Published on June 23, 2014
Foot pain and numbness can be caused by a muscle strain or tight fascia within the foot. The numbness and pain can also often be a result of pressure from a disc bulge or spinal narrowing/stenosis in the low back. Tightness or nerve entrapment of the “common fibular nerve”, which travels down the leg, also can lead to foot pain.
Determining If There Is A Nerve Problem:
Often, the first sign of a nerve problem is numbness along the top of your foot, which can radiate into the big toe or along the bottom of your foot. In order to determine your foot strength you should walk around on your heels and then on your toes. This tests to see if there is damage of the L5 or S1 nerve root predominately. You can also be more specific to determine if the problem is from the L5 nerve root, by lifting up your big toe. Each of these tests should be repeated several times as the loss of strength may only show up after several attempts.
The tests mentioned above are done to determine if there is a “drop foot” which can result if the disc bulge or entrapment of the nerve is getting progressively worse. A drop foot prevents you from lifting up the foot properly from the ground as you cycle through your gait. You may feel as if your foot is slapping the ground and/or the tip of your shoe is starting to wear early in comparison to the other, as a result of not being able to pick up your foot completely.
An examination by your medical doctor, chiropractor and/or physiotherapist is essential for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. The condition will often get better with conservative management but needs to be carefully monitored to prevent progressive weakness and numbness. Surgical management may be necessary to decompress the nerve root in order to prevent loss of strength and continued drop foot symptoms.
Feet Exercises to Help Build Strength:
Foot exercises, such as the tests mentioned above, are important to do to keep the nerve as active as possible. You want to also work on balance, utilizing single leg stance exercises to help stimulate the nerve. This helps prevent further loss of balance and proprioception.
If you don’t use it-you will lose it! This saying is very fitting in this situation. You want to fire the nerve as much as possible as it isn’t receiving proper neural input. Neuro-electrical muscle stimulation can also be utilized along the neural pathway to help stimulate the muscles that are not receiving the optimal input.