Neuromas: Everything You Need to Know

Neuromas are harmless tumors in the sensory nerve of your ingrown toenails. They can be painful and cause numbness, tingling, or burning sensations from the toes to the knee. There may also be reddening of the toe if once is present. If a neuroma is present, it is usually on the big toe but also can occur on any of the other toes. It can grow in size and cause pain which can be debilitating.

What is a neuroma?

A neuroma is a benign growth of nerve tissue. The thickening of the nerve that makes up a neuroma results from irritation and inflammation of the nerve. Neuromas usually develop between the third and fourth toes, but they also can occur between other toes.

What are the common symptoms of a neuroma?

Some people have symptoms in only one foot, while others experience symptoms in both feet. Neuromas commonly occur between the third and fourth toes but can also occur between other toes. The pain normally begins slowly and progresses over time. Pain is usually increased by walking in tight shoes or barefoot on hard surfaces.

What causes neuromas?

Neuromas are most often the result of abnormal pressure on the ball of the foot. For example, you may experience neuroma pain if you wear high heels or shoes without enough cushioning or arch support. Other risk factors include:

  • High arches or flat feet
  • Foot deformities such as bunions or hammertoes
  • Repetitive activities that stress the foot, such as running, dancing, and aerobic exercise
  • Trauma to the foot, such as a sprain or fracture

Who can deal with neuromas?

Not all neuromas require treatment, but if you experience any symptoms on a consistent basis, you should seek treatment from a podiatrist and not try to treat it yourself. Treatment for neuromas usually involves reducing pressure on the affected nerve by wearing a wider shoe or with orthotics. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove part of a bone or to remove or release part of the nerve.

Non-surgical solutions for neuromas

Changing shoes

Any tight or constricting footwear (including narrow-toed shoes) that compresses the toes may eventually lead to a neuroma. Likewise, shoes with high heels can also contribute to this condition by forcing your toes into the front of your shoe, thereby crowding them. In addition, high-heeled shoes elevate your heel above your toes and put extra pressure on the forefoot area when you walk, causing a great deal of stress on the ball of your foot.

Wearing wider shoes with a low heel and extra room for your toes may help relieve pressure on the nerve. Your doctor may also suggest wearing orthotics (custom-made shoe inserts) to help distribute pressure more evenly across your foot when walking.

Orthotics are custom-made shoe inserts that help to relieve pressure on your foot and redistribute forces more evenly when you walk. This can help keep your nerve from reacting to the pressure and swelling up.

Padding and taping

Padding and taping can be used to relieve the pain caused by Morton’s neuroma. Padding will reduce pressure on the inflamed nerve. The padding is placed, so it covers the entire ball of the foot. Taping involves using a rigid tape that covers the entire ball of the foot and extends to just below the ankle. The tape acts as a bumper for any shoes you wear and prevents your toes from flexing too much.

Physical therapy

Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to produce deep heat that relaxes tense muscles and improves blood flow to the painful area in your foot. Your physical therapist may suggest other massage techniques as well.

Oral anti-inflammatory medications

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) may provide some temporary relief from neuroma pain.

Apply an ice pack to the ball of the foot for 15 minutes at least twice per day. Do not put the ice directly on your skin, but wrap it in a cloth or paper towel first. Use this method for about two weeks or until the pain and swelling go away.

Neuromas are a very common affliction, but they don’t have to be debilitating. If you follow the advice in this article, you may avoid costly surgery and regain your ability to enjoy life without pain.

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