead of wearing pumps or stilettos all day long. Saving your favorite high-heel footwear for special occasions is another way to limit the amount of damage your feet will sustain, while at the same time still allowing you to wear those adored shoes.
In the event you are experiencing the symptoms of Morton’s neuroma—or you have any other foot or ankle issue—come and see us at one of our five Florida locations. We have offices in Orlando, Kissimmee, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, and Tavares to serve you. To request an appointment, either fill out our online form or give us a call at 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if you are calling from Lake County). Contact us today to put your foot pain behind you!