During the exam, your doctor will press on your foot to feel for a mass or tender spot. There may also be a feeling of "clicking" between the bones of your foot.
Some imaging tests are more useful than others in the diagnosis of Morton's neuroma:
- X-rays. Your doctor is likely to order X-rays of your foot, to rule out other causes of your pain — such as a stress fracture.
- Ultrasound. This technology uses sound waves to create real-time images of internal structures. Ultrasound is particularly good at revealing soft tissue abnormalities, such as neuromas.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using radio waves and a strong magnetic field, an MRI also is good at visualizing soft tissues. But it's an expensive test and often indicates neuromas in people who have no symptoms.
Treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor will likely recommend trying conservative approaches first.
Arch supports and foot pads fit inside your shoe and help reduce pressure on the nerve. These can be purchased over-the-counter, or your doctor may prescribe a custom-made, individually designed shoe insert — molded to fit the exact contours of your foot.
Surgical and other procedures
If conservative treatments haven't helped, your doctor might suggest:
- Injections. Some people are helped by the injection of steroids into the painful area.
- Decompression surgery. In some cases, surgeons can relieve the pressure on the nerve by cutting nearby structures, such as the ligament that binds together some of the bones in the front of the foot.
- Removal of the nerve. Surgical removal of the growth may be necessary if other treatments fail to provide pain relief. Although surgery is usually successful, the procedure can result in permanent numbness in the affected toes.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To help relieve the pain associated with Morton's neuroma and allow the nerve to heal, consider the following self-care tips:
- Take anti-inflammatory medications. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve), can reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Try ice massage. Regular ice massage may help reduce pain. Freeze a water-filled paper cup or plastic foam cup and roll the ice over the painful site.
- Change your footwear. Avoid high heels or tight shoes. Choose shoes with a broad toe box and extra depth.
- Take a break. For a few weeks, reduce activities such as jogging, aerobic exercise or dancing that subject your feet to high impact.
Preparing for your appointment
You might first seek advice from your family doctor about your foot pain. He or she may refer you to a doctor or surgeon who specializes in foot disorders. Before your appointment, you may want to write a list of answers to the following questions:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Did your symptoms begin gradually or suddenly?
- What type of footwear do you wear for work?
- Do you participate in sports? If so, what types in particular?
- What medications and supplements do you take regularly?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask some of the following questions:
- Is the pain worse in certain pairs of shoes?
- Does any type of activity ease the pain or worsen it?
- Are you having pain in any other part of your body?