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Zing/electrical sensation on the side of my big toe

by Jeannie
(Vancouver, Wa)

When I walk, I have noticed a zinging sensation on the side of my big toe. It almost feels like a rubber band snapping on the side of my toe. When I touch the side of my foot, (on the side of the ball of my foot like where you would get a bunion)I also have a zinging sensation there too. It feels like I am getting a small electrical current along there. It is causing me to walk on the side of my foot, or walk with my big toe curled to stop or lesson the zinging I am feeling. My toe does not hurt when I walk or any other time...it is just a strange sensation. I can move my toe without any problems, it seems the trigger is pressure on the ball of my foot. I am 5'7" and 200 pounds. I had back surgery last year for a herniated disc in my lower back, prior to the surgery, I developed numbness in my foot all along the outside of my foot from my heel to my toes (2 in from the pinky toe). It feels as though I am walking on sand. I have been told that the nerves my not repair themselves, and I may always have numbness in the outer part of my foot. I cannot remember how long my toe has been having issues, it just seems worse lately. At least for the last month.


RESPONSE

Hi Jeannie,

Usually when someone has neurological or nerve type pain in the foot (burning, tingling, numbness, etc.) it is coming from one of two places. Either exactly from the area where the tingling is occurring or from an issue stemming from the lower back. There are other areas such as the head of the fibula bone or a tarsal tunnel that will also cause nerve irritation, but the majority of the times it is a local issue or from the lower back.
Because you had a herniated disk that required surgery and because you are having neuropathic problems on the outside of the foot, the problem you are having with the great toe may be possibly related to your back surgery.
Having said that, it sounds more like your problem is a local issue. You mention that when you press on the area of the ball of your foot you are able to reproduce your symptoms.
What this means to me is that you have a local irritation of a nerve, also known as a neuritis.
This condition is fairly common on the inside of the foot near the great toe, particularly if you have some sort of bunion problem.
If there is any kind of bone bulge, from a bunion, basically the nerve is getting pinched between the bone and the side of the shoe. This will lead to a nerve irritation which can be pain, tingling, burning or even numbness. When you press in a certain area and re-create the problem you are essentially pressing on the inflamed portion of the nerve.
If the problem actually turns out to be a local issue (that would require confirmation from a doctor who can actually examine you) then there are treatments that can be provided.
A cortisone injection in many instances can be very helpful. A course of oral anti-inflammatory medication may also go a long way in relieving your symptoms. Physical therapy may also relieve the problem.
I would add that if there is a severe enough bunion and your symptoms keep coming back as a result of the bunion, at some point you might have to entertain having the bunion removed.

see related article....cellulitis

Marc Mitnick DPM
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