Understanding Neuromas

by | Aug 9, 2018 | Nerve Pain

Putting aside the fact living wouldn’t be possible in the first place, your life would be rather dull without your nerves. After all, you wouldn’t be able to feel, see, touch, taste, or smell anything—and those senses obviously contribute greatly to the human experience.

At the same time, nerves can become damaged and lead to certain problems. Such is the case when you develop a neuroma in a foot and start having painful symptoms.

The good news is that you don’t have to just accept the fact you have nerve pain in your foot. There are possible treatment options, and we provide them so you can find relief and have the ability to go back to performing your favorite activities.

Of course, the first step in getting the neuroma treatment you need is being able to understand this condition.

Understanding Neuromas

What are neuromas?

The starting point with understanding neuromas is actually your peripheral nervous system.

See, your body’s nervous system actually has two subsystems—the central and peripheral nervous systems. Your central nervous system is your brain and spinal cord, which handles processing functions. Your peripheral nerves are the ones that branch out from the spine and extend throughout your entire body.

Your peripheral nerves are responsible for both collecting sensory information and triggering muscular response (so you are able to move). These particular nerves communicate back and forth with the central nervous system, which then allows your brain to process and experience sensations.

And this is where neuromas enter the picture.

Basically, neuromas are small bundles of frayed nerve endings that ball up or attach to non-nerve tissues. This can happen when nerves are damaged, pinched, or cut. Whereas you can develop neuromas almost anywhere in your lower limbs where you can find nerves, the most common form is the Morton’s neuroma.

In this particular case, the nerve between two metatarsal heads in the ball of the foot—specifically, those near the base of the second and third toes—becomes abnormally thickened, which is a bit different than when a nerve tumor forms in response to some kind of damage or injury. The thickened condition develops on account of compression on the nerve from either the two bones or the soft tissues between them.

When the nerve is compressed, it becomes inflamed (swollen and thickened).

With regards to neuroma symptoms, the most obvious ones are felt (not seen). They include burning, tingling, and electrical sensations, but numbness is another possible sign of this nerve condition. Also, you might feel phantom sensations, such have the feeling as though you’re standing on a pebble or other small object when none is actually present.

High Heels

Why do neuromas happen?

We touched on this from a very general perspective in noting that neuromas can be attributed to injury and compression, but many patients wonder what specifically contributed to the issue.

Well, as with many other foot-related problem, there isn’t a single, definitive cause of this condition in a mechanical context. Basically, there are lots of different ways neuromas develop, including:

  • Tight, unsupportive footwear. Narrow, constricted toe boxes (think “pointy shoes”) that cram your toes together and don’t allow them to move freely can really irritate the nerves between those digits. Likewise, high heels cause more of your bodyweight to be pressed down onto your forefoot, where a Morton’s neuroma forms.
  • The presence of foot deformities. Conditions like high arches, bunions, and hammertoes, can increase your risk for developing a neuroma. Biomechanical and structural issues can lead to instability in toe joints and unequitable forces load distribution across your foot, thereby putting more pressure on your nerve.
  • Certain jobs or hobbies. You may participate in activities—either for enjoyment or employment—that places extra stress on your forefeet. Those who spend a lot of time on ladders or work in crouched positions (flooring, landscaping, etc.) are at greater risk for neuromas. Those who play the “catcher” position in baseball or softball (although, this would take a substantial amount of playing over several years, if not decades) may also suffer from neuromas.
  • A previous or recurring injury. Either an isolated incident—like dropping a heavy box on your foot—or repeated physical trauma from high-impact athletic endeavors can increase your risk for potential neuroma development.

Swimming

What can be done about neuroma pain?

When it comes to home relief for your neuroma pain, some remedies that might be beneficial include:

  • Rest. Take some time off from high-impact activities—like jogging, running, or dancing—and either replace them with low-impact activities (swimming, bicycling, yoga) or just relax for a couple of weeks.
  • Ice. Fill a paper or foam cup with water (doesn’t have to be completely full) and freeze it. Then roll the iced cup over the affected area.
  • Change shoes. Avoid narrow shoes, especially ones with heels, and replace them with models that have deep, wide toe boxes. Roomy footwear will not place the pressure on your affected nerve, or even help you from developing the condition in the first place.

As a general rule, you will likely find that home remedies for neuroma pain may provide temporary relief, but they do not replace professional treatment.

With regards to professional neuroma treatment, we will take the time to properly assess your situation and arrive at an official diagnosis. At that point, we typically begin treatment by exploring conservative options, assuming they are appropriate for your unique case.

Conservative options for treating a neuroma include:

  • The custom medical devices we create for your unique feet can provide support to reduce compression and pressure on the affected nerve.
  • We may prescribe oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation in the area and relieve your pain.
  • In addition to oral medication, cortisone injections can also help with inflammation and pain.
  • Special padding, particularly at the ball of the foot area, can relieve symptoms while also altering any abnormal foot function that contributes to the problem.

If conservative care does not provide desired results, we can discuss surgical options—and we will discuss neuroma surgery in our next blog post.

Professional Neuroma Treatment at Wilks Advanced Foot Care

Even if this sounds exactly like the problem you are experiencing, it’s essential that you come in for professional diagnosis and treatment. Other nerve-related conditions can cause similar—or even exactly the same—symptoms as the ones you can experience from a neuroma.

For expert diagnosis and effective treatment, request an appointment with Wilks Advanced Foot Care in Roseburg, OR. Call us today at (541) 673-0742 and our staff will be happy to assist you in scheduling an appointment and answer any questions you might have.