A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of injected capsaicin for pain in Morton's neuroma

Claudia Campbell, Eric Diamond, William K. Schmidt, Margaret Kelly, Robert Allen, William Houghton, Kerrie L. Brady, James N Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intermetatarsal neuroma or Morton's neuroma is a painful condition of the foot resulting from an entrapment of the common digital nerve typically in the third intermetatarsal space. The pain can be severe and especially problematic with walking. Treatment options are limited and surgery may lead to permanent numbness in the toes. Capsaicin, the pungent ingredient of hot peppers, produces analgesia by inducing retraction of nociceptive afferents from the area of innervation and is effective in treating certain neuropathic pain disorders. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study was conducted to test the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of a single 0.1 mg dose of capsaicin vs placebo injected into the region of the neuroma. A total of 58 subjects diagnosed with Morton's neuroma with foot pain ≥4 (0-10 numerical pain rating scale) were injected with 2 mL of lidocaine into the intermetatarsal space proximal to the neuroma to provide local anesthesia. After 5 minutes, 0.1 mg capsaicin or placebo was injected into the intermetatarsal space containing the painful neuroma. Average foot pain was rated for 2 weeks before through 4 weeks after injection. At weeks 1 and 4, the decrease in pain was significantly greater in the subjects treated with capsaicin (P 0.021 and P 0.019, respectively). A trend toward significance was noted at weeks 2 and 3. Improvements in functional interference scores and reductions in oral analgesic use were also seen in the capsaicin-treated group. These findings suggest that injection of capsaicin is an efficacious treatment option for patients with painful intermetatarsal neuroma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1304
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Capsaicin
  • Clinical trial
  • Intermetatarsal neuroma
  • Morton's neuroma
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology

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