What is a Plantar Neuroma?

B. Koch

A plantar neuroma, also known as a Morton’s neuroma, a nerve tumor or metatarsalgia, is a nerve condition that affects the ball of the foot. Symptoms include localized numbness and pain and may be caused by any sort of irritation to the foot. Treatment involves wearing comfortable shoes, taking anti-inflammatory drugs, using orthotics, and in extreme cases, surgery.

Ice packs may be used to relief plantar neuroma pain.
Ice packs may be used to relief plantar neuroma pain.

A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue that may occur anywhere in the body. A plantar neuroma is specifically an enlargement or thickening of the nerve tissue in the ball of the foot. It most commonly occurs between the third and fourth toes, though it may occur anywhere in the ball of the foot.

An individual experiencing a plantar neuroma may feel as though there is a lump in her foot.
An individual experiencing a plantar neuroma may feel as though there is a lump in her foot.

An individual experiencing a plantar neuroma may feel as though there is a lump in his foot or a stone in his shoe. There is often no outward sign of swelling or a lump. Pain usually accompanies the condition, which may materialize as a burning sensation or as a sharp or dull pain in the ball of the foot. A neuroma may also generate a tingling or numbness in the toes.

Metatarsalgia can cause extreme pain when stepping on the ball of the foot.
Metatarsalgia can cause extreme pain when stepping on the ball of the foot.

Generally, a plantar neuroma may be the result of any irritation or injury to the foot. It is often caused when the ball of the foot becomes irritated, such as after long, strenuous amounts of physical activity. A neuroma may also be the result of ill-fitting shoes, especially shoes that compress the ball foot. Individuals with flat feet, hammertoes or other foot deformities seem to be at a higher risk of developing a plantar neuroma, as these conditions cause the foot to move in an unusual way that may irritate the nerves of the foot.

A plantar neuroma may generate numbness or tingling in the toes.
A plantar neuroma may generate numbness or tingling in the toes.

To resolve a planter neuroma, the first course of action is usually therapy for the foot. This may involve wearing special orthotics or other types of shoe padding to provide appropriate foot support to lessen the stress on the effected nerve. Anti-inflammatory drugs or injections of cortisone may be used to reduce swelling or deal with pain. If the patient does not respond to these efforts, surgery may be required.

Plantar neuroma may occur as the result of any injury to the foot.
Plantar neuroma may occur as the result of any injury to the foot.

Some of the symptoms of a plantar neuroma may be cared for at home. Applying an ice pack to the painful area of the foot or taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may lessen the inflammation around the nerve and reduce the pain. Wearing comfortable shoes can also help relieve and prevent symptoms, especially flat shoes that have plenty of space for the toes.

In extreme cases, a plantar neuroma will be treated with surgery.
In extreme cases, a plantar neuroma will be treated with surgery.
Ill-fitting shoes that compress the ball of the foot may be the cause of a plantar neuroma.
Ill-fitting shoes that compress the ball of the foot may be the cause of a plantar neuroma.

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