The toes, they feel nothing!
February 6, 2006 11:17 AM   Subscribe

What might make my big toes numb for years on end?

They're not numb like tingly numb, the bottoms of them just don't have much of a sense of touch. If I press on them hard, then I'll feel a little, but other than that, I don't really feel much with them. Is this a cause for immediate concern?

This has been going on for at least several years with no change either way, so I'm not concerned my toes will fall off or anything. However, it can be vaguely unsettling sometimes. I don't have insurance right now, but there's a possibility I might be able to get some in the fairly near future.
posted by Captain_Tenille to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)
Are you sure your shoes fit properly?
posted by catfood at 11:18 AM on February 6, 2006

Are they heavily calloused?
posted by occhiblu at 11:20 AM on February 6, 2006

Has it rendered you wobbly?
posted by jon_kill at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2006

poor circulation?
posted by soma lkzx at 11:29 AM on February 6, 2006

Numbness in the toes and feet is what I know to be a common symptom of diabetes.
posted by apple scruff at 11:35 AM on February 6, 2006

You've got me obsessively pressing on my toes...

When I *press* on them, I don't feel much either. If I dig my nail along the bottom, though, I certainly feel that. But I don't think the parts of your feet that touch the ground are supposed to be super-sensitive; that'd make it hard to walk.

I guess my question is, why you think your toes are less sensitive than others? Or have they become less sensitive over time, and that's what you're concerned about?
posted by occhiblu at 11:37 AM on February 6, 2006

Numb toes can indicate nerve pinching, possibly in your lower back. This can have detrimental health consequences (muscle or nerve atrophy) if you leave it for too long! Please see a doctor ASAP. If you can't afford regular medical care, try a chiropractor, orthopedist or physical therapist.

IANAD, but here are some basic Mackenzie stretches that might help:

"Lie on your back with your arms above your head and your knees bent. Move 1 knee as far as you can toward your chest and at at the same time straighten the other leg. Return to original position, and repeat, switching legs. Relax. Repeat 5 to 8 times, 2X daily.

Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your knees bent. Now bring your knees up to your chest, and with your hands clasped, pull your knees toward your chest. Hold for a count of 10, keeping knees togher and your shoulders flat on the mat. Repeat the pulling and holding movement 3X. Relax, then repeat the exercise (5 - 8X, 2X daily).

Relax on your back with your arms above your head and your knees bent. Now tighten the muscles of your lower abdomen and buttocks at the same time so as to flatten your back against the mat. This is the flat back position. Hold the position for a count of 10 and relax. Repeat 5 to 8X, 2X daily."

The last position is a bit like the yoga cat/cow posture, but on your back instead of on your hands and knees. I vary it a bit -- while I'm flattening my back, I exhale from my lower abdomen and "walk" my shoulders up along the mat (arms pointed straight up like a "touchdown" call), extending my back and rolling my hips back at the same time. Then I inhale from my lower abdomen and curl my lower back up while holding my upper back in the same place. This gives my back a mild stretch, sort of like being put on the rack :-).

Again, I'm not a doctor, and there's no telling what might be going on, but loss of feeling is not good. Please get it checked out.
posted by Araucaria at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2006

Response by poster: My toes used to be more sensitive. I'm not really sure when it happened; I just