Is There A Morton’s Neuroma Test?

If you suffer from Morton’s neuroma (or think that you might), you might be wondering what tests are available to you. This article will tell you everything that you need to know, including more about your condition and how it’s treated.

We’ll specifically focus on how a doctor or clinician would test to see if you are suffering from Morton’s neuroma. If you do discover that you are dealing with Morton’s neuroma, we’ll also include some ideas for treatment and prevention.

What is Morton’s Neuroma?

Let’s start with the basics and define Morton’s neuroma. It’s a condition that impacts the ball of your feet typically between your third and fourth toes although it can impact your second and third toes.

It can be uncomfortable to stand because it can feel like you’re standing on a marble, pebble, or other small object. Obviously, you actually aren’t. Rather, what you’re feeling is a thickening of the tissue around a nerve near your toes.

If you’re a female, you’re ten times more likely to suffer from Morton’s neuroma than men. This is because women are much more likely to wear high heels and/or narrow shoes than men, which exacerbates Morton’s neuroma.

What are the Symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma?

Typically, how to check if you have Morton’s neuroma is to consider pain in your foot. Do you feel a burning, shooting, or stabbing pain? Do you feel like you’re stepping on something small that you just can’t seem to get rid of?

Does the pain radiate through your toes? Do your toes feel tingly or numb? Does the condition get worse when you’re wearing tight shoes or high heels? Is it more uncomfortable when you move your foot? Has it gotten worse?

If you answer “yes” to the majority (or all) of these questions, there’s a good possibility that you might be suffering from Morton’s neuroma. If you try to adjust by changing your shoes and icing your feet and it doesn’t get better, then you might need to be tested.

Is There a Test to Diagnose Morton’s Neuroma?

If you’ve tried to treat your Morton’s neuroma and it hasn’t gotten better in two weeks, it’s time to see a doctor. He or she will examine your foot to see if you have Morton’s neuroma and what treatment options are available to you.

Likely your doctor or clinician will press your foot to see if there is a tender spot. If you have identified a tender spot yourself, you might want to tell your doctor where it is. Your doctor may also see if there is “clicking” that occurs between your foot bones.

Your doctor may choose to do a simple thumb index finger squeeze test, which a study found has a 96% accuracy rate, for diagnosing Morton’s neuroma. 

Your doctor will place his or her index finger on top of your foot and his or her thumb underneath your foot and squeeze to see if there is pain. If there is, it’s considered a positive test result that you have Morton’s neuroma.

If your doctor suspects that you might have Morton’s neuroma, he or she might order additional imaging tests to confirm his or her suspicions. For example, you might have your foot X-rayed to ensure that it isn’t something else like a stress fracture.

Your doctor might also consider doing an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. While you can see tissue issues with an MRI, it’s very expensive and sometimes can show that people have Morton’s neuromas when they actually don’t.

It’s probably more likely that your doctor would pick an ultrasound instead because it does a good job at showing tissue abnormalities like neuromas. We typically think of using an ultrasound to show new parents their babies, but it can also show you foot issues!

What are Some Treatments and Prevention for Morton’s Neuroma?

Although it’s possible for you to treat Morton’s neuroma at home, if your doctor orders a test to diagnose your Morton’s neuroma, it’s probably past home treatment. Even so, you might want to try icing your foot, raising it when you can, and wearing comfy shoes to see if that helps.

If not and the pain is getting more severe, your doctor is likely going to suggest other options like using insoles for morton’s neuroma (whether over-the-counter or custom) to help alleviate some pressure on the ball of your foot. He or she may also suggest metatarsal pads to put underneath your forefoot.

You may also be a candidate for a painkilling injection like steroids into the area that is causing you pain if typical painkillers like ibuprofen aren’t working. If insoles haven’t worked, injections are the next option.

Another option is a non-surgical treatment like radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which uses heat to attempt to treat your nerve. Depending on the success of your RFA, it could last you 6-12 months or even years. Typically, over 70% of people who undergo RFA experience a reduction in pain.

Finally, you may be a candidate for surgery if everything else has failed. There are two main types of surgery: decompression surgery or neurectomy. The former is less invasive, as surgeons can around the nerve to relieve pressure.

If that doesn’t work, it may be necessary to remove the nerve itself, which is known as the neurectomy. The surgery is typically successful, but it is possible that you may have permanent numbness in your toes after surgery.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the short answer is that there are indeed tests to determine Morton’s neuroma and one study has found that some are more effective than others. If you want the greatest accuracy, you should encourage your doctor to use the thumb index finger squeeze test.

Beyond getting tested for Morton’s neuroma, you can also make sure that you’re doing what you can at home: wearing comfortable, wide shoes, avoiding high heels, icing your foot, raising your foot up, and using insoles.

Hopefully, you won’t need steroid injections or surgery, but it’s good to know that there are lots of options available for treatment of Morton’s neuroma. Just make sure that you see a doctor soon if you’ve been treating it at home and it hasn’t gotten better or gone away.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Foot Conditions: Recognizing and Treating Morton’s Neuroma.” Last modified February 2009. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Foot_conditions_Recognizing_and_treating_Mortons_neuroma

Mahadevan, Devendra, Muralidharan Venkatesan, Raj Bhatt, and Maneesh Bhatia. “Diagnostic Accuracy of Clinical Tests for Morton’s Neuroma Compared With Ultrasonography.” Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery 54, no. 4 (July-August 2015): 549-553. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25432459/

Mayo Clinic. “Morton’s Neuroma.” Accessed November 2, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mortons-neuroma/symptoms-causes/syc-20351935

National Health Service. “Morton’s Neuroma.” Accessed November 2, 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/mortons-neuroma/

Robb-Nicholson, Celeste. “What Can I Do About Foot Pain Caused By Morton’s Neuroma?” Last modified February 2013. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/what-can-i-do-about-foot-pain-caused-by-mortons-neuroma

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