Running can have many health benefits, but pounding the tarmac day after day can take its toll on your feet. Amateur and professional runners are all vulnerable to a type of nerve damage known as Morton's neuroma, and this painful condition can become extremely debilitating without proper medical treatment.
What Is Morton's Neuroma?
Morton's neuroma affects the nerves that run along the length of your feet and into your toes. It is most common in people who regularly wear tight, high-heeled shoes, but it is also frequently observed in runners, as well as others who engage in frequent, high-impact sports and exercise.
Each of these nerves is surrounded by a layer of protective tissue, but the repetitive strain and damage caused by frequent running can cause this tissue to become thickened and scarred. If these protective sheaths become too thickened and enlarged, they can start to compress the nerve itself, causing it to become inflamed and send pain signals to your brain.
What Are The Symptoms Of Morton's Neuroma?
The most common symptom of Morton's neuroma is severe, burning pain in the ball of the affected foot, which gets worse when you walk or run. The toes connected to the affected nerve can also be affected, causing a numb, tingling sensation similar to 'pins and needles.' You may also feel like you are stepping on a stone, or a fold in your sock, whenever the affected foot makes contact with the ground.
How Is Morton's Neuroma Treated?
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms of Morton's neuroma, you should visit a foot and ankle treatment clinic as soon as possible to have the cause of your pain diagnosed. Other common foot issues can mimic many of the symptoms of Morton's neuroma, so getting a professional, conclusive diagnosis is always important.
If you are suffering from Morton's neuroma, and your condition is relatively mild, conservative treatments may help you get back on your feet. Medical professionals who treat foot and ankle disorders can provide you with shoe inserts, such as arch supports, which will take pressure off the affected nerve and allow its protective sheath to heal naturally. Steroid injections into the affected foot can also reduce pain and speed recovery.
If conservative treatments do not provide effective relief, surgery may be called for. Decompression surgery is a common and highly effective treatment for Morton's neuroma. During decompression surgery, a foot surgeon will remove some of the thickened tissue surrounding the damaged nerve, reducing pressure on the nerve and allowing it to heal.
If the nerve affected by Morton's neuroma is too badly damaged, it may be removed entirely. This is considered a last-ditch procedure and may cause permanent loss of sensation in the toes connected to the damaged nerve. However, mobility is usually not significantly affected.
Both surgical procedures are relatively simple and can be performed in less than an hour under local anesthetic. You may be required to wear a special foot support for a few weeks after the procedure, but most people who undergo surgery for Morton's neuroma can return to regular running within a couple of months.