Can Orthotics Help my Neuroma Pain?
Those of you who have had a neuroma know what it is: numbness, achiness, tingling, pins and needles, or sharp, shooting pain to the ‘ball’ of the foot or the toes. In its most painful presentation, sharp, throbbing pain it induced with nearly every step. This condition can result in symptoms ranging from annoying to downright painful.
So, what exactly is a neuroma and what causes it? A neuroma is a benign enlargement of one of the nerves under and between the toes, typically between the 3rd and 4th toes but also frequently seen between the 2nd and 3rd toes. A neuroma is essentially a nerve that gets entrapped, or pinched, between two of the metatarsal (‘ball’ of the foot) bones and the ligament that connects them-this effectively results in irritation and physical enlargement of the nerve which then makes it more subject to trauma and ‘pinching.’ As the nerve gets bigger, the symptoms usually increase and an unfortunate vicious cycle develops. Sometimes the size of the nerve actually results in a space developing between the toe bones; this is called Sullivan’s sign.
Can orthotics help this problem? Yes. Custom foot orthotics are helpful in that they disperse or take pressure away from the area of the neuroma or pinched nerve. This is done by shifting more of the weight and pressure from the ‘ball’ of the foot to the 1st metatarsal (connected to the big toe) and the arch of the foot. Decreased pressure to the ‘ball’ of the foot and associated metatarsals decreases stress on the nerve tissue and allows it to heal. Sometimes a metatarsal or neuroma pad is incorporated into the orthotic to further remove pressure and loading to the neuroma.
As an aside, it is important to consider that shoes play a role in neuroma pain as well. Tight shoes or ‘pointed’ shoes (heels or cowboy boots) physically push the bones of the ‘ball’ of the foot closer together which makes entrapment or ‘pinching’ more likely. If you have neuroma pain, pick shoes that are loose across the ‘ball’ of the foot and shoes that have a wide toebox.
Remember: You can beat neuroma pain with wise shoe gear choices and custom foot orthotics.