In today’s busy, hectic society, our feet can really be put through their paces. The Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine estimate that around 75% of the Canadian population experience foot health problems at some point in their lives, with around 19% suffering from more than one complaint per year.
One of the more common is Morton’s Neuroma, a nerve compression that causes shooting pain in the forefoot and toes. This affliction can affect almost anyone who spends large amounts of time on their feet.
Fortunately, with the appropriate care, precautions, and treatment, Morton’s Neuroma sufferers will usually make a full recovery. Here is how massage therapy can help.
The five long bones in the ball of the foot are known as metatarsals. Sensory function of these bones is supplied by either the medial plantar nerve or the lateral plantar nerve, and Morton’s Neuroma occurs when these nerves become irritated or compressed, causing significant discomfort.
A number of factors can contribute to the condition. Students in registered massage therapist college should be aware of patients who wear footwear with narrow toe boxes, such as some high-heeled shoes, which compress the metatarsal heads. Other foot problems, such as plantar fasciitis, can also lead to the development of compensatory patterns which increase pressure on the digital nerves.
In addition, since both plantar nerves originate from the sciatic nerve, which begins in the lower back, muscle and fascia problems, which occur anywhere in the lower body, can contribute to the development of Morton’s Neuroma.
The symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma can be easily identified, as the condition causes a very distinctive jolt of pain that travels from ball of the foot to the toes. However, there are other common foot complaints that can mimic Morton’s Neuroma, so RMTs should carefully assess patients prior to treatment to rule out other conditions, including stress fractures, tarsal tunnel syndrome and metatarsalgia.
To confirm the presence of Morton’s Neuroma, RMTs will often conduct range of motion evaluations that reproduce a patient’s symptoms by hyper-extending the toes and dorsiflexing the foot in unison. This can also be achieved using a Morton’s test, in which the RMT grasps both sides of the patient’s forefoot at once in order to compress the metatarsals.
When treating patients with Morton’s Neuroma once you become an RMT, you may want consider massage techniques which spread out and mobilize the metatarsal heads. One method, which has been shown to produce effective results, involves pulling the metatarsal heads apart and holding them in position in order to stretch the soft tissue and foot muscles.
Deep tissue massage techniques, such as muscle stripping, can also be helpful when performed along the length of the tibial nerve and medial and lateral plantar nerves, but should not be performed between the metatarsal heads, as this can aggravate the condition.
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