The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Numbness & Tingling after Foot Surgery: Causes and Solutions to a Common Complication

Posted by on Monday, August 12th, 2013

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Surgery is treated as a last resort for patients, due to the risks involved. Though foot surgeries — especially the bunionectomy — have come a long way in recent years due to advances in techniques and equipment, there is still the potential for complications. Infection, pain and nerve damage are three of the most common complications of bunion surgery, although complications in general are fairly rare. These are all points to consider when deciding whether you should have bunion surgery or not.

What Causes Paresthesia Foot Numbness & Tingling?

Normally, foot tingling is caused by a lack of blood flow or impaired circulation. You feel this when you’ve been sitting funny or when you’ve had your foot elevated too long. With a little movement and stomping around, the paresthesia sensation goes away. However, the reasons for foot tingling and numbness are quite different if you’ve just had surgery.

During surgery, it’s normal for the nerves to become irritated by the increased activity surrounding them. This irritation causes that pins and needles sensation. Eventually, the nerves usually repair themselves and the feeling gradually goes away over time. In other cases, complications may arise during the procedure, resulting in a more chronic condition. A Mayo Clinic study found that the postsurgical neuropathy was most commonly caused by the immune system attacking the nerves, rather than surgeon error.

How Long Will It Last?

In our experience, it usually takes about three months to fully recover from a bunion surgery. During this time, numbness and tingling may be part of your daily life. According to experts at WebMD, it could take six months to a year to completely heal, depending on the amount of soft tissue and bone affected. Some people report improvement in their condition within a month as the nerves repair themselves and the inflammation subsides, while a rare number of cases may end up with permanent nerve damage.

What Treatments Exist For Foot Tingling?

According to Disabled World, treatments are usually aimed at alleviating the symptoms. Mild tingling can be treated with ibuprofen or aspirin. More troublesome cases of paresthesia may be treated by antidepressants like amitriptyline, which alters the perception of pain. Opium derivatives like codeine may be prescribed for the most severe cases. Some sufferers of foot tingling and numbness have reported success with nerve repair surgery done within three months. Holistic cures for foot tingling includes B12 injections, topical capsaicin ointments, acupuncture and massage. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a newer therapy used to treat post-surgery foot tingling without medication.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.