Pain of any sort is less-than-ideal, but it is actually quite useful. After all, this indicates something is wrong with your body.
If you don’t experience pain, then you don’t do anything—whether autonomically or consciously—to resolve the problem.
Whereas all pain is useful for signaling an existing problem, not all pain is the same. One way you can think about differentiations in pain is the distinction between orthopedic versus neuropathic.
Orthopedic pain is the result of an issue within your body’s musculoskeletal system. This is caused by injuries like bone fractures, muscle sprains, and connective tissue strains.
Neuropathic pain, on the other hand, is the result of an issue within your body’s nervous system.
The Nervous System
Whereas it is often referred to as a single system, the nervous system is actually comprised of two, equally-important parts: the central nervous and peripheral nervous systems. When we consider nerve pain in the foot and ankle, we are often looking at issues in the peripheral nervous system.
The central nervous system—formed by the brain and spinal column—is responsible for receiving and processing information, which enables us to experience sensations. The information the brain processes is collected and transmitted to the spinal column via peripheral nerves.
When the peripheral nerves are healthy, there is usually no issue. Problems begin, though, when they become damaged or receive abnormal pressure from an external source (like a tumor, for example). At this time, the usually-helpful nerves can become a source of pain or phantom symptoms like tingling or burning sensations.
There are several conditions which can cause nerve pain and other symptoms. Neuropathy (nerve damage), neuromas (enlarged, thickened nerve tissues), and tarsal tunnel syndrome are some examples of conditions we sometimes need to treat for our patients.