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Sports Medicine

Unable to Bend Big Toe



Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed that I`m increasingly unable to bend my big toe, on my right foot, upwards. There is no pain, has been no trauma (that I can remember) and it moves freely if I force it. However, when walking my toe feels almost numb which leads me to walk with a limp or have my foot sort of flap onto the ground, instead of walking as normal. When I do try to bend it, or force it to bend it becomes very tingly. I am a 29 year old female, healthy, active and hav never had any problem with my feet or toes before (although I do often get cramp in that foot when swimming).

Any help would be appreciated.



The cause of and best treatment for your symptoms cannot be determined over the internet, since this requires a medical history, physical examination, and possibly diagnostic testing. You are strongly advised to consult with your physician to obtain a diagnosis and treatment plan ASAP. However, the following information may hopefully be helpful.

The cause for your symptoms may not be a "toe" or "foot" problem but rather a nerve problem. (Pinched or irritated) This can cause weakness extending your toe and ankle, and could also cause numbness, tingling, and/or "pins and needles" type symptoms. Such a nerve problem could involve the peroneal nerve which winds around the upper fibula (outer leg bone) - sort of a "funny bone at the knee" - where it is vulnerable to compression, as could occur by habitually crossing your right leg over your left knee, or leaning the outer part of your right knee against a hard surface (such as the center console of a car), or prolonged squatting. 

Another possibility is a pinched/irritated nerve in your lower back, (lumbar spine) in particular the L-5 (5th lumbar) spinal nerve, as could be due to a right sided disc protrusion, but this would usually cause low back pain which you didn't mention. There are other possible neurologic causes for these symptoms, as well, which may or may not be necessary for you to discuss with your physician.

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Response by:

Brian L Bowyer, MD Brian L Bowyer, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University