If you have multiple sclerosis and toe pain, or if you have unexplained toe pain but have not yet seen a neurologist, there are several important factors that you need to understand.
“Damage to the central nervous system can cause a variety of changes in sensation which result in a person experiencing “pain,” explains Mitzi J. Williams, MD, clinical neurologist with Morehouse School of Medicine, an MS specialist and clinical advisor for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
“The pain often occurs in the arms and legs or in the face. People with MS can have foot pain and may also complain of ‘pain’ in the toes.”
Are You Really Having Toe Pain or Something Else?
Dr. Williams says, “When people refer to foot pain it most commonly is due to numbness and tingling. It can also be related to spasms or cramping in the toes.
“In addition, there can be a burning sensation in the toes as well.” When describing some kind of discomfort in a toe to your doctor, it’s important that you be more specific than generic.
If it’s tingling, then say it’s tingling. If a toe or two is numb or feels crampy, then say that, rather than just the generic term of “pain,” since all of these sensations do have different processes of possible causes behind them.
True Toe Pain and MS
“If there is throbbing pain or excruciating pain in an isolated toe, this is not as common a symptom, and a person should consider seeing their primary care doctor or a podiatrist to make sure they don’t have gout,” says Dr. Williams.
Gout is a form of arthritis that usually affects the feet, particularly the big toe.
“Pain with MS can occur due to spasticity or tightness of the muscles, and over time there can be joint pain due to stress on the joints from compensating for weakness in some parts of the body, or poor posture when using devices such as canes or walkers,” explains Dr. Williams.
“It is also important to remember that people with MS can have pain for the same reasons that other people have pain — including arthritis [such as gout] and degenerative disease in the neck or spine which may cause pinched nerves or slipped (herniated) discs.”
Toe pain is a common condition in the general population and has many causes including improperly fitting footwear.
If you’re suffering from strictly pain (rather than numbness, tingling or burning) in this area of the body, it’s most likely unrelated to MS.
Dr. Williams is author of “MS Made Simple: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis,” available on Amazon. She is a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.