Morton's Neuroma is a thickening of the nerves at the base of the third and fourth toes. A variety of things can cause the nerves to thicken, such as wearing high-heeled shoes, running or the genetic makeup of your feet. As the nerves thicken, you begin to feel almost as if there is a lump under the skin, which can be painful when you walk. Yoga is very effective in helping prevent and treat Morton's Neuroma, as it helps open up the feet and relieve stress to the nerves.
Opening the Foot
Morton's Neuroma often happens because the feet are compressed in small-toed shoes or because of constant stress to the balls of the feet while running or playing sports. Since the feet are compressed, this creates the buildup of nerve tissue. By opening up the foot, the nerves become less compressed and the tissue slowly unravels, which in turn relieves the pain of the Neuroma. Yoga is founded on the principles of opening pathways through the body starting with the feet as the grounding template. Yoga is done barefoot and, thus, gives the feet a chance to stretch and ground in an open space. Not only this, but certain yoga poses are designed specifically to open the feet.
Yoga Poses to Open Feet
Hero pose, or Virasana, helps open up the top of the foot and strengthen the sole and arches of the foot. Over time, it helps reconstruct and realign the tarsal (toe) bones by spreading the toes and opening up the space between the toes. This is turn relieves pressure on the balls of the feet and helps support the arches, which relieves the stress put on the neuroma. To do this pose, sit on your heels with your feet underneath you, the tops of your feet down. It can also be done with the toes tucked to increase the opening across the base of the toes.
To start Happy Baby pose, lie on your back with your feet up, which allows the blood and lymph fluid pooled in the feet to travel back up your legs, in turn helping to maintain healthy pathways through the feet. It is also an excellent opportunity to use your hands to help open the feet. Lie on your back, knees bent into chest, and place your feet in your hands. Hook your thumb between the big toe and second toe and hold your big toe. Use your fingers to pull open the outer (lateral) blade of the foot.
Standing poses also open up the feet, but may put undue pressure on the neuroma, depending on the severity. The main goal for the feet in any standing pose is to make sure you activate all four corners of the foot. Crescent lunge is a great way to practice this. Start standing and simply feel your feet pressed against the floor. Push down equally with your inner heels, outer heels, base of big toes and base of fifth toes. Next, step your right foot back into a high-heeled lunge position, allowing your toes to spread out as wide as possible and focusing on putting pressure equally across the bases of the toes. Repeat on the left side.
Cautions and Tips
Make sure you also do yoga barefoot to allow the feet to open to their full extent. Before you begin, make sure you warm up your feet by rolling a tennis ball between your foot and the floor. This also helps break up any adhesions in the tissue and over time may help relieve nerve pain in the neuroma. Walk as much as possible without shoes or with wide-toed, supportive shoes. If after doing yoga or any activity, the neuroma hurts, be sure to ice it to reduce swelling and pain.