What Causes Neuromas and How Can You Prevent Them?

When your feet hurt, it can be hard to do much of anything. Everyday tasks can quickly become uncomfortable and painful. This is especially true if you suffer from a condition known as a neuroma. Learn all about neuromas, what causes them, and how you can prevent them from forming in the first place:

What Is a Neuroma?

Also known as a pinched nerve or a nerve tumor, a neuroma is an irritated and compressed nerve that usually causes a benign overgrowth of nerve tissue to form in the feet. They are normally found on the ball of the foot, especially between the third and fourth toes. You may have a neuroma if you feel like you’re constantly walking with a pebble in your shoe, and you may experience sharp, burning pain, tingling, or numbness in the affected area.

What Causes Neuromas?

The exact cause of neuromas is unclear; however, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the formation of neuromas. Here are the most common ones:

  • Certain inherited foot archetypes. If you have flat feet or high arches, you are at a higher risk of developing a neuroma. That’s because these foot types bring instability around the toe joints.
  • Improper, ill-fitting footwear, especially shoes with a narrow, compressing toe box.
  • Wearing high heels (higher than 2 inches) frequently can increase pressure on your toes and the balls of your feet, leading to a neuroma.
  • Trauma that leads to nerve damage.
  • Repeated stress due to lifestyle or occupation can create or worsen a neuroma. This includes high-impact sports like running or rock climbing, jobs that require a person to stand for long hours.

What Symptoms Do Neuromas Cause?

Neuromas can bring on many intensely painful symptoms, including the following:

  • Pain in the ball of the foot when weight is placed on it.
  • Pain in the forefoot and between the toes.
  • Radiating and localized pain throughout the feet.
  • Swelling between the toes.
  • Tingling, numbness, or burning sensations in the ball of the foot.

How Are Neuromas Diagnosed?

Catching neuromas early is crucial, so if you experience foot pain you should definitely make an appointment with your podiatrist. During your visit, your podiatrist will examine your foot and take an X-ray to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. Once a neuroma has been successfully diagnosed, your foot doctor will come up with a treatment plan, which, depending on the severity of your neuroma, may include conservative treatments or the possibility of surgery.

How Are Neuromas Treated?

If left untreated, neuromas can become quite painful – so much so that it will reduce the number of activities you partake in and how long you can stand or walk. Catching them as early as possible will make treatment easier and will clear up your symptoms much faster! If your neuroma is detected in the early stages, your podiatrist may suggest trying the following non-invasive treatment options to reverse the neuroma:

  • Wear simple, thick-soled shoes with a wide toe box and supportive insoles to relieve your symptoms. This is often enough to help the neuroma diminish on its own!
  • Using special padding and/or taping at the ball of your foot may help change any abnormal foot function present and relieve your painful symptoms.
  • Taking over-the-counter NSAIDs and/or trying cortisone injections can mitigate inflammation and pain in the affected foot.
  • Custom orthotics can help control your feet and reduce your symptoms.
  • Avoid high heels whenever possible to keep pressure off your forefoot.
  • Resting and massaging the foot and using an ice pack can help dull the pain and improve your comfort.

If the neuroma is more severe, you may need additional treatment and/or surgery to correct the problem and remove the tumor. If this is the case, don’t worry. The surgery is a very simple outpatient procedure that is typically performed in one day.

What Can You Do to Prevent Neuromas?

There are plenty of things you can do to keep your feet healthy and free of neuromas. Try the following tips to help prevent the formation of neuromas:

  • Always choose shoes with good arch support, shock-absorbent soles, and a wide toe box that provides plenty of space for your toes to wiggle and move.
  • Avoid high heels as much as you can to keep undue strain off your feet.
  • If possible, choose shoes with buckles or laces that allow you to easily adjust them.
  • Make sure you take plenty of breaks if you’re on your feet for long periods of time due to work or lifestyle activities.

Visit the Knowledgeable Podiatrists at The Foot & Ankle Center If you suspect you may have a neuroma or are dealing with prolonged pain, make an appointment to see the experts at The Foot & Ankle Center right away! We’re proud to provide excellent service to our patients in 6 different locations throughout the Greater St. Louis region. Call us today at (314) 487-9300 or request an appointment online!