What is a Neuroma?

A neuroma is a painful growth of nerve tissue in the foot – most often between the third and fourth toe bones.  It forms when the bones in the feet press together and irritate a nerve.  This may be caused by wearing tight or poorly fitting shoes, or by repeated stress on the foot.  Neuromas often form in women who wear high heels frequently.  Injury or a foot deformity can also cause a neuroma.  As a neuroma gets worse, it can cause a lot of pain and keep you from activities you enjoy.


Symptoms of a neuroma often start slowly.  As the nerve irritation gets worse, you may feel:

  • A sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot, especially when walking.  Many people try to ease the pain by rubbing their foot.
  • Tingling or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot
  • A feeling that you have a stone in your shoe, or that your sock is wrinkled
  • A painful lump that reproduces your symptoms when touched


Reducing Symptoms

The following treatments may be used to reduce painful symptoms.

  • Shoe Changes and Orthotics - shoes with good support, a wide toe box, and thick soles can help prevent nerve irritation.  Avoid wearing high heels.  If needed, custom shoe inserts (orthotics) can help improve foot function and provide extra support for your feet.
  • Padding and Taping - padding and adhesive tape may be placed on the ball of the foot.  The can help correct abnormal foot function and decrease pressure on the nerve.
  • Physical Therapy - massaging your feet and using ice packs can help reduce pain and swelling.  Sound waves or whirlpools can help provide relief.
  • Medication - your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce tissue swelling.  Cortisone injections are sometimes used to relieve swelling in the nerve.
  • Laser Therapy - laser therapy can be used to reduce and eliminate pain and inflammation in the nerve.  This is done in the doctor’s office, is non-invasive and is done without anesthesia. 

Treat the Nerve
If other treatments haven't helped, your doctor may suggest treating the nerve directly. This can be done in one or two ways.

  • Surgery may be used to remove the neuroma. This can be done in your doctor's office, a surgical center, or a hospital. During surgery, a local anesthetic numbs your foot. An incision is then made to remove the nerve. You can usually go home the same day. Ask your doctor when you can get back on your feet. You can often resume normal activities within 3 to 6 weeks.
  • Injections - injections of an alcohol solution (sclerotherapy) may be used to permanatly numb the nerve.  The injections are done in you doctor’s officie and take just a few minutes to perform.  Several treatments are usually needed.