Relief for Aching Feet?

I have Morton’s neuroma, an inflammatory condition. I like to dance and have pain only when I do. I don’t want to take the NSAIDS that my doctor recommended. What herbs do you suggest and in what dose?

– July 24, 2002

Morton’s neuroma is a persistent pain in the ball of the foot stemming from a thickening of tissue surrounding a nerve that leads to the toes. It probably results from irritation, excessive pressure or injury and causes a burning pain in the ball of the foot that gets worse with activity and when you’re wearing shoes.

The first thing you should do to lessen the pain is make sure that your dancing shoes aren’t aggravating it. Avoid high heels and tight shoes. It is best to wear wide, low-heeled shoes with soft soles. You could also look into getting custom shoe inserts called orthotics, which can help relieve the pressure and pain. (These may change the distribution of body weight on the bottoms of the feet and thus lessen any excessive pressure on the nerve.)

I would also suggest acupuncture to ease the pain. And magnets in your shoes may help, too. Some scientific research has shown that magnets can lessen pain. I’ve seen variable results – magnets seem to work for some people but not for others. Yet another possibility is foot reflexology, a massage technique that can be very beneficial to feet that hurt.

Instead of taking NSAIDS, you might try topical application of DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), a chemical made from wood pulp that penetrates skin and promotes healing of pockets of inflammation. Paint the affected area with a 70 percent solution. Apply it three times a day for three days. If it doesn’t help, discontinue use. If the pain lessens, cut down to two applications a day for three more days, than one a day for a final three days. (You can find DMSO in some health food stores or on the internet.)

The best herbal remedy for inflammation include ginger, turmeric, and other anti-inflammatory herbs. Look for it in health food stores. Use the dose recommended on the label and note that you may have to use it for six weeks to get the full effect.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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