06 Apr Nerve Pain in the Feet
Pain in the feet can originate from nerve pain not just muscles and joints. Nerve pain can originate anywhere along the pathway of that nerve before it reaches your feet, including from your spine or pelvis. One nerve cell can span from the spinal cord to the feet?
Nerves are most sensitive where they track around bony prominences or travel through connective tissue tunnels. Nerve damage can result in actual tissue damage at the target tissue if the pain has been there for long enough (Butler D, The Sensitive Nervous System).
Countless nerves in the body convey sensations to the brain, including pain. While we might not like pain much, it does have an important function: it prevents injury. Such as when you begin to step on something sharp, it is the pain sensation that alerts your brain to the danger and hopefully prevents you from taking that full step. This is generally how it is supposed to work. However, in people with nerve pain, the signal does not turn off, or turns on at the wrong time.
Nerve pain is a discomfort that over time can really grind you down. It often feels like shooting, stabbing or burning pain, and as it progresses can feel like pins and needles or numbness. Nerve pain can disrupt your life – at home, at work and can limit your ability to get around. Studies show that people with nerve pain have higher rates of sleep problems, anxiety and depression.
So how do nerves work?
Nerves are long cells with insulation around them at intervals. The insulation has gaps in it where the electrical signal that passes down the nerve, jumps from one gap to the next. These gaps provide really quick transmission of messages, but also create areas of vulnerability.
So what causes nerve pain?
Nerves at these ‘bare’ points in the insulation can be sensitive to pressure, heat, chemicals (swelling, bleeding) and hormones (affected by nutrition and our emotions).
Nerve pain in feet (all these nerves originate from the spine and the sciatic nerve):
- Tibial nerve causes pain in the sole of the foot, or inner heel. It can be the cause for plantar fascia pain that does not respond to treatment.
- Saphenous nerve causes pain in the Arch of the foot, or inner ankle
- Peroneal nerve causes pain in the outside of the foot and sometimnes between the 1st and 2nd toe.
- S1 nerve (between the tail bone and pelvic bones – sacroiliac joint) causes heel pain. This is often missed in treatment of heel pain.
How can I treat nerve pain? We aim to reduce the factors that cause the pain;
- mobilising them as they travel through tunnels in muscles and fascia, and around bony prominences.
- reducing swelling using gentle movement, massage, dry needling, laser and ice,
- relieving pressure on the nerve (from tight muscles, swelling, bleeding etc – as little as 10mg pressure can irritate a nerve),
- helping the nerves to slide and glide freely through muscles and around joints by various mobilisation techniques
- relieving stress (which effects our hormones which in turn effects nerves) using modalities such as yoga therapy and meditation.
At our Physio Body and Sole in North Sydney we successfully treat nerve pain using a combination of the above methods.