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Nerve Disorders of the Foot and Ankle

Compression neuropathies, or nerve injuries, of the foot and ankle occur in patients for reasons including stress, genetics, autoimmune disorders, trauma or other causes.

At UC San Diego Health, our care team provides the latest diagnostic tests and nonsurgical and surgical therapies to treat minor and complex injuries of the foot and ankle.

Foot and ankle conditions we treat.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Our experts diagnose nerve disorders of the foot and ankle with a comprehensive examination, medical history review, electrical tests (electromyography), and imaging (magnetic resonance imaging, X-rays, computerized tomography). If degeneration of the bone is suspected, a bone scan may be required.

Initial treatment typically involves simple, nonsurgical therapies, such as custom shoe pads and inserts, icing, massage, anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroid medication injections, or changes in footwear.

If conservative treatment does not relieve symptoms, surgery may be recommended. One of our skilled surgeons will discuss treatment options with you.

Types of Nerve Disorders

We treat nerve disorders of the foot and ankle such as: 

  • Morton’s neuroma
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Baxter’s nerve entrapment
  • Foot drop from traumatic nerve injury
  • Compression neuropathies

Learn more about these nerve disorders below.

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma involves a thickening of the tissue around the nerves leading to the toes. A common symptom of Morton’s neuroma is a persistent pain in the ball of your foot, or the feeling that you are “walking on a marble.” You may also experience a burning pain in the ball of your foot that radiates to the toes. While nearly 80 percent of cases of Morton’s neuroma are treatable with nonsurgical methods, some may require surgery to resect a small portion of the nerve to release the tissue around the nerve.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

The tarsal tunnel is the canal between ligaments that stretch across the foot and the bump on the inner side of the ankle; it contains the tendons, nerves and arteries that allow the foot to flex and move. Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tibial nerve, a nerve inside the tarsal tunnel, becomes compressed. Symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome include numbness, burning, or a shooting pain. If condition is severe, surgery (tarsal tunnel release) may be considered.

Baxter’s Nerve Entrapment

This nerve disorder occurs when the first branch of the lateral plantar nerve becomes entrapped in the heel. This can result in numbness and pain in the heel and the bottom of the foot.

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