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Morton's neuralgia (Thomas George Morton)

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A disease of the foot characterized by a sudden cramplike pain in the metatarsal area radiating to the 4th and 5th toe and sometimes to the calf of the leg. Compression of the plantar nerve by a tumor, arthritic changes, or bursitis is the common cause. After attacks the foot may remain tender and sore for some time. Patients may experience two attacks in a week then none for a year. Recurrences are very variable and tend to become more frequent. Between attacks, there are no symptoms or physical signs. Unilateral, or, occasionally, bilateral. It occurs spontaneously in middle-aged females and occasionally in males.

The sequence was first described by Lewis Durlacher in 1845. The term Morton's neuralgia was introduced by Ph. Lewin in 1876. Not to be confused with Morton's syndrome, which is another entity named for the American orthopaedic surgeon Dudley J. Morton (1884-1960). Thomas George Morton's observations were confirmed by his son, Thomas S. K. Morton, in 1892.

Morton's successful method of operation for this condition remained in common use in the United States until the 1940s.

We thank Ken L Schreibman, PhD/MD, for information submitted.


  • Lewis Durlacher (1792-1864):
    A treatise on corns, bunions, the disease of nails, and the general management of the feet. Simpkin, Marshall & Co, 1845.
    Durlacher, surgeon chiropodist to Queen Victoria, gave the first description of anterior metatarsalgia.
  • T. G. Morton:
    A peculiar and painful affection of the fourth metatarso-phalangeal articulation.
    American Journal of the Medical Sciences, Philadelphia, 1876, 71: 37-45.
    First complete description of anterior metatarsalgia.

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