What Are Neuromas?

In podiatry, neuroma refers to a condition where a nerve in the foot swells and enlarges.
Stress, compression or trauma on the ball of the foot can make the nerve that runs between the long bones in the foot swell.
The narrowest space for this type of nerve is between the third and fourth toe, which is possibly why neuroma occurs most often between these toes.
Physicians call neuroma in this location Morton’s neuroma, named after Dr. Morton who first described the condition in 1876.

Morton’s Neuroma is the most common type of neuroma, but you can also develop neuroma between the second and third toes.
It’s very rare for neuroma to occur between the big toe and next toe or the fourth and fifth toes, but sometimes it does. Also rare, neuroma sometimes occurs in the heel.

Causes and Symptoms

What Causes Neuroma?

The major cause of neuroma is abnormal movement of the long bones in the foot (behind the toes).
Chronic or repetitive stress on the nerve from tight fitting shoes (and especially high-heels in women) is another common cause of neuroma.


A swollen or pinched nerve can be very painful and result in permanent nerve damage. Here are some symptoms you can experience with neuroma:
  • Burning pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Intense, aching pain
  • Popping sensation when walking



A few other conditions have similar symptoms as neuroma, such as:
  • Stress fractures in the long bones
  • Inflamed tendons on the bottom of the toes
  • Arthritis in the joint between the long bone and toe
  • Nerve compression further up in the foot, ankle, knee, hip or back that causes foot pain

X-rays will help your doctor identify reasons for pain that are not neuroma. Nerve tissue doesn’t show up in x-rays or CT scans. Doctors can sometimes use Ultrasound or MRI with Contrast to detect a neuroma.


There are four main treatments for neuroma:
  • Cortisone injections. Cortisone can sometimes shrink nerve swelling and relieve pressure.
  • Functional orthotics. Abnormal movement of the long bones in your foot are what aggravate the nerve, causing neuroma to continue and worsen. A functional orthotic is a custom-made device that you insert into your shoe and it corrects abnormal foot movement. Orthotics in combination with cortisone injections are frequently a very effective treatment.
  • Chemical destruction of the nerve. When pain persists despite cortisone injections and orthotics, doctors may suggest chemical destruction of the nerve.
  • Surgery. Your doctor can perform an out-patient procedure to remove the nerve. Most patients can walk on their foot the next day.

Don’t suffer needlessly in pain. Discuss your symptoms with Dr. Sciortino.

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Arrange a visit with Dr. Sciortino and get your problem diagnosed and treated. Please call us to set up an appointment.