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Evolving Surgery Helping to Eliminate Foot Nerve Pain

Imagine suffering with severe nerve pain in your feet—a pain often described as a shooting or burning sensation without reprieve. Oftentimes this type of nerve pain comes from trauma to the lower extremities (including the foot) and relief from this continuous pain has been hard to find, until now.

Foot and ankle surgeons from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons met this week in Las Vegas at their 75th Anniversary Scientific Conference to share the latest on surgical techniques being used to help alleviate lower leg nerve pain for long-suffering patients.

Anytime a person complains about shooting, burning or tingling pain in the foot or ankle, it can mean a nerve is pinched or “entrapped” as a result of scar tissue strangling the nerve from a trauma or injury. Foot and ankle surgeons can properly diagnose foot pain and determine if the patient is indeed suffering from nerve pain or if it is coming from other sources. In fact, over the last ten years, foot and ankle surgeons have revolutionized the care of painful, entrapped nerves by efficiently diagnosing and performing nerve decompression surgery with most patients finding immediate relief from the debilitating pain after undergoing surgery.

According to foot and ankle surgeon and peripheral nerve specialist Damien Dauphinee, DPM, FACFAS, nerve decompression surgery can help the nerve get back to doing its job of sending electrical messages to the brain via the spinal cord, rather than causing “electric” pain.

“It’s the same principle as carpal tunnel surgery in the hand, where foot and ankle surgeons eliminate ‘choke points’ on the nerve creating a signal transmission or conduction blockade,” Dr. Dauphinee says. “By eliminating the roof of the tunnel holding the nerve, decompression surgery works to simply provide more room for the nerve to send and receive messages, hence relieving pain.”

“After surgery, a patient tells us almost immediately the shooting pain or burning sensation is gone,” says foot and ankle surgeon Julio Ortiz, DPM, FACFAS. “Once the incision wound is healed on the foot or ankle, a patient can be back on their feet, and feel improved mobility of the foot or ankle, thanks to surgery.”

How can patients know if their pain is coming from the nerve? According to foot and ankle surgeon Brant McCartan, DPM, FACFAS, muscle pain tends to throb or ache, but any of the following symptoms might mean nerve pain:

  • Pain doesn’t go away;
  • Sharp or dull ‘shooting’ sensation, or an electric shock shooting up or down the leg;
  • Extreme sensitivity to hot or cold;
  • Muscle weakness in the area of the pain;
  • The feeling of walking on a little rock;
  • Numbness between toes;
  • Feeling of tingling or burning on the bottom of the foot.

Best advice for those suffering nerve pain in their feet? “Visit a foot and ankle surgeon to make a proper diagnosis,” says Dr. McCartan. “By getting the right diagnosis at the outset, patients can save themselves the time and expense of a second or third surgery, not to mention added recovery times, missed work and medical bills.”

For more information on foot pain or to find a foot and ankle surgeon near you, visit FootHealthFacts.org, the patient education website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

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