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The response to the question below was authored by Marc Mitnick DPM

Stabbing/Shooting Pain in left big toe

by Michelle

I use to have this shooting pain from the inside of my left big toe once in a while. All day today I've been having this same pain and it's driving me nuts. I'd take a picture of my toes but they look fine, they arn't curved , swollen, or red. I have a herniated disc in my lower back that's been affecting my left leg and I guess I'm just wondering if that could be a reason for this pain. The pain is on the tip of the toe on the left side. I also get the pain injections (with steriods) in my back and I wasn't sure if they could have made it worse. It seems to really act up when my feet get cold so I'm confused. I just don't want people to think I'm making this up anymore as there are no visual signs of pain. Have you heard of anything like this before?

Hi Michelle,
Yes, I have heard of this before. You may have a radiculopathy meaning the nerves coming out of the spinal cord are irritated and can cause sensations like you describe.
I do not know how old you are but the fact that cold weather seems to aggravate the condition alerts me to the possibility of vascular insufficiency to the toe which could also cause similar symptoms.
I would recommend you see a podiatrist and get an accurate answer to your problem.
Marc Mitnick DPM

Comments for Stabbing/Shooting Pain in left big toe

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Sep 08, 2019
Left Big Toe Joint, bottom side
by: Tom

Once in a great while I would get a pain underneath my left big toe in the joint area like someone was sticking the area with a needle or electrical charge. Over the last two days it has become more active. Don't have a clue as to what sets it off. Not sure if this problem comes from my back, diet, etc. I'm of normal weight and don't have any major back problems. Something is causing those nerves to fire! If I grab the toe and pull to the side or do some stretching movement I can usually get it to stop but it might come back very quickly. Has a mind of its own! Right now while typing this I'm not having any symptoms, thank goodness. Maybe it will go away for several weeks or months but I'm thinking it might eventually progress to something more serious or continue on a daily basis.

Apr 30, 2019
Servers Big Toe Pain
by: OnlyMary

I am so glad I found this web site has helped me a lot I have servers shocking Pain in my left toe goes up my foot and across I've had 7 back surgeries last one was a Massive surgery 6 hrs. Had to practically rebuild replace with bars and screws,so I hope my surgeon can help me to find medicine to help me with the Nerve damage I pray that's all it us.thank you so much for all your HELP

Apr 05, 2019
stabbing pain in toe
by: Linda

I have had this on and off for about 8 years. I have lower spine damage. when I get a bout of this horrible pain it usually coincides with my back aching after sitting for long periods of time, I usually lie down on the floor, on my back, with my feet on the bed or chair with my legs bent at the knees and just relax and breathe slowly and gently, this helps to relax my muscles in my lower spine and get rid of my nerve pain. one time my whole toe went blue!! I went to docs and she said it could be raynards disease. I am not over weight and I dont have diabetes. Hope this helps

Mar 21, 2019
Left big toe pain
by: Darryl

It's related to low back problems. Lay on your back with a pillow under your head and knees up on a 45degree angle. Or stand on a step with the bulk of your foot and heel hanging off and dip heel downward as to stretch the tendon through back of leg up to S1 region of back. This should greatly help.

Nov 26, 2018
Pain in big toe
by: Gwen

The first time it happened it lasted
24 hours. This time we are going on 48 hours. The pain is intermittent but you just wait for the next stabbing can't sleep. Day time isn't bad. I am 76 years old,a bit overweight and have spinal stenosis. Could this be a cause? I also had an epidural because of hip pain. The epidural didn't help much. My toes are numb and have been for a while. My glucose count was 116. The dr. was not concerned. I question this!!

Sep 24, 2018
toe pain
by: nick

wow i thought i was crazy now i think it could be my back cause it has been sore the pick in my toe every few min is such a pain thanks for the info

Jun 23, 2018
by: John

I’ve had big toe left foot pain for the past 2 days. I saw my GP and he related it to the structure of my feet and my bunions. I’ve also been previously diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy (PN). What has always helped with PN is exercise, particularly Pilates. I’ve not done Pilates for a while now but when the pain in my toe started a couple days ago, I was so frustrated. Then I read what you shared here and started stretching, particularly lower back stretches. In a few minutes the pain dissipated. Exercises and stretching are some of the best pain antidote. Thanks to everyone for sharing.

May 19, 2018
Thank you!
by: Angela

Finally a website that explains the random pain that just started on the outside of my left big toe. I have a very high pain tolerance and I have to tell you this pain is severe! It is a sharp, stinging pain like a big needle being driven in the side of your toe. It starts and then stops within 3 seconds then starts again about 3 seconds later even worse the second time. Then it stops for about 2-3 minutes with NO pain what so ever and starts all over. It doesn't matter if you are moving or just sitting still. It is so painful you can't think about anything else when it is acting up. I have a history of back pain and work out frequently. According to this I must have pinched a nerve?? The question now is how to make it stop!!!

