What is Morton's neuroma?
Morton's neuroma is a painful foot condition caused by a thickened nerve between the third and fourth toes. This can also occur between other toes, which is known as an ‘interdigital neuroma’.
Rather than being a true neuroma, which suggests a tumour or growth, Morton’s neuroma actually refers to a peri-neural fibroma. This is the correct term for a nerve that becomes abnormally thickened and surrounded with fibrous tissue.
The neuromas referred to in this condition tend to form together with a fluid-filled bag called a bursa. This "neuroma bursa complex" is meant to protect the nerve, but instead it causes more pain.
Cryosurgery targets the neuroma and also reduces the size of the bursa. For further information, see our cryosurgery FAQs.
In Morton’s neuroma, the nerve between the toes thickens due to stress from the surrounding tissues and bones. This often occurs when a person’s foot is unstable or excessively compressed.
The causes of Morton's neuroma can be divided into biomechanical, anatomical, footwear and activity/sport related categories..
As the condition is often caused by footwear such as high-heeled shoes, it is not surprising that it is more common in women than men.
Patients with foot deformities such as bunions, corns or flat feet are more susceptible. However, that’s not to say those with fairly normal looking feet are immune to Morton’s neuroma. In these cases, there may be a pre-existing abnormality in the anatomy of the nerve. The condition is also common among people who are hypermobile (double jointed), and those with a history of nerve tension/abnormality such as sciatica. Neurological conditions like MS and diabetes are also linked to Morton’s neuroma due to the underlying disease process.
Dancers are especially prone to developing the condition and we have experience in treating particularly young people in this field. Football, cycling and skiing are also high-risk sports for developing Morton’s neuroma.
We always investigate the source and possible underlying causes for a neuroma. This may involve an in-depth assessment in our gait analysis facility or a specialist referral (to a neurologist, for example).
We are only happy to proceed with treatments such as cryosurgery
when we are satisfied that such investigations have taken place and that appropriate conservative care has been attempted.