When you can’t feel your feet, you lose access to two very important warning systems.
Not only are you less able to feel for dangers in the world around you (in other words, things you don’t want to be stepping or walking on), but you are much less likely to detect when an injury has occurred to your feet as well.
Numbness in the feet can be a temporary condition, or it can be a chronic, progressive problem. We will be discussing some of the potential causes of numbness here, but we can’t stress this enough: this information should only be used as a basic reference, and not to attempt self-diagnosis and treatment.
Whatever the circumstances may be, any loss of sensation in the feet is something that should always be promptly and professionally evaluated! We have specialized expertise in treating nerve-related conditions of the feet and ankles, and can help you avoid serious complications with proper treatment.
What Can Cause a Loss of Sensation in the Feet?
A variety of different conditions can trigger numbness and loss of sensation in the feet. Broadly speaking, however, there are generally one or two major causes at hand:
- Damage or distress to nerves (sometimes referred to as peripheral neuropathy)
- A lack of blood flow to the area
These circumstances can often overlap, as a lack of proper blood supply can gradually cause nerves to weaken and die as they fail to receive enough of the nutrients and growth factors they need to survive.
The feet are particularly susceptible to the effects of restricted blood supply as it’s already a more significant challenge to get blood to this area than other parts of the body. The feet are farther from the heart than anywhere else, after all.
It is often not enough to know that there is a circulatory- and/or nerve-related trouble causing a loss of sensation, however. It is important to know what exactly is at the root of these problems to provide optimal care.
Here are a few of the potential underlying conditions that might need to be addressed:
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
PAD is a condition that refers to the narrowing of the arteries due to a buildup of cholesterol and fat on the arterial walls. This buildup is often referred to as plaque. Over time, plaque buildup not only narrows the arteries, but leaves them more rigid as well.
Before PAD affects sensation in the feet, it may commonly cause pain in the legs while walking or exercising (also known as intermittent claudication).
Diabetes is sort of a kingpin disease when it comes to creating problems in the feet and lower legs. This is because its complications can not only contribute to conditions such as PAD above, but also cause more direct damage to the nerves as well.
Anyone who is diagnosed with diabetes should pay special attention to diabetic foot care. A proactive and preventative approach to care can help prevent serious complications in the future.
Nerve Entrapment and Nerve Injury
It is entirely possible that a nerve can become compressed, cut, or otherwise traumatized in different ways, leading to periods of numbness, tingling, and/or pain.
Nerves can become compressed against bone, scar tissue, or other solid tissues, such as happens with tarsal tunnel syndrome. They can also become injured or severed because of trauma (fractures, crush injuries, etc.) or as an unfortunate consequence during a surgical procedure.
A nerve does not necessarily need to be damaged directly in the foot to cause numbness in that location. Due to the long paths some nerves travel, an injury in the back (such as a herniated disk) can potentially lead to numbness in the feet.
Vitamin Deficiencies and Alcohol
What we bring into (or not bring into) our bodies can also have substantial effects on our nerve health.
A deficiency of certain vitamins, notably B-12 or D, can be damaging to the peripheral nerves over time. Conversely, an abuse of alcohol can also be damaging to the nerves over time.
Remember that the feet already have a higher challenge of keeping nerves healthy naturally due to the structure of our circulation. When any general damage starts to occur, it is likely to be felt in the feet first as well as other areas on the periphery of our circulatory system, such as the hands.
Treating Numbness in the Feet
The key to effective treatment and management of numbness, tingling, and other related symptoms comes with understanding exactly why those symptoms are happening.
The factors we’ve discussed above are only a few on a list of potential causes. Only through a thorough evaluation and testing (if necessary) can we determine what is ultimately at the source of your numbness.
Once we have that full understanding, we can begin taking steps to alleviate your symptoms and successfully treat or manage the condition. Depending on the circumstances, we might recommend:
- Lifestyle changes, such as alterations to diet, exercise routines, and footwear
- Laser therapy, which stimulates blood flow and natural healing responses to aid in the recovery of damaged nerves
- Electronic signal transfer (EST) therapy, which uses high-frequency electronic waves to stimulate nerve healing
- Surgical procedures such as nerve decompression to free trapped nerves and relieve stress upon them
We will fully discuss all your potential treatment and management options with you, as well as our reasons for providing certain recommendations for your case. Please never hesitate to ask any questions you may have. We will be happy to provide answers, and you have ultimate control over how you wish to move forward with your care.
Never wait when numbness, tingling, or pain are affecting your feet. Schedule an appointment with Fixing Feet Institute by phone or by filling out our online contact form. We’ll be happy to see you.