Apr 30, 2018
Big toe nerve pain
by: susie

I have intermittent shooting nerve pain on the outside of my left big toe, very painful. From what I've found the S1 spinal disc could be the problem. I went to my chiropractor today. No way to really know without an MRI.
Podiatrist would be my next move.

Dec 28, 2017
by: Laura Lee

This is my second time dealing w this.I told someone at work it was like giving birth out of my big toe.Yes like Contractions. The minute I thought it was going to stop. Bamm there is was again. Cuts like a knife.Getting blood work after the New Year. They can have all the blood they want to make this stop.

Dec 14, 2017
Stinging type for pain
by: Paul

It may be peripheral neuropathy, usually related to diabetes, fibromyalgia & or arthritis. It is also symptomatic with back problems. Any changes to sensation of fingers & goes should be reported to your Dr or podiatrist.

Dec 04, 2017
Solution to burning stabbing top of Big toe Pain!!
by: Your FiTinarst Name

I would every once in awhile have a sudden sharp sting or burning pain occur in my left big toe. Well yesterday it started and didnt stop. About every 4-5 seconds a burst of pain. Very uncomfortable and couldnt focus on anything but my big toe. I tried heating pad, massaging,hot water soak and lidocaine patch but nothing worked. Finally I decided to fight pain with pain so to speak. Pulled out my old T.E.N.S Unit. Hooked up the electrodes to the top of my foot. If you drew a straight line from the point where your big toe and 2nd toe completely connect in your foot to the middle of the top of your foot, that is where I stuck the 2 electrode sticky pads. After about 45 seconds of constant electrode burts at almost 75% power the pain has ceased for the first time in 2 days!! Im still going to keep it on for a full 15min. I hope this info helps someone in the spot I was in last night desperately trying to make that horrible constant pain stop.

Sep 23, 2017
Right and left great toe pain
by: Jean

I have had similar pain as most of you, now I can see that my toe pain, is more than likely related to my back problems. I was diagnosed with pinched nerve, slipped disc that is pressing against the nerve. I have had steriod injections in my back, but no surgery. The toe pain was a mystery to me until now. I also describe the pain as likened to an electrical shock (strong one) along the outer side of my big toe and near the bunion.

Jul 17, 2017
Stabbing electrical pain
by: Candy

I have moderate scoliosis and also sprained my back and neck in an auto accident 13 yrs ago. I have since developed ridiculopathy that affects my right arm. A couple years ago, I also developed sciatica in my left leg and now I also have a stabbing electrical pain in my large left toe on occasion. I was seeking info today to see if that could be because of the sciatica. Thanks for all of your answers here.

Jun 18, 2017
Left Great Toe Pain
by: Emily

Thank you so much for people who take the time to answer these questions/comments. This has only happened to me a few times now but honestly, if it stayed for very long I'd be tempted to amputate my toe.

May 22, 2017
Left Big Toe Pain
by: Anonymous

I believe I am another victim of back and hip problems causing a sudden needle like stabbing pain in my left big toe. I too was being woke up in the night by the stabbing pain and like the previous comment mentioned. It does feel like a sudden electrocution to my toe like someone hit it with a stun gun and then ran off. I have pinched nerves in my lower back and hip/leg area. I have had a deteriorated hip for years and have dreaded The sugery , so I have been dealing with sciatic nerve pain for 20 plus years. But just recently over the last year I acquired the stabbing pain in my left toe, it started at night in bed but now has started in the middle of the day as well.. I guess it's time to find a qualified surgeon to tell me my options.

Mar 28, 2017
back surgery toe pain
by: d

had back surgery 1986 L4 and L5 S1. in 2015 2nd toe left foot would be painful on and off with brief periods of electrical shock in toe painful when I walked. Had EMG showed nerve root diminished some. I have taken epsom salt baths did not help. I took a jacuzzi bath and put toe by jet and it helped. Did another jacuzzi bath today put toe by jet and managed to get back surgery area by jet. toe improving. I have gotten shots in toe area last 1 1/2 once every 4 months. takes 2 weeks to kick in. that foot seems to get cold. heat does not help pain. Jacuzzi is helping more then anything. Good Luck. I know have horrible this pain can get.

Feb 08, 2017
This might help
by: Nancy

I had this for about 24 hours. Do not have back problems like some of you and am not diabetic as far as I know. Anyway I took Ibuprofen regularly and then soaked my foot in about a gallon of warm water and 2 cups of epsom salt for 20 minutes. I had a pain or two afterwards but nothing after that. Not sure if it is a long term or if it will even help others but it seems to have worked for me. I only did this once.

Dec 14, 2016
Toe pain
by: Anonymous

I had a spinal fusion S1-L4 nineteen years ago. Although it was successful, there is nerve damage which left intermittent numbness in my left thigh. More recently, I have developed intermittent numbness in the toe next to the big toe and a kind of quick, sharp pain along the top of the big toe-it kind of feels like a brief electric or static electricity shock. It does come from my back issues and improved somewhat with physical therapy for my back. It reoccurs several times a year for a period of time.

May 24, 2016
Left Toe Pain
by: Anonymous

Thank you all for sharing--I am not going crazy then. Problem is I have no back pain or disc problem that I am aware of and its not diabetes. Any short term relief anyone know of?

Oct 10, 2015
Left big toe pain, not always
by: Bill

I had thought that I injured my left leg in April 2015. Got to the point that I couldn't walk at all on my left foot. After having X-rays and an MRI, my own decision, found out that I had a herniated disc. At the end of July, I had surgery on my back and I was fine. I can walk! I haven't had any physical therapy and I have thought that maybe this is the problem. I am a 56 year old male with Diabetes. I have never had gout. I started having this pain in my left toe just recently. In face as of October 7, 2015 this is when the pain kicked in. I don't eat a lot of gout related foods. And I try to stay off the salt as well as the sugar as much as possible. I have noticed though, if I drink more water than I normally do, the pain is less common and less stressing. But, as I walk my left foot coming down to touch the earth still has "the slamming effect". I think that although the surgery was a success, that there is still something else wrong in my back. I will seek a podiatrist about my toe.

Apr 13, 2015
shooting pain in left big toe
by: J Anonymous

How very reassuring to know that my toe pain is not due to diabetes. I keep on discovering that my disc problems can generate a slew of symptoms. I would never have thought the shooting pain and numbness in my left toe (mine is on the outside) would be caused by my back issues. It's very interesting to know that back surgery doesn't seem to relieve the pain. Thank you all for sharing your experiences.

Sep 17, 2014
burning pain shooting up left big toe
by: Anonymous

i had an l5-s1 fusion in 2014, it failed to stop the lower back and entire left leg pain i had for appx. 1 1/2 years. i got a second opinion from a neurosurgeon who stated; i had permanent nerve damage at these area's. this burning pain started appx. 1 month ago and is caused by the damaged nerve roots.

Mar 26, 2013
got my toe pain diognosed
by: Anonymous

I have been suffering from big toe pain for years and it feels bruised and sprained but no v isual sighns except minor swelling, i had an L5 disk repair almost 10 years ago. My doctor and physical therapist both agree my back pain is the cause. i find the day after i am having a pain attack in my big toe i have a pain attack in my lower back and rib cage. so i hope it is a comfort to some that it is not in your head but your back

Sep 20, 2010
pain in big toe
by: Fran

Thankyou to the people who actually bother to blog these things I have found someone else with this stupid condition I am being woken up sometimes 4 times a night with a pain in my left big toe that feels like a shock i feel like i am being tortured and end up running around the bedroom I am waiting to see a back specialist and didnt put the two things together until now after reading you comments on toe pain I am now thinking it is somethins to do with my back part of my left leg has gone funny (numb) as well

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Dr. Mitnick, Just want to say thank you so very much for your quick response and very informative reply! After reading what you had to say, I called the doctor's office and was able to get in and see him the same day as my injury. Toe was x-rayed and luckily, it is not broken or fractured. Very badly bruised and will probably lose the toe nail. And although my toe and toe nail are still very black and blue and very sore, they ARE both starting to feel a little better. So again, thank you! I am so very happy that I came across your website. The service you provide is outstanding and immeasurable!


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Wonderful advice

by: Anonymous

This is the best site for foot problem info.

Thank you for this information. This description fits my pain and inflammation behind my 2nd toe perfectly.

by: Max

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Again, I really appreciate that you responded to my inquiry, and that your mention of Parkinson's helped me to find my way to a diagnosis of this difficult to diagnose disease. Most patients see on average 16 doctors before they are diagnosed. I hope that you can help other people that ask for your expertise in the future.

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Many Thanks Dr Marc!
Thank you for your response. It sounds like a good plan to me. He did not cut the wart out first ...


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Bessie Mae

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Lynne T.

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Your webpage is excellent, I commend you on sharing your knowledge to the public.


New Jersey

Thank you. you were more detailed than what others have told me they finally called from the last xrays and my son is now in a cast for 2 weeks he did have a fracture that was not noticeable.

a mom

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Bellevue, WA

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