A series of spinal nerves from your lower spine travel down your legs and terminate in your feet. When the nerve roots (part of the nerve because it exits the spine) of those spinal nerves are irritated or compressed, foot pain can occur. Foot pain also can occur if a nerve is compressed near your hip, knee, or in your foot.
This blog provides an inventory of common causes of foot pain and helpful tips that could assist you to understand the origin of your foot pain.
Foot pain caused by a spinal problem.
Nerve root irritation or compression within the lumbar or sacral spine (lower back) may cause sciatica pain to radiate down your leg and into the foot.1 Specifically, compression of the S1 nerve root, also called classic sciatica, can cause pain along the outer side of your foot.2
Nerve roots could also be compressed or irritated thanks to a variety of causes. Common examples include3:
Lumbar herniated disc: Leaking of the inner contents of an intervertebral disk
Lumbar degenerative disc disease: Age-related changes causing narrowing and shrinkage of the disc
Spondylolisthesis: Slipping of a vertebra over the one below it
Lumbar spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the bony openings for spinal nerves and/or the medulla spinalis
The inability to lift the front a part of your foot or frequent tripping while walking could also be thanks to a condition called foot drop. This condition is usually caused thanks to compression of the L5 nerve root. Rarely, compression of the L4 and/or S1 nerve roots can also cause foot drop.
Foot pain caused by compression of nerves within the hip, knee, or leg
Foot pain also can occur when nerves are compressed or damaged along their path within the hip, knee, or leg. for instance :
Peroneal neuropathy, a condition where the peroneal nerve is compressed or injured near the knee may cause foot pain and foot drop once you attempt to move your foot.5
Sciatic neuropathy or damage to the nervus ischiadicus within the pelvic region (hip) may cause foot pain along the highest of your foot with a point of weakness.6
Tarsal tunnel syndrome or dysfunction of the tibial nerve within the tarsal tunnel of the inner ankle may cause a pointy, shooting pain in your ankle area and along with the only of your foot.7
Sural nerve compression can occur within the leg or near the ankle and typically causes shooting pain along the outer side of your ankle and/or foot.8
Additionally, a corn may develop on the skin around your toes. Corns grow over time as a result of excessive friction, and that they can compress nearby nerves, causing pain and other symptoms. Another possible explanation for nerve pain in your foot is Morton’s neuroma, which may be a thickening of the tissue around a nerve within the foot.
How to identify the source of your foot pain
With all the possible causes of nerve pain within the foot, it’s going to be difficult to pinpoint the precise underlying cause. Here are a couple of useful signs to assist you identify the source of your foot pain:
- Foot pain that follows recent trauma to the lower back, hip, knee, or ankle may help indicate the location of nerve damage
- Foot pain thanks to nerve root compression or sciatica can also be related to other symptoms, like pain, numbness, and/or weakness within the buttock, thigh, and leg; and typically affects one leg at a time
- Foot pain that develops after wearing tight boots or shoes may indicate peroneal or sural nervous disorder near the knee or ankle
- Foot pain that develops after a hip injection or hip surgery may indicate sciatic neuropathy
Nerve pain within the foot can also occur thanks to nerve damage from systemic conditions, like diabetes or MS.
Twisting, bending, or an immediate hit on your ankle and/or foot may injure the foot bones, ankle, blood vessels, muscles, and/or tendons, causing foot pain.
Schedule a visit together with your doctor
It is important to schedule a meeting together with your doctor to accurately diagnose the explanation for your foot pain. Treatments for foot pain can differ widely and must be directed at resolving the underlying cause; not just masking the symptoms. For example, a lumbar ruptured intervertebral disc may require heat therapy and exercise, while a corn on your toe can often be treated with special shoes and warm water.