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Stretches & Exercises for Morton’s Neuroma

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT February 06, 2021 0 Comments

Morton’s neuroma, or an intermetatarsal neuroma, causes foot pain on the ball of your foot, third and fourth toes and affects people of all activity levels. Luckily, this foot condition responds well to rest, conservative treatment options, and exercise. Keep scrolling to get the best Morton’s Neuroma exercises for your recovery and learn how they will improve pain in the bottom of your foot and metatarsalgia.

Morton’s Neuroma Exercises

The primary goal for foot pain exercises is to restore normal function and get you back to normal life. This is accomplished by reducing pain, boosting healing potential, restoring flexibility, and promoting better overall foot strength and balance. Use the combination of stretching and strengthening exercises below for the best possible results.

More Treatment Options for Morton’s Neuroma

1. Toe Scrunch with Towel

Place a small towel flat on the floor and place your foot in the center of it. With your feet comfortably flat on the floor, begin to scrunch the towel by grabbing it with your toes. Lift the toes and then curl them toward the ball of your foot as you attempt to scrunch the front edge of the towel closer to your foot. Keep your heels resting on the ground. Focus on one foot at a time.

Repeat for 15-20 repetitions for up to 3 sets per day.

2. Foot Roll

Self-massage of the foot with a ball can be a great daily exercise for foot pain management. Grab a textured massage or lacrosse ball to get started. Sit in a comfortable chair and place your massage tool under the ball of your foot (at the metatarsals). How much pressure to place depends on what you can tolerate without tensing up and increasing pain. Roll the ball under the clockwise for 10-20 repetitions before switching directions.

Change directions and massage for one to five minutes. Stop when your foot feels more relaxed and pain is decreased. Address any other spots in your foot arch that are sore. Adding ice to your massage method can boost your pain relief, try this with a frozen water bottle or freeze your massage balls before use.

3. Calf stretch

Stretching exercises for the calves can relieve general tension in the ankle and foot. Since the calf muscle, or gastrocnemius, attaches to the heel via the Achilles tendon it can affect the health and dynamics of the bottom of the foot. This can be of particular importance if you wear high heel shoes. Try these variations below:

  • Standing Calf Stretch

     

    Stand near a wall or the back of a chair for balance. Then, step into a staggered lunge position with the foot/calf you want to stretch in the back. Keep your back knee straight, both of your feet firmly planted on the ground and toes pointing forward as you shift your weight into your front foot. Bend the front knee as you shift your weight forward until you feel a strong stretch in the back of the calf.  

    Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg. 

  • Wall Calf Stretch

    Stand about 2 feet away from the wall with your hands placed on the wall in front of you. Then, place the ball of the foot you want to stretch against the wall a few inches above the ground so that your heel can still comfortably touch the ground. Adjust your foot position higher or lower depending on tolerance. If your foot is too sore, place a small towel roll against the wall for extra foot support.

    Hold 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each foot. This is also a good stretch for addressing plantar fascia pain

  • Calf Stretcher

     

    Using a tool like a calf stretcher can help you target the calf muscles with a strong effective stretch. Place your stretching tool near a wall or chair for balance. Then, place your foot comfortably in the center of the stretcher. Make sure you have your balance before pushing your heel down toward the ground and toes up toward the ceiling. To stretch the gastrocnemius, keep your knee straight. To stretch deeper calf muscles (the soleus), bend the knee.

    Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg. Do one full round with the knee straight before switching to the knee bent if tolerated.

    Find More Calf Stretches Here

4. Big Toe Strengthening 

Grab a light resistance band for this one. Place the band around the big toe and hold the ends in both hands at a comfortable resistance level. Allow the toe to lift up toward the ceiling before pushing against the resistance back down toward the floor. Keep the movement slow and controlled in both directions.

Repeat for 10-15 for 2-3 repetitions on each foot. Increase resistance as needed.

5. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch

Grab a stretch strap or towel and sit in a chair to get started. Place the strap either around the ball of your foot or the big toe. Then, gently pull the toes up toward the ceiling while keeping your heel resting on the ground until you feel a stretch in the bottom of the foot. The stretch should feel relaxed and relatively pain-free.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each foot. This is particularly great for warming up the foot before exercise or when first getting out of bed in the morning when your body feels stiff.

More Plantar Fasciitis Stretches

How These Exercises Reduce Foot Pain

There are several different mechanisms at play that make exercise an effective treatment option for metatarsal foot pain. Our feet are made to move and it feels good too when you know where to start. These exercise reduce painful foot conditions by:

  • Boosting the efficacy of other home treatment options - such as ice, heat, TENs, and more.
  • Increasing circulation to expedite the foot’s healing capabilities
  • Decreasing metatarsalgia pain, inflammation and restoring tissue extensibility
  • Creating better foot biomechanics for reducing strain on the injured area 

Exercises have the same effect for other similar Foot Conditions such as; Plantar Fasciitis, Peroneal Tendonitis, and Metatarsalgia.

Walking and Running with Morton’s Neuroma

Walking with Morton’s Neuroma can be painful. However, with the right foot protection, it can be a great form of exercise. Since inactivity, poor general health, and obesity can contribute to foot pain, walking for fitness and weight loss is an easy way to get started. Ultimately, walking or even running is possible when you modify it to be relatively pain-free. Tips for preventing pain with walking or running include:

  • Warm up the foot with appropriate stretches before walking or running
  • Restore strength and balance to the foot with strengthening exercises (as listed above)
  • Pay close attention to your symptoms and stop if they get worse or you develop burning pain
  • Always start with a small distance and low speed; then gradually progress as tolerated
  • Consider orthotic insoles for additional support, especially if you have bunions or flat feet. Learn about orthotics and shoe inserts here.
  • Wear shoes that are wide enough for your feet and easily adjustable
  • Consider purchasing shoes that decrease pressure on the forefoot and support the bottom of your foot
  • Talk to a physical therapist for specific exercise and biomechanical recommendations.

What Exercises Make Morton’s Neuroma Worse?

Exercises that place a lot of strain and impact on the foot can aggravate Morton’s Neuroma foot pain. This includes running, jumping, and other forms of plyometric exercise.

Switch to lower impact exercises such as walking, cycling, or swimming until your symptoms are well managed and you are well on the road to recovery. These exercise adjustments should always coincide with a change in footwear to promote comfort and allow healing.

Finding Pain Relief with Exercises

Having a consistent foot exercise program for addressing flexibility and strength will help you better manage your foot pain symptoms caused by Morton’s Neuroma. Understanding what can help and aggravate your foot will get you on the road to recovery as soon as possible. You may need to avoid dress shoes or high heels for a while, but you will get back to taking a step without flinching in pain.

If your symptoms don’t seem to be getting better with home treatments and exercise, or they suddenly get worse, always consult your podiatrist or physical therapist for further recommendations and medical advice.

Sources:

https://bloomingtonpodiatrist.com/take-up-walking-even-with-a-neuroma/#:~:text=Walking%20can%20be%20painful%20with,as%20much%20pressure%20as%20possible.

https://www.powersteps.com/resource-center/post/five-mistakes-that-prevent-mortons-neuroma-pain-relief

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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