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Surgery is a last resort for most running injuries. But if you reach a point where conservative methods fail and you want to continue running, surgery may be necessary. In some cases, a simple surgery is the easiest and most effective treatment.
A neuroma is a common foot injury for which surgery provides the most effective long-term solution. A neuroma occurs when the bones of the foot move in a way that causes a nerve to shear off and start forming a piece of scar tissue. Over time, the piece of scar tissue will become larger, and eventually it becomes large enough to press on the nerve and cause pain. You may have a neuroma if you notice a tingling sensation every time you step, but there are no outward signs of redness or swelling.
The most common site for a neuroma is between the third and fourth toes, although it can occur anywhere in the foot. Non-runners develop neuromas, too. Some people can get sufficient relief by wearing wider shoes or by getting an occasional cortisone shot, but the most effective treatment, especially for runners, is a short, outpatient procedure in which the foot surgeon uses a pair of surgical scissors to cut out the neuroma.
If you have surgery for any kind of running injury, get a recommendation for a surgeon who has experience in dealing with athletes, and pay attention to the surgeon's instructions about post-operative care. You can cross train by walking, biking, or pool running after many types of surgery, but be sure to return to running gradually. If you have dissolvable stitches (which are used in neuroma surgery), avoid excessive stress (such as running) on the area until the stitches have dissolved, which takes about 6 weeks.