Morton’s neuroma can cause sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot. You can’t avoid using your foot, so it can be quite difficult to treat Morton’s neuroma.
In serious cases, surgery is required to remove the neuroma before it causes permanent damage.
But if the neuroma is not yet that serious, you may struggle to find treatments that really work to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
Acupuncture for Morton’s neuroma may be a solution. It’s non-invasive, and although it may sound unpleasant, it’s not painful. When used together with other therapies and the right footwear, it can even heal Morton’s neuroma.
Here’s what you should know about the foot condition and this possible treatment.
What is Morton’s Neuroma?
When your forefoot is placed under constant pressure, the metatarsal bones rub against the plantar digital nerve. This irritation leads to the swelling, inflammation, and pain that you’ll feel in your forefoot.
You may experience a burning, tingling, sharp shooting pain, or numbness between the toes that gets worse over time. The pain and discomfort of Morton’s neuroma may be worse when you stand on the ball of your foot or when you walk.
In some cases, the pain spreads to the toes next to the neuroma. This can leave you feeling as though there’s a pebble in your shoe, or like your sock has bunched up under your foot.
Morton’s neuroma can develop from wearing shoes that are too narrow or tight, as this places your forefoot under constant pressure. This condition often affects women who wear high heels, as these shoes change how your body weight is distributed, which compresses the nerve.
But you can develop Morton’s neuroma from activities that place repetitive stress on the forefoot, such as running or jumping.
Other foot conditions such as hammertoes, bunions, flat feet, and high arches can lead to you developing Morton’s neuroma. This is due to the structure of the foot, which distributes your body weight unevenly, placing acute pressure on the ball of the foot.
While Morton’s neuroma most often affects the nerve between the third and fourth toes, it can sometimes develop between the second and third toes. You’ll find that Morton’s neuroma tends to only affect one foot and that symptoms will vary from person to person.
Some people may experience pain in only the toes, while some people may experience pain that shoots into the toes and affects the ball of the foot.
To help alleviate the symptoms of Morton’s neuroma, you can use orthotic insoles or metatarsal pads. These are inserted into your shoes and help to reduce the amount of pressure that’s placed on the interdigital nerves.
Orthotic insoles will provide additional cushioning, distribute body weight evenly, and keep your foot in its natural alignment. Both metatarsal pads and orthotic insoles allow your metatarsal bones to splay naturally, which will prevent the bones from rubbing against the ligaments and nerves.
Change the shoes that you’re wearing and look for shoes that have a wide toe box and provide adequate arch support. Not only will this help reduce the pressure on the forefoot, but it will let your toes splay naturally.
Try to rest your feet as much as possible throughout the day. You can also massage the area a couple of times a day to help alleviate the symptoms.
There are other physical therapy treatments you can try that are non-invasive to help with Morton’s neuroma. These include deep tissue massage, cryotherapy, and stretching exercises.
These therapies all aim to reduce inflammation and restore the foot’s natural range of motion.
Is Acupuncture Effective for Morton’s Neuroma?
Yes, acupuncture is effective in the treatment of Morton’s neuroma. Studies have shown that acupuncture reduces inflammation and pain.
Acupuncture can help reduce the swelling, inflammation, tingling sensations, and pain that you experience with Morton’s neuroma.
By having regular acupuncture treatments, you’ll find that the size of the neuroma becomes smaller and that it improves your recovery time.
The combination of acupuncture, a change of footwear, the use of orthotics, stretching exercises, and resting the affected area can actually heal Morton’s neuroma.
How Does Acupuncture Help Morton’s Neuroma?
Acupuncture is a non-invasive—non-surgical—treatment that places needles in strategic points of the foot. These needles then help trigger a release of neurotransmitters—enkephalins and endorphins—which reduce the sensation of pain.
The acupuncture needle will also stimulate the body to produce more cortisol, which helps to control inflammation in the body. Aside from reducing pain and inflammation, acupuncture increases blood circulation.
This helps to alleviate the ongoing inflammation in the tissue and helps with the recovery process.
The main trigger for pain and discomfort of Morton’s neuroma is the thickening of the soft tissue around the nerve. Having regular acupuncture sessions can help to break down the scar tissue that surrounds the nerve.
This helps the neuroma to diminish in size and promotes the rejuvenation of the surrounding tissue.
Acupuncture doesn’t hurt and when the needles are inserted they only go between a ¼- to ½- inch deep. It also provides an immediate effect as it treats the root of the problem by working with the nervous system.
How to Maximize Acupuncture as a Treatment for Morton’s Neuroma
Acupuncture is an effective treatment for Morton’s neuroma when used on its own. But to help reduce the swelling and pain faster, your acupuncturist may complement the treatment with other non-invasive therapies.
Often, acupuncture is used with electrical stimulation of the nerves around the affected area. A TENS machine is the most common way of stimulating the nerves and causes no pain, although it may feel uncomfortable.
Deep tissue massage can also be used with acupuncture to promote the circulation of oxygen-rich blood and lymphatic fluid. It can also help to loosen up tight muscles in the feet, which can alleviate pain by reducing pressure in the forefoot.
Heat therapy can also help to ease tight muscles and reduce aches and inflammation. Your acupuncturist may recommend a foot soak with Epsom salts, herbal foot soaks, or Chinese herbal treatments to promote healing of the feet.
Some acupuncturists may recommend gua sha—scraping or rubbing technique—which is a type of massage using a small tool. It’s commonly used by acupuncturists and is said to promote the flow of energy through the body, allowing for pain to pass through and inflammation to heal. It does increase circulation, which helps with healing and recovery.
Your acupuncturist will also recommend that you rest your affected foot for some time to promote healing.