Foot problems can be a real pain, getting in the way of lots of everyday activities. There are two reflexes I see often that can affect feet﹘ peroneal neuropathy and Morton’s neuroma. Common complaints from patients with these conditions include a painful burning sensation and numbness and/or tingling in the toes or ball of the foot.
Why are my Toes Numb? The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve that ends on the top of your foot, between the first and second toes. When this nerve is compromised or damaged it causes a condition called peroneal neuropathy. I can tell if patients have dysfunction in this nerve by pressing between the toes where the nerve terminates. If there’s tenderness or sensitivity there, then the peroneal nerve is to blame.
The other most common reflex I see in the foot is known as a Morton’s neuroma. This is a sometimes very painful condition that involves a thickening of the tissue around a plantar nerve branch that leads to your toes. People with this condition often report feeling as if they are standing on a small rock or that something is in their shoe. The affected nerve is on the bottom of the foot between the third and fourth toes and causes pain or sensitivity in that area.
Stretches to Relieve Foot Pain and Numbness. Let’s look at a few exercises you can do at home to help with these two common conditions.
- Seiza- Seiza is the traditional Japanese way of sitting. You start standing on your knees with your shins and tops of your feet on the floor. In this position your knees can be together or about hip distance apart, whichever feels more comfortable. Then, slowly sit back so that your glutes (buttocks muscles) are resting on your heels and the soles of the feet.
In addition to helping stretch the feet, sitting in seiza has many other benefits such as building a strong core, eliminating bad posture, and increasing circulation. You can sit in this position for one to ten minutes or more a day.
- Standing Foot Stretch- Sitting in seiza can be hard on the knees, or you may not feel up to getting down on the floor. One alternative to this stretch is to use your hand to stretch the top of your foot while standing.
Simply stand near a wall, using one hand to stay steady. Bend the knee of the foot farthest from the wall, drawing your heel towards your glute, and grab the top of the foot with your hand. Stretch the foot by pulling it closer to the glute. Repeat on the other side.
- Sitting Foot Stretch- This exercise is the same as the one described above, just done while sitting down. This works best with a straight-back chair with no armrests. Begin by sitting in the chair and pulling the affected foot towards the seat of the chair with your hand. This stretches the top of the foot in the same way that first two exercises do without having to worry about your knees or using a wall to balance. Be sure to do this stretch equally on both sides.