One of the many advantages of trusting Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists with your foot and ankle care is our expertise in the field of nerve pain diagnosis and treatment. We are proud to offer state-of-the-art technology and have leading medical experts on our staff who are ready to effectively treat the nerve issues causing you pain.
Nerve Conditions Commonly Affecting the Foot and Ankle
As many as 28-32 million Americans suffer from nerve pain in the lower extremities (feet, ankles, lower legs). In part, the prevalence of nerve pain is attributed to the fact it happens to people of all ages and demographical backgrounds. This does tend to occur more frequently in middle or later ages, but nerves become damaged from injuries in earlier life as well.
There are several different causes of nerve pain in the lower limbs, including:
- Peripheral Neuropathy – Neuropathy is a general term referring to systemic nerve damage, and the peripheral nerves connect the spinal cord to muscles, organs, and skin. These nerves play a major role in our ability to experience physical sensations. The condition has various root causes (diabetes, malnutrition, exposure to toxins, etc.), and results in burning, tingling, pain, and even loss of all sensation. Diabetes is the leading cause of neuropathy.
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – The posterior tibial nerve is a large nerve that crosses behind your ankle, on the inside of your foot, and is encased in a “tunnel” formed between the ankle bone (specifically, the medial malleolus, which is the bump on the inside of the ankle) and a fibrous roof (the flexor retinaculum). Within the tarsal tunnel, the nerve divides into three branches, each of which can be affected by pressure either from within the tunnel—especially when the ankle moves—or within the nerve itself. The increased pressure leads to reduced blood flow and symptoms like cramping, tingling, and numbness in your toes, ball of foot, arch, or heel.
- Intermetatarsal Neuroma – This is a common issue affecting patients, one which develops when the intermetatarsal sensory nerve to the inner space of the toes is compressed and the nerve becomes enlarged. Many people refer to the condition as a “Morton’s neuroma,” but this term actually only applies when the neuroma is located on the nerve between the third and fourth toes. Left untreated, a neuroma can become permanent nerve damage.
- Compression of the Deep Fibular Nerve – The deep fibular nerve is responsible for allowing dorsiflexion (upwards bending) of the foot at the ankle joint, which is necessary during your gait cycle. This particular nerve can become compressed at the metatarsal cuneiform joint (found at the peak of the foot arch). Symptoms are commonly experienced in the first and second toes, and are worsened by footwear that increases pressure on the nerve.
- Compression of the Common Fibular Nerve – The common peroneal nerve is roughly as thick as a pen and can become compressed in the fibular tunnel. This particular tunnel is formed between the fibula (lower leg bone) and the white covering of the muscles. The compression happens when your leg is stretched, ankle twisted, or knee is injured, and may result in foot drop and instability.
Diagnosing Nerve Damage
When diagnosing the condition, our doctors will likely review your medical history and conduct a comprehensive neurological examination. Diagnostic tests can include:
- Nerve function tests. These include sensory testing, autonomic reflex screening, and electromyography (EMG). Sensory testing may entail a Nerve Conduction Velocities (NCV) test, which is a painless procedure where we measure how individual nerves perform at transmitting electrical signals. Electromyography is used to record electrical activity in muscles by sending an electric signal to a nerve and then recording the nerve’s response.
- Blood tests. We would use these to detect diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, abnormal immune function, and other conditions often responsible for nerve damage.
- Imaging tests. Tumors and other abnormalities can often be identified with CT and MRI scans.
- Nerve biopsy. In some instances, a small portion of a nerve can be removed to look for any abnormalities.
Peripheral Nerve Pain Treatment Options
There are several treatment options for peripheral neuropathy, with the goals being to manage the responsible condition and relieve symptoms. Depending on your case, we may recommend any of various medications, like pain relievers, anti-seizure medication, antidepressants, and topical compound treatments. Other treatments include, but are not limited to: physical therapy, non-invasive laser therapy, therapeutic nerve blocks, and peripheral nerve surgery.
Additionally, our office is proud to offer Neurogenx to not only relieve peripheral nerve pain, but also to address the underlying issue causing it. In this sophisticated, electronic signal treatment (EST), high-frequency electronic waves are sent into the muscle and tissue to reach deep down and produce beneficial changes at the cellular level. These waves improve healing and relieve pain by removing excess fluids and waste products, reducing swelling, and increasing cellular metabolism.
Neurogenx is safe, noninvasive, and leads to dramatic results for patients. Even better, it is an alternative to using narcotic solutions that can come with unwanted side effects and potential risk for addiction issues.
The Austin Experts in Foot and Ankle Nerve Care
Nerve pain in the lower extremities can negatively affect your quality of life, but our experts at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists have an array of treatment methods to help. Contact us for more information by calling (512) 328-8900, or simply schedule your appointment with us online today. Also, take a moment to fill out our online form and we will mail you a FREE copy of A Guide to Understanding Foot and Ankle Nerve Pain.