Patients come to Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists to be treated for an array of foot and ankle problems, including ones caused by nerve damage and compression. Our staff is committed to staying current in the latest diagnosis and treatment methods for nerve problems to better provide care for every patient who comes through our front door.
In addition to providing expert care, we are also dedicated to providing information so that you, our patients, can better understand the conditions affecting your foot and ankle health. With nerve issues, this includes explaining the difference and relationship between neuropathy and nerve compression.
Put simply, neuropathy is a catchall term used to describe a variety of nerve problems and damage. This is often used in the context of the peripheral nerves – those responsible for collecting and transmitting information for the central nervous system (brain and spinal column). These nerves extend throughout the entire body in an intricate network. When healthy, they send important messages to the brain that enable us to take appropriate action and respond to situations.
Problems arise when the peripheral nerves are damaged. Neuropathy can be caused by physical trauma or injury, diseases or disorders, or exposure to toxins. One of the major causes of nerve damage is diabetes, a condition affecting over 29 million Americans.
Nerve Compression and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Whereas neuropathy is a fairly general term, nerve compression more specifically addresses conditions where excessive pressure is applied to an isolated nerve. This pressure can come from surrounding tissues (bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage) or tumors. The situation can arise in a condition known as tarsal tunnel syndrome.
The tarsal tunnel is a canal formed on the inside of the ankle between the medial malleolus (bump on the inside of the ankle bone) and a band of ligaments known as the flexor retinaculum. Within the tarsal tunnel, the posterior tibial nerve divides into three branches. When pressure is placed upon the posterior tibial nerve, there can be shooting pain, burning or tingling sensations, and even numbness in some cases.
How Neuropathy and Nerve Compression Relate
Since both conditions are concerned with nerve tissues, there is a certain degree of overlap regarding the symptoms that can be displayed. Nerve compression and neuropathy can cause burning, tingling, and stabbing pain. Depending on the type of nerve affected, motor functions might be affected, which can lead to abnormal curling of toes, muscle cramping, and weakness or loss of stability in the lower extremities.
A particularly concerning situation is when either nerve compression or neuropathy leads to numbness. This threatens your body’s ability to recognize painful sensations so that appropriate responses and action can be taken for optimal health and safety. This is a major concern when neuropathy accompanies diabetes, and a key reason you should consult with us for an effective diabetic foot care plan if you live with the disease. Doing so will reduce your risk of developing a dangerous foot ulcer.
Nerve Damage Treatment
Whether it is nerve compression or neuropathy that is causing your issues, treatment is necessary to relieve symptoms and prevent permanent damage. As with any foot or ankle problem, a proper diagnosis is necessary first. This enables us to decide the best course of action for treating it.
Some options for treatment include:
- Medications. Pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, topical treatments, and antidepressants are forms of medication which might provide relief from painful symptoms.
- Therapies. Physical therapy can be beneficial when nerve damage causes muscles weakness. Other therapies include plasma exchange, intravenous immune globulin, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
- Neurogenx. This is an advanced treatment we are proud to offer at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists. It is a form of electronic signal treatment (EST) proven to relieve neuropathy
- symptoms and drive changes at the cellular level to remove excess waste products, increase cell metabolism, and alter Ph levels to promote nerve healing.
- Surgery. When necessary, you can take comfort in the fact our double-board-certified doctors have the skills and education needed to consistently perform successful nerve surgeries.