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Numbness in The Pinky Toe Side of The Foot

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Last updated October 14, 2021

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Nerve compression or damage from wearing certain shoes can often cause pinky toe numbness. Diabetic neuropathy can also cause the pinky toes to be numb. Read below for more information on causes and treatment options.

5 causes of numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Spinal stenosis

The spine, or backbone, protects the spinal cord and allows people to stand and bend. Spinal stenosis causes narrowing in the spine. The narrowing puts pressure on nerves and the spinal cord and can cause pain.

Next steps including visiting a primary care physician. For this condition, a physician might suggest further investigation including imaging of the spine. Treatments may include medications, physical therapy, or braces. For severe cases, surgery is sometimes recommended.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease of the central nervous system. The body's immune system attacks nerve fibers and their myelin covering. This causes irreversible scarring called "sclerosis," which interferes with the transmission of signals between the brain and the body.

The cause is unknown. It may be connected to a genetic predisposition. The disease usually appears between ages 20 to 50 and is far more common in women than in men. Other risk factors include family history; viral infections such as Epstein-Barr; having other autoimmune diseases; and smoking.

Symptoms include numbness or weakness in arms, legs, or body; partial or total loss of vision in one or both eyes; tingling or shock-like sensation, especially in the neck; tremor; and loss of coordination.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, blood tests, MRI, and sometimes a spinal tap.

There is no cure for MS, but treatment with corticosteroids and plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) can slow the course of the disease and manage symptoms for better quality of life.

Morton neuroma

Morton neuroma, also called by the older name Morton's neuroma, is a thickening of fibrous tissue in the ball of the foot. This tissue encapsulates the nerve leading to the third and fourth toes.

It is not actually a tumor of the nerve, as the name suggests. The thickening is caused by years of trauma, irritation, and/or compression to the feet. High-heeled shoes, especially if narrow or tight, are a common cause. The condition is most often seen in women over age 45.

Symptoms include burning pain in the ball of the foot, especially with walking or running. The condition will not heal on its own and can lead to chronic foot pain.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination of the foot with simple range of motion exercises, and sometimes x-ray.

Treatment includes changing to better-fitting shoes that do not compress the nerve; using orthotics in the shoes to take more pressure off of the nerve; and in some cases the use of corticosteroid injections.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: foot numbness, pain in the sole of the foot, pain when touching the foot, pain in both feet, foot injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

Mechanical low back pain with sciatica

Sciatica is a general term describing any shooting leg pain that begins at the spine and travels down the outside of the leg. It is also called pinched nerve, lumbar radiculopathy, sciatic neuralgia, sciatic neuritis, or sciatic neuropathy.

By far the most common cause is a herniated or "slipped" disc in the lower spine. This means some of the cushioning material inside the disc has been forced outward and is pressing on a nerve root. Spasms of the piriformis muscle around the sciatic nerve, as well as the narrowing of the spinal canal called spinal stenosis, can also cause sciatica.

Symptoms include shooting leg pain that begins suddenly or develops gradually. There may be weakness, numbness, and a pins-and-needles sensation. In severe cases, there may be difficulty moving the foot or bending the knee.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and simple leg-raise tests.

Treatment involves physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. In some cases, corticosteroid spinal injections and surgery may be tried. Massage and acupuncture are also sometimes helpful.

Herniated (slipped) disk in the lower back

A herniated, ruptured, or "slipped" disc means that a vertebral disc – one of the soft pads of tissue that sit between each of the vertebral bones – has becomes squeezed out of shape. Its cushioning material has been forced against, and possibly through, the ring of fibrous tissue that normally contains it. This causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs.

The normal aging process causes the discs lose moisture and become thinner, making them more vulnerable to "slipping."

Most susceptible are men from ages 30 to 50. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and improper lifting are also risk factors.

Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the back, leg, and foot.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, and MRI scan.

Treatment begins with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and sometimes epidural steroid injections into the back to ease pain and inflammation.

Surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc – the part that was squeezed out of place – can also be helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Fibular nerve injury

The fibular nerves are also known as the peroneal nerves. Fibular nerves run from the lower spine all the way down the back of the leg, ending at the heel. If the are damaged or compressed, this can result in a condition known as foot drop.

The fibular nerves can be damaged through surgery, especially hip replacement or total knee replacement; any injury to the knee or low back; or neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease.

Foot drop means that the person is unable to flex the foot upward from the ankle, because the fibular nerves that control this voluntary movement have been damaged. There may also be pain, numbness and weakness in the foot, and difficulty walking.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, nerve conduction studies, and imaging such as x-ray or MRI.

Treatment involves using orthotics, which are specially made shoes, supports, and braces for the foot; physical therapy; and sometimes surgery to decompress or otherwise help repair the nerve.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in the distribution of fibular nerve, numbness in fibular nerve distribution, difficulty walking or weakness with foot dorsiflexion

Urgency: Wait and watch

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the damage done to nerve fibers in the extremities by abnormally high blood sugar. Anyone with diabetes is at risk for peripheral neuropathy, especially if the person is overweight and/or a smoker.

Symptom include pain, numbness, and burning in the hands, arms, feet, and legs; muscle weakness; loss of balance and coordination; and infections, deformities, and pain in the bones and joints of the feet.

Peripheral neuropathy can develop very serious complications, since the high blood glucose prevents any infection or damage from healing as it should. This can lead to ulcerated sores, gangrene, and amputation. For this reason, signs of peripheral neuropathy are considered a medical emergency and the person should see a medical provider as soon as possible.

Diagnosis is made through sensitivity tests and nerve conduction studies.

There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, but the symptoms can be managed in order to slow the disease and help restore function. Treatment will include lifestyle improvements and the use of pain medication.

Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the feeling of numbness, tingling, and pins-and-needles sensation in the feet. Idiopathic means the cause is not known, and chronic means the condition is ongoing without getting better or worse.

The condition is most often found in people over age 60. Idiopathic neuropathy has no known cause.

Symptoms include uncomfortable numbness and tingling in the feet; difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity; and weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles.

Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests to rule out other conditions; and neurologic and muscle studies such as electromyography.

Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers; prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain; physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet; and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions your doctor may ask about numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric issue, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder?
  • While lying down on a firm surface, keep both legs straight. Have a friend slowly raise one leg at a time by lifting your ankle into the air. Do you have pain in that leg before fully raising it to a perpendicular position? (This is called the straight leg test.)
  • Are you having any difficulty walking?
  • Do any of your body parts (e.g., toes, hands, ears) feel cold?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot have also experienced:

  • 25% Toe Numbness
  • 12% Numbness In The Heel-Side Of The Foot
  • 12% Lower Back Pain

People who have experienced numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot were most often matched with:

  • 75% Diabetic Neuropathy
  • 25% Morton Neuroma

People who have experienced numbness in the pinky toe side of the foot had symptoms persist for:

  • 37% Less than a day
  • 27% Over a month
  • 19% Less than a week

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

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