This is a question we are frequently asked at our clinic as numbness in the toes is a major issue for many of our patients. This is a common condition that often includes a burning sensation or a pins-and-needles feeling and due to these symptoms can be very alarming. This altered sensation can be caused by a number of factors including; circulation, Diabetes, inflammation or impingement of the nerve. The most common cause of numbness in the ball of the foot and toes is termed ‘Metatarsalgia’.
Metatarsalgia refers to pain occurring at the metatarsal bones (long bones originating at the mid foot and ending in the ball of your foot). Metatarsalgia can be caused by a number of factors with the main 2 being; a collapsed trans-metatarsal arch (where the arch created by the metatarsals falls or an individual metatarsal drops) and a diminished fibro fatty pad (where the natural fat pad that acts as a cushion thins out or is displaced).
The collapse of the arch decreases space between the joints, compressing the nerves and increases pressure to the lesser bones of the foot. With the diminished or displaced fat pad, micro trauma occurs, causing inflammation and aggravation to the nerve. This irritation to the nerve is what causes the numbness or altered sensation.
Both of these causes usually occur in most people as they age but can still affect young people too. External factors can also exacerbate the condition; walking barefoot increases the pressure on the forefoot and causes instability within the forefoot. Wearing high heels (even 2 inch heels) increase the load directly on the balls of the feet, and the higher the heel-the more body weight is shifted to the forefoot.
Treatment for Metatarsalgia is usually focused on footwear, off-loading (reducing body weight on the forefoot), reducing swelling and re-creating and supporting the transverse arch. Exercises may also be given to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the forefoot. If you are having numbness in your toes visit our chiropodists in Milton and Burlington today for a consultation.
Dr. Anil Kaushal