Nerve pain in the foot

Our Podiatrists Diagnose and Treat Foot Nerve Damage

Neuropathic foot pain or neuropathy are other ways to describe nerve damage. When the nerves in the feet are damaged, they cannot properly send signals to your brain, which can lead to a loss of sensation and/or discomfort and pain even when there has not been an injury to the foot. At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, our award-winning podiatrists treat patients throughout central Texas whose daily quality of life has been impacted by this unpleasant condition. Our expert care makes it easier for them to continue participating in all of the activities that make their lives enjoyable.

Symptoms of Neuropathic Foot Pain

There are more than 100 different forms of neuropathy, and they can each look different from person to person. The most common symptoms include:

  • Burning or aching pain in the feet and even the legs, which may be worse at night
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness, which can result in a patient not noticing when they have injured themselves
  • Tingling or the pins and needles sensation people commonly experience when their limb “falls asleep” but their foot never “wakes up”
  • Cramps
  • Sensations of an electric shock
  • Decreased movement or function
  • Twitching muscles
  • Loss of muscle and bone
  • Sensitivity to light touch
  • Problems with balance and coordination leading to an increased risk of falls and injuries

A person doesn't need to have all of the symptoms listed above to have nerve damage or for it to be appropriate for them to seek medical care.

Causes of Neuropathic Foot Pain

There isn’t a single cause of neuropathy. It can occur in a variety of ways:

  • Medical conditions. High blood sugar levels from uncontrolled diabetes can not only lead to nerve damage but also poor circulation, which both contribute to nerve pain. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are autoimmune disorders that cause the immune system to attack a person's nerves. Infections including shingles, Lyme disease, fungal infections, HIV/AIDS, and can also lead to nerve damage. 
  • Injuries. Sprains, fractures, and other traumas.
  • Vitamin deficiencies. Lacking sufficient amounts of certain vitamins, particularly B vitamins, folic acid, and vitamin E.
  • Toxin exposure. Heavy metals, pesticides, and chemotherapy drugs.
  • Smoking. Smoking reduces the flow of both blood and oxygen.
  • Poorly fitted footwear. Wearing shoes that rub or squeeze the feet.
  • Alcohol abuse. Alcohol not only has a toxic effect on the nerve cells but can also lead to vitamin deficiencies and other factors that can contribute to nerve damage.
  • Heredity. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, sarcoidosis, and celiac disease are just a few examples.
  • Medications. Certain medications can increase the risk.
  • Unknown causes. In some cases of peripheral neuropathy, there is no known cause.

Preventing Neuropathic Foot Pain

The best case scenario for neuropathy management is to avoid it entirely since nerve damage can often only be treated and managed, not cured. While it is not always possible to prevent neuropathy, the most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes, and managing blood sugar effectively is the best way to prevent it from causing nerve damage. Restricting alcohol and nicotine intake can also reduce a person’s chances of developing nerve damage.

Potential Risks From Ignoring Nerve Pain

Nerve pain will not go away on its own, and trying to ignore it could lead to long-term complications as the damage grows worse. While you may start with irritating but minor nerve pain, if you do not treat the underlying conditions that may be causing it, you could experience:

  • Chronic pain
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Depression
  • Inability to recognize when you have experienced a foot injury, leading to a higher risk of infection and serious adverse outcomes, including amputation and sepsis
  • Need for surgery that could have been avoided with more prompt conservative interventions
  • Irreversible nerve damage

Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists Can Help with Your Neuropathic Foot Pain

If you’re experiencing foot nerve pain, it is a good idea to see a podiatrist right away. Our central Texas foot care experts at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help you get back on track by: 

  • Performing a thorough physical examination
  • Asking detailed questions about how your symptoms began 
  • Testing how well your nerves and brain talk to each other using a nerve conduction test 
  • Ordering blood work and imaging tests to check for conditions that could be causing your discomfort 
  • Referring you to other specialists to provide treatment for underlying conditions like kidney problems, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.

Strategies for Managing Neuropathic Foot Pain

Once we have definitively confirmed your diagnosis and what is causing your nerve pain, our team can work with you to create a custom treatment plan to address your specific needs, using a combination of traditional interventions and the most state-of-the-art equipment and techniques. Your plan might include a combination of the following:

  • Managing underlying health conditions
  • Lifestyle changes
    • Healthy diet
    • Regular exercise
    • Weight management
    • Avoiding nicotine and alcohol
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • More comfortable footwear that fits properly and provides plenty of cushion
  • Orthotics
  • Massage
  • Daily foot checks to quickly identify injuries
  • Routine podiatrist visits
  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers or muscle relaxants
  • Topical creams or ointments
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or nerve blocks
  • Neurogenx
  • Supplements
  • MLS laser therapy
  • Radio frequency ablation
  • Surgery

Surgery to Relieve Nerve Pain

Whenever possible, our doctors will try to help you address your foot care needs without surgery to avoid the complications that can come with it. Should surgery be necessary to address your nerve pain, you are in good hands. Our clinic offers several surgical options. Dr. Thomajan is one of only a few surgeons in the country trained in performing advanced nerve decompression surgical techniques and a fellow of the Association of Extremity Nerve Surgeons. We will also ensure you are well-prepared with the information you need before and after surgery.

Craig Thomajan
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Austin Podiatrist