Neuromas of the foot, a painful condition caused by an inflamed nerve in the ball of the foot, can be effectively treated at home with daily massage and stretches and over-the-counter painkillers, said Dr. Jacqueline
Sutera, a doctor of podiatric medicine and surgery.
“Of all the patients with neuromas I see in the office, I would say that ultimately only two of 10 might need surgery,” said Dr. Sutera, who practices in New York City and New Jersey.
Neuromas of the foot, also known as Morton’s neuromas, typically cause sharp, stabbing pain in the second, third and fourth toes. The goal of massaging and stretching is to open up the space between the
bones — the metatarsals — in the ball of the foot and increase circulation, which can help reduce the pain and inflammation. Focus on the ball of the foot, not the toes, since the pain in the
toes is referred pain from the ball of the foot.
Dr. Sutera recommends placing the thumbs at the top of the foot and the other fingers on the bottom of the foot — or vice versa — and pressing and massaging the bones of the ball of the foot, “creating
pressure on both sides, top and bottom.” Follow massages with stretches, using your hands to “grab your forefoot and pull it apart so you’re stretching the spaces between the metatarsals
in the ball of the foot.”
Massages and stretches are most effective at the end of the day, she said, ideally after a hot shower, bath or other heat application. After the massage and stretching, the area should be iced.
Since neuromas can be caused or aggravated by narrow, tight and pointy shoes or high heels, you may want to invest in comfortable, supportive footwear that has a wide toe box to help with healing and prevent
recurrences, Dr. Sutera said. If you must wear high heels on occasion, wedges or platforms may be better for your feet, she said. Pads or cushioned inserts are also available to place in your shoes under
the ball of your foot to help lift and separate the metatarsals.
A podiatrist can prescribe other treatments, such as physical therapy, cortisone injections for pain or custom-made orthotics.
But consult a physician before doing anything. “It’s important to get the right diagnosis,” Dr. Sutera said. “And if your symptoms get worse or persist, you should definitely go to
a doctor for an X-ray and evaluation.”