Spring planting is just around the corner. With all that bending, squatting, and digging can come forefoot aches and pains. In particular, a stubborn nerve irritation. Neuromas, or inflammation of a nerve in the forefoot, can flare up as we pick up those shovels and get to planting. Getting low to the ground while kneeling with the toes flexed under or in a squatting position to garden puts a lot of pressure on the ball of our foot, and can cause the forefoot bones (metatarsals) to press together. The unfortunate nerve caught between those metatarsal bones starts to get pinched. As the nerve rubs between the metatarsal bones, it gets irritated, inflamed and can thicken and enlarge. It almost starts to resemble a tulip bulb, but the outcome is far less pretty than a blossoming flower.
If you feel like you keep stepping on a pebble in your shoe, it may not be leftover dirt from the garden bed, but rather a sign that a neuroma has developed. Other symptoms may include tingling or numbness in the toes, or sharp, burning pain at the ball of your foot and toes.
Preventative measures can include wearing supportive sneakers with a cushioning, shock-absorbing sole (and nothing too tight at the forefoot!), and investing in a gardening stool to save yourself from that extra forefoot pressure. But if you find yourself with neuroma-like symptoms, the earlier you see a podiatrist, the better. A podiatrist will be able to identify a neuroma by examining your feet, and may use x-rays, ultrasound or MRI to more closely examine the site of pain.
There are a variety of treatments that can alleviate your pain and even shrink that nerve back down to size. Some of those treatments include foot pads, shoe inserts or orthotics, anti-inflammatory medicines, corticosteroid injections, sclerosing alcohol injections, and shockwave therapy. In stubborn cases, surgery may be needed. Your podiatrist can help put that spring back in your step in time for planting season, so call and make an appointment today.
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