Morton's neuroma develops when the nerves located between the toes endure chronic irritation and thicken. The condition commonly affects the nerves between the third and fourth toes. However, neuroma may also affect the second and third toes. Physical therapy is often recommended to alleviate symptoms that range from tingling between the toes, cramping, sharp shooting pains and pain that grows progressively worse.
Therapists offer a conservative treatment approach that begins with identifying the underlying cause. The affliction develops secondary to any circumstance that interferes with the normal alignment of the toes. Some of these conditions might include wearing shoes that are too tight in the toes or from habitually wearing high heels. People having flat feet or high arches might also suffer from Morton's neuroma. Bunions or hammer toes also skew toe alignment.
The low heels, soft soles and widened toe area of athletic shoes are often recommended to alleviate nerve pressure and provide some relief. Depending on the toes affected, therapists might also suggest padding or taping the toes to help alleviate symptoms. Elevating the toes next to the affected nerves minimizes compression and irritation of the traumatized tissues. Felt or gel pad shoe inserts are an easy way to accomplish elevation.
Therapists have a number of treatment options that help alleviate symptoms or correct the problem. Treatment often begins using alternating hot and cold applications, which reduces pressure and swelling while enhancing blood circulation to hasten healing. Some of these treatments include cold laser, ice, electrical stimulation or ultrasound. Once tissues become more relaxed and less irritated, therapists perform soft tissue massage, deep tissue massage, manual stretching and joint mobilization, which together improve mobility and range of motion while minimizing symptoms. Therapists also commonly prescribe various exercises that patients perform at home.
Once therapy improves flexibility and mobility, exercises serve to strengthen muscles. Exercising the toes specifically affects the muscles on the bottom of the feet that weakened secondary to the Morton's neuroma. These simple techniques may involve walking around the house barefoot on tip toes or picking up pencils or other objects using only the toes of the afflicted foot. Morton's not only affects the toe and the bottom of the feet, the condition also weakens the muscles around the ankle region. Exercises that strengthen these areas include walking around the house barefoot on your heels. Sitting or lying down and writing in the air with your toes is another method of strengthening ankle muscles.