Pain in the ball of the foot can be caused by a few different things. If you feel it, it’s tempting to just assume that you bumped it or you’ve been standing for too long. Even as it worsens, it can be easy to ignore because you just don’t have the time to think about it!
In some cases, it may just be a bruise from landing on something hard or standing for hours. But sometimes, it can be worse. One of the conditions could be Morton’s neuroma.
What are the complications if Morton’s neuroma goes untreated? We’ll share some of the potential issues that could arise if you don’t get your foot pain checked.
What Is Morton’s Neuroma?
A Morton’s neuroma is a benign lump in the ball of the foot. It’s also called an intermetatarsal neuroma, as it occurs when the nerve between the toes becomes inflamed.
As the inflammation worsens, it causes the nerve to thicken, placing pressure on the soft tissues and causing pain in the ball of the foot.
This occurs most often between the third and fourth toes. In some cases, the nerve becomes trapped between the two bones, and in others, it becomes inflamed due to overuse or excess pressure on the forefoot.
This can sometimes result from other foot conditions that strain the forefoot, including bunions, flat feet, and hammertoes.
Is Your Foot Pain Morton’s Neuroma?
The most common symptom of Morton’s neuroma is pain in the ball of the foot. This can be attributed to many other things; however, it’s estimated that a third of people with this kind of pain actually have Morton’s neuroma.
Here’s how to tell if your ball-of-foot pain could be Morton’s neuroma.
Morton’s neuroma presents with pain in the ball of the foot, most often in the space between the third and fourth metatarsals. It may begin gradually and last a short while but worsen over time.
This pain could be burning or shooting and often worsens when you wear shoes, walk, or do high-impact activities. Rest and taking your shoes off usually eases the pain.
Along with the pain, you may find that you have numbness or a tingling sensation in the same area. You could also feel like you’re standing on a pebble or your sock has folded over in your shoe, right under the ball of your foot.
If you examine the affected foot, you may also find that the toes closest to the area of pain are beginning to spread out wider than is normal.
Morton’s neuroma is more common in females than it is in males, although this is usually due to women wearing high-heeled shoes that place an enormous amount of strain on the forefoot.
You may also be at higher risk of developing Morton’s neuroma if you participate in high-impact sports like running or basketball, especially if your shoes are not adequately protecting the ball of your foot.
Those with a history of trauma to the foot—especially the ball of the foot—may also be more prone to developing Morton’s neuroma. It’s also more common in people who already have other foot conditions that may cause them to alter their gait.
What Are The Complications If Morton’s Neuroma Goes Untreated?
Morton’s neuroma doesn’t go away on its own. It needs to be treated, although treatment isn’t always drastic.
If you suspect that you may have a Morton’s neuroma based on the information above, here’s what happens if Morton’s neuroma goes untreated.
You May Suffer From Severe Pain
While the pain from Morton’s neuroma usually starts off gradually and lightly, if it isn’t treated, it can easily progress into severe pain that affects your daily activities.
In severe cases, the nerve and tissues can be damaged to the point where the pain becomes permanent. This neuropathy can be prevented by simply treating the neuroma when you start to experience symptoms.
You’ll Need to Restrict Weight-Bearing Activities
If you love running or your job involves being on your feet a lot, leaving Morton’s neuroma untreated may result in needing to stop doing those things for a while.
This can put you in a difficult position. If your job requires you to be on your feet, continuing to stand for many hours will only worsen the problem. However, you may be unable to stay off your feet and keep your job.
Sports may be easier to avoid, although if you’re a keen sports person it’s likely to be a blow. You’ll need to restrict any activity that puts pressure on the forefoot until the problem is healed.
In severe cases, even driving can cause unbearable pain. You may need to walk with crutches to take the weight off the foot.
You’ll Have To Limit Footwear Options
If you love wearing high heels, you’ll have to sacrifice them when you have Morton’s neuroma. The high heel-to-toe drop and tight, non-anatomical toe box will make it worse—in fact, this is the cause of most women’s Morton’s neuroma.
If you work in a corporate environment, it may be difficult to find smart, flat shoes that don’t squeeze the toes and still provide support.
You May Become Immobile
If Morton’s neuroma goes untreated for too long, the symptoms can progress to the point where the person is physically unable to place any weight on the foot at all.
They can become immobile, sedentary, gain weight, and even become depressed. In some cases, those people may also lose their jobs as they cannot carry out their duties.
Other Painful Conditions Can Follow
If you alter your gait—even unconsciously—to try and take weight off your forefoot, you may open the door for other foot conditions to develop.
For example, walking more on the inside edge of your feet—overpronating—to try and reduce pressure on the ball of the feet can lead to knee, and hip arthritis as the foot is no longer properly aligned.
How Is Morton’s Neuroma Treated?
Morton’s neuroma treatment varies depending on how severe the condition is. In most cases, Morton’s neuroma can be successfully treated with non-surgical options.
New Shoes or Orthotics
If wearing the wrong shoes can cause and aggravate Morton’s neuroma, wearing the right shoes can help to ease the pain and lower the inflammation.
The most important feature in shoes for Morton’s neuroma is a spacious toe box. This will allow the toes to splay naturally and reduce pressure across the ball of the foot. There should also be cushioning in the forefoot.
You should also avoid wearing high heels as much as you can. This doesn’t mean you have to stop wearing pretty shoes, though. Read our article about the best sandals for Morton’s neuroma!
You can always add an orthotic if you don’t want to buy new shoes. These can help to reduce pressure on the injured nerve and add extra cushioning in the ball of the foot.
Metatarsal pads are a great way of adding some extra cushioning to the forefoot of your shoe. They’re easy to slip into a shoe; some are reusable, and they help the metatarsals spread out and ease that painful pressure.
You may have to limit weight-bearing activity until your Morton’s neuroma is healed. This could include sports, walking, running, jumping, or even standing for long periods of time. This will be at your doctor’s discretion.
Along with resting your foot from activity, you can ice the area to reduce the swelling and numb the pain for a short while. Just ensure to never put ice directly onto your skin, as it can cause some damage.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can help to alleviate the pain while your foot heals. You can buy these over the counter, and they help lower swelling and reduce inflammation.
Your doctor or podiatrist may treat your Morton’s neuroma with steroid injections to help reduce the inflammation. This is usually only done if you’ve tried NSAIDS and other measures, but the pain persists.
Surgery or Cryosurgery
Surgery is a last resort. This usually occurs when Morton’s neuroma goes untreated for so long that it becomes chronic and the pain and inflammation never subside.
Surgery is done to decompress the affected nerve. In some cases, the nerve is removed completely, so you will have numbness in your foot even after the pain goes away.
Another more modern treatment of Morton’s neuroma is cryosurgery, which involves removing dead or damaged tissue using intense cold.