The effectiveness of non-surgical interventions for common plantar digital compressive neuropathy (Morton's neuroma): a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Foot Ankle Res. 2019 Feb 13:12:12. doi: 10.1186/s13047-019-0320-7. eCollection 2019.


Background: Morton's neuroma (MN) is a compressive neuropathy of the common plantar digital nerve. It is a common compressive neuropathy often causing significant pain which limits footwear choices and weight bearing activities. This paper aims to review non-surgical interventions for MN, to evaluate the evidence base for the clinical management of MN.

Methods: Electronic biomedical databases (CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE and Cochrane) were searched to January 2018 for studies evaluating the effectiveness of non-surgical interventions for Morton's neuroma. Outcome measures of interest were treatment success rate (SR) (binary) and pain as measured using 100-point visual analogue scale (VAS) (continuous). Studies with and without control groups were included and were evaluated for methodological quality using the Downs and Black Quality Index. Results from randomised controlled trials (RCT) were compared between-groups, and case series were compared pre- versus post-treatment. Effect estimates are presented as odds ratios (OR) for binary data or mean differences (MD) for continuous data. Random effects models were used to pool effect estimates across studies where similar treatments were used. Heterogeneity was assessed using the I 2 statistic.

Results: A total of 25 studies met the inclusion criteria, seven RCTs and 18 pre/post case series. Eight different interventions were identified, with corticosteroid or sclerosing injections being the most often reported (seven studies each). Results from a meta-analysis of two RCTs found corticosteroid injection decreased pain more than control on VAS (WMD: -5.3, 95%CI: -7.5 to - 3.2). Other RCTs reported efficacy of: manipulation/mobilisation versus control (MD: -15.3, 95%CI: -29.6 to - 1.0); extracorporeal shockwave therapy versus control (MD: -5.9, 95%CI: -21.9 to 10.1). Treatment success was assessed for extracorporeal shockwave therapy versus control (OR: 0.3, 95%CI: 0.0 to 7.1); and corticosteroid injection vs footwear/padding (OR: 6.0, 95%CI: 1.9 to 19.2). Sclerosing and Botox injections, radiofrequency ablation and cryoneurolysis have been investigated by case series studies, however these were of limited methodological quality.

Conclusions: Corticosteroid injections and manipulation/mobilisation are the two interventions with the strongest evidence for pain reduction, however high-quality evidence for a gold standard intervention was not found. Although the evidence base is expanding, further high quality RCTs are needed.

Keywords: Common plantar digital nerve; Compression neuropathy; Morton’s neuroma; Non-surgical intervention.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Foot Orthoses
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Morton Neuroma / pathology
  • Morton Neuroma / therapy*
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations / methods
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • Sclerotherapy / methods


  • Glucocorticoids