The world would be dull without nerves. You wouldn’t be able to feel anything around you. In fact, none of the five senses you learned about in school as a child would work. Nerves are highly sensitive tissues. In your feet, they help you stay balanced and feel the surface you’re stepping on. Because they’re sensitive, though, they have a high risk for damage. Neuromas are a painful problem that make it harder for you to enjoy being on your feet.
What’s a Neuroma?
Neuromas are small nerve tumors that develop as the result of pressure on nervous tissue. They are benign growths, but they create pain and numbness in the foot. You can develop a pinched and swollen nerve almost anywhere in your lower limbs. You end up with an uncomfortable burning sensation, tingling, and even a pins-and-needles feeling around the damage.
Most foot neuromas are a Morton’s neuroma. This isn’t actually a nerve tumor, which involves abnormal tissue growth as a response to damage. Instead, this is a thickening of the nerve between two metatarsal heads in the ball of the foot. The bones, or the soft tissues between them, trap the nerve and compress it. This irritates the tissue and inflames it, so it swells and thickens.
This creates pain in the forefoot, particularly around the damaged nerve. You may develop the sensation of burning feet or a tingling that radiates into your toes. Sometimes you’ll notice numbness spreading into your digits. This discomfort will be most severe when you put weight on the affected foot and lighten somewhat when you rest.
How Do You Get One?
Nerves get pinched and form neuromas several ways. Repetitive stress is one of the most common culprits. Constant standing or long hours spent walking stress the ball of the foot and may cause swelling that traps a nerve. Abnormally high or low arches may direct pressure to the metatarsal heads and make the toes more likely to pinch nervous tissue. Poorly-fitted or improper footwear that squeezes the toes may contribute to the damage. High heeled shoes, like pumps, force more pressure onto the metatarsal heads, which can aggravate the issue. Occasionally trauma to the forefoot will create neuromas as well.
Can You Eliminate It?
The problem with any nerve damage—aside from being painful—is that it can become permanent if allowed to persist for too long. Fortunately, neuromas can be treated conservatively to alleviate the pain and resolve the damage. Dr. Darren Silvester and the Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic staff will need to examine your foot carefully to diagnose your condition, the exact location of the injured nerve, and how severe the problem has become. Then we can help you work through a targeted treatment plan for your burning feet.
Most of the time, conditions like Morton’s neuroma can be handled conservatively. You’ll need to reduce the pressure on the pinched nerve and decrease the swelling. This will mean padding the painful area. You may need to change your footwear to styles that offer more arch and forefoot support. Orthotics may be helpful; they can correct biomechanical problems and cushion the ball of the foot as well. Most likely you’ll need to change your activities and limit hard impacts, too.
Ice the painful area to reduce the irritation and inflammation in the tissues. We may recommend anti-inflammatory pain medications. Persistent pain and swelling might need direct injections of medication to relieve the problem. If the nerve isn’t responding to conservative therapies, you may need surgery to fix it. This could be as small as decompressing the nerve, or as big as removing the damaged tissue altogether, depending on your needs.
Burning feet from neuromas are painful and can make it hard to walk around or be active. You don’t have to live your life sitting down, though. Treatment can help you alleviate the pressure and restore your lower limbs. Let Dr. Darren Silvester at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic help you. Call (830) 569-3338 or use the web request form to make an appointment with us today.