A Closer Look at the Nerves in Your Feet

About three-quarters of American adults experience significant foot pain at some point in their lives. That includes painful symptoms caused by nerve-related problems in the feet and legs. 

At PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic, Eric Blanson, DPM, specializes in treatments aimed at relieving nerve pain in the feet and ankles, using state-of-the-art techniques customized for each patient’s unique needs. If you’re having symptoms of foot pain, here’s how your nerves could be playing a role.

Foot nerve anatomy

Your feet contain thousands of nerve endings that provide lots of sensations to every part of your foot. All those nerve endings start way back at your spine, branching off from the sciatic nerve where it exits the lumbar (lower) spine.

As the sciatic nerve travels through your buttock and down your leg, the nerve branches into five main “foot” branches:

In turn, each of those nerves divides into more branches and sub-branches throughout your foot and toes. Some nerves (called somatic nerves) provide sensations, while other nerves (called motor nerves) help control muscle movements in your feet. 

Neuropathy, neuroma, and “pinched” nerves

Just like the other structures in your feet, your nerves can become injured, damaged, or diseased. When that happens, you can have symptoms like:

Peripheral neuropathy is kind of a catchall term for nerve problems outside of the central nervous system (your spinal nerves and brain). Nerve pain in your feet falls into this category. 

Peripheral neuropathy in the feet can be caused by problems with the sciatic nerve or any of the main branches or sub-branches mentioned earlier. If these nerves are irritated, damaged, or “pinched,” you can experience symptoms like those described in the list above. 

Some nerve pain is limited to a nerve in your foot, without involving the larger branches. Neuromas are benign nerve tumors or abnormal growth or nerve tissue that’s associated with localized pain and swelling. Morton’s neuroma is a common type of foot neuroma occurring on the ball of your foot, usually between the third and fourth toes.

A nerve can also become compressed or pinched by an injury to your foot or a problem with a bone, joint, or ligament. Metabolic problems, some medications, obesity, lifestyle factors, and certain diseases like diabetes can also cause foot neuropathies.

Treating nerve pain in your feet

Treating nerve pain begins with a thorough exam of your feet and an evaluation of your symptoms. In addition to the physical exam, Dr. Blanson uses imaging tests, lab tests, and nerve conduction studies to help identify the underlying cause of nerve pain, along with the extent of your symptoms.

Depending on your needs, your treatment plan may include medication, physical therapy and exercises, or regenerative therapy to repair damage in your feet. In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended to “release” a trapped or compressed nerve.

Don’t ignore foot pain

Without medical treatment, nerve problems can progress, becoming much worse over time. Prompt medical care is important for preventing permanent nerve damage and chronic pain. To learn what’s causing your foot pain — and how we can help you feel better — call PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic in Spring, Texas, or book a visit using our online system today.

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