Treating Neuropathy & Nerve Pain in the Feet
Your nerves play an essential role in how your body functions. They not only instruct your muscles to move when your brain tells them to, but they also enable you to experience sensations.
One of those sensations is pain, a good and normal response to have in this world. It’s our way of recognizing danger and knowing when something is wrong.
But when you lose the ability to trust your nerves—whether they send faulty signals of pain and other sensations to the brain or, even worse, none at all—it can lead to problems. Understanding neuropathy will help you know when you have an issue, how we can treat it here at Brook Valley Podiatry, and what steps you can take to prevent complications.
Your body’s nervous system is comprised of two parts – the central and peripheral nervous systems. The brain and spinal column make up the central nervous system, which is responsible for processing information. The peripheral nerves collect, send, and receive information from the central nervous system.
Neuropathy is a condition of damaged nerves that results in pain, weakness, or numbness in your feet, due to impaired communication within the nervous system.
How Nerve Damage Can Occur
Our nerves can become damaged in a variety of ways, including physically, chemically, or due to illness.
A nerve can be compressed by surrounding bones, tendons, or ligaments, but also because of a tumor, scar tissue, a swollen bursa, or anything that constricts the place where the nerve lies. When there is pressure on a nerve, the fibers can become irritated, inflamed, swollen, and otherwise damaged, and cease to function as they should.
A common site of entrapment is in the inner ankle, where the posterior tibial nerve runs from the calf to the foot. (Entrapment here is called tarsal tunnel syndrome.) It also can happen at the base of your middle toes, leading to a thickening and swelling of nerve tissue called a neuroma. Pinched nerves are often worse when you wear shoes that cramp the toes or high heels. Compression can cause tingling, numbness, and shooting pains in your feet and toes.
Our nerves can also suffer damage from illnesses and conditions. Diabetes is perhaps the most commonly considered condition that can cause neuropathy, but other health problems such as kidney disorders, hypothyroidism, and chronic inflammation, and lupus can also be to blame.
Chemical problems such as exposure to toxins, vitamin deficiencies, and excessive alcohol consumption can have effects on the nerves as well. Even certain medications and treatments such as chemotherapy can cause damage.
Problems Neuropathy Can Cause
A major concern with peripheral neuropathy is the inability to feel pain and know when an injury has taken place. It is not rare for someone who has a cut or sore to not even feel it and continue to walk freely on the foot, potentially opening the wound further.
Individuals who have diabetes are especially at risk for complications from nerve damage, as the condition also affects the body’s ability to heal. A wound that is not felt and does not heal is much more likely to develop into an infected ulcer, which can cause very serious problems.
As such, an important component of diabetic foot care is to conduct a daily inspection of both feet. This is best performed before going to bed and should become a rather thorough daily habit. If you are unable to inspect the bottoms of your feet, either use a mirror or enlist the help of a loved one.
Treatment for Neuropathy
When it comes to neuropathy, treatment goals are two-pronged: relieve symptoms and manage the underlying condition that causes nerve problems.
This often entails the use of medication and various therapies. In some cases, surgery can be used to relieve pressure placed upon a nerve by tumors or other tissues.
Many of the lifestyle and home remedies to manage peripheral neuropathy—healthy eating, exercise, quitting smoking—are also the same steps to be taken to reduce the risks of nerve damage happening in the first place.
Nerve Pain Treatment Options
Treatment for nerve pain caused by neuropathy will depend, naturally, on the condition responsible for the problem. With that said, some of the more common treatment options include:
- Medications. This approach is mainly used to treat existing pain. Pain relievers, topical treatments, anti-seizure medications, and even antidepressants can all be beneficial in certain cases.
- Shoe modifications. Switching from high-heeled, pointy-toed shoes to models featuring low heels and plenty of room for toes to move can make a big difference.
- Rest and massage. When the source of pain is a neuroma, rest and a foot massage can provide relief.
- Orthotic devices. In many cases, keeping pressure off an affected nerve is quite helpful.
In some instances of nerve pain and damage, we may recommend Neurogenx. This is a state-of-the-art treatment for nerve damage that we are pleased to offer at Brook Valley Podiatry.
With Neurogenx, cells are stimulated with high-frequency electric wave signals, which encourages cellular repair and nerve healing. This is a completely safe treatment, requires no drugs, and has no known side effects. If you would like to learn more, please visit our Neurogenx page.
Our goal is to use conservative care as often as possible, but sometimes nerve issues need to be addressed with surgical procedures. If surgery is being considered as an option, we will be sure to discuss all aspects of a potential procedure fully with you.
Preventing Nerve Damage
The best prevention method for neuropathy is to manage any medical condition that can increase the risk of it occurring. An example of this is for an individual with diabetes to take special care to regulate his or her blood glucose levels.
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables is essential for providing the nutrients necessary to keep nerves healthy. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be particularly detrimental, so meat, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy foods should be staples in the daily diet.
In addition to healthy eating, regular exercise and the avoidance of certain factors—smoking, cramped positions, repetitive motions, risks of foot injury, and excessive alcohol consumption—can also help decrease the risk of neuropathy.
Professional Neuropathy Care in Spring Valley, NY
When you or a loved one is living with a condition that causes neuropathy, especially diabetes, it is important to have a foot care plan in place.
If you need assistance with one, the experts here at Brook Valley Podiatry are ready to help. We also provide the effective care you need to stay safe and healthy.
Call (845) 352-7507 for our Spring Valley office. You can also schedule your appointment with us via the online form found on our website.