Walking a mile in an aging parent’s shoes may be a real eye opener for the family caregiver. Caregivers can help by addressing foot pain in senior adults and ensuring that proper footwear is provided. Foot pain is a common complaint among older adults and can vary from familiar ailments such as bunions to lesser known concerns such as neuroma.
What is neuroma?
As the “neuro” part of the name suggests, neuroma involves a nerve issue. Simply put, a neuroma is an irritated, swollen nerve, commonly called a pinched nerve or less commonly, a nerve tumor. The condition may begin merely as a small inflammation, but if left untreated, may grow to become a major pain. Neuromas most often develop on the underside of the foot, usually in the ball and frequently between the third and fourth toes.
For some unknown reason, neuromas of the foot are much more common among women than among men.
What causes neuromas?
Science hasn’t pinpointed the exact cause of foot neuromas yet, but it has identified a few factors that often are associated with them. These include:
- Atypical foot formations. People with high arches or flat feet are more prone to neuromas than those with traditional foot structures.
- Trauma. Abnormal pressure or the foot coming suddenly and unexpectedly into contact with a hard object can produce a nerve issue.
- Bad choice of shoes. Shoes that are too tight, especially in the toe area, or that have heels higher than two inches create pressure on the nerves and can lead to this condition.
How can you prevent neuroma?
The best way of preventing neuroma is to wear appropriate shoes: nothing too tight, nothing with a heel over two inches. In addition, shoe heels should have adequate padding for proper support.
What about treatment?
A slight neuroma may respond to simple personal attention, including:
- Taking weight off the foot and giving it a nice massage.
- Applying an ice pack or other source of cold.
- Using shoe pads to help cushion and support the neuromatic area.
Even neuromas that respond to self-treatment should be reported to and seen by a podiatrist. For severe cases, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed; custom shoe inserts are also a popular option, especially if neuromas recur. In some extreme cases, surgery may be necessary.
Adequate foot care can help prevent the occurrence of neuromas and may prevent foot pain in senior adults. However, it’s important to address any changes and symptoms by seeking property medical treatment.