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Treating Nerve Pain in the Foot and Ankle

by | Jul 29, 2020

When you ask someone with nerve pain to describe what they feel, you might receive any number of possible answers: 

  • It’s stabbing. 
  • It’s shooting. 
  • It’s burning. 
  • It’s tingling or numbing. 
  • It’s electric. 

There can be quite a range of symptoms, but it should come as little surprise given that what is in distress here are the tools responsible for pain signals themselves! 

In the more “normal” pain we feel – the dull, achy, throbby, or sometimes sharp kind – nerves next to damaged tissue transmit pain signals through the nervous system and to the brain to alert us that something is wrong.  

However, when a nerve itself is damaged or irritated, it can cause problems along the path of that nerve and the way it transmits its signals. Not only can that interfere with the sensation of pain, but also sensitivity to it. In our feet, that can mean the simple act of putting on socks or having a bedsheet rub up against our toes can be shockingly painful! 

Nerve-related pain in your feet or ankles is never something you should hold off on addressing in hopes of it going away. If a nerve is in distress, getting to the source of the problem and addressing it directly can save a lot of pain and potential future trouble.  

We will dive further into what could be causing foot and ankle nerve pain here, but never hesitate to contact us should any of the above types of pain be bothering you. The sooner, the better! 

Common Causes of Nerve Pain in the Feet and Ankles 

In many cases, a nerve is under distress for one of two reasons: 

  • It is under excess stress or pressure. 
  • It has been directly injured, cut, or traumatized. 

In other cases, the nerve may be affected by the effects of disease, toxins, or a genetic condition.  

Whatever the underlying cause may be, the first step toward effective treatment is always determining what is contributing to the condition. Several common diagnoses include: 

Nerve Compression 

Nerves must navigate through and around other structures throughout the body, and some of these areas do not leave a lot of wiggle room. There are relatively tight areas where a nerve can become pinched or trapped against harder tissue, such as a ligament or bone, causing irritation. It is also possible for a nerve to become trapped by scar tissue that develops following an injury or surgery. 

A relatively common form of nerve compression in the lower leg is tarsal tunnel syndrome, where a nerve can become trapped within the narrow tunnel that runs along the inside of the ankle. This can cause pain anywhere from the inside of the ankle to the heel, arch, or toes. Sometimes pain can even be felt higher up the body along the calf muscle. 

Neuromas 

neuroma is a swelling of nerve tissue, often in response to some form of physical trauma.  

The toes and balls of the feet can be susceptible to such trauma, especially if toes spend time cramped in tight shoes or enduring repetitive impacts from activities such as running. However, thesare not the only spots a neuroma can develop. They can be less commonly found in the area of the heel or ankle, among other places as well.

Peripheral Neuropathy 

Peripheral neuropathy is a general term for damage to the nerves. Although it can technically be used to describe any of the above conditions, it most often refers to progressive nerve deterioration as a result of underlying conditions such as diabetes and poor circulation. 

When peripheral neuropathy has a chronic condition such as diabetes at its source, it is typical for the damage to the nerves to grow progressively worse over time. This can cause pain and other sensations to increase until the nerves are so damaged that they can no longer function. The end result is a dangerous numbness where injuries to the feet may not be felt and go unnoticed, which can then lead to large ulcers and severe infections. 

Foot Exam

Finding Solutions to Nerve Pain Problems 

As there are a variety of potential cause in any case of nerve pain, it is essential to fully diagnose and identify all contributing factors that may be at play in your situation. Only then can a comprehensive treatment plan be recommended. 

Conservative forms of treatment will always be recommended first if they are effective, and they often are for conditions such as neuromas. Conservative forms of treatment might include, but are not limited to: 

  • The use of custom orthotics or braces to reduce stress in a vulnerable area. 
  • Modifications to footwear and/or exercise routines. 
  • Physical therapy. 
  • Medications to reduce inflammation and pain. 

In other instances, a surgical procedure may be necessary to release a trapped nerve and provide full relief. We will fully discuss with you any procedures we recommend and answer any questions you may have regarding it and the subsequent recovery. 

And for chronic causes of peripheral neuropathy, such as from diabetes, the primary goals are to relieve symptoms and prevent the progression of nerve damage as much as possible. That will include proper management of the condition causing the problem, among additional forms of treatment. 

Our Ladera Ranch office is ready to help anyone with nerve-related pain in their feet or ankles, as well as any other types of discomfort! Schedule an appointment by calling (949) 364-9255 or by filling out our online contact form. 

If you prefer not to come into the office for an initial consultation, please do not hesitate to schedule a telemedicine appointment with us instead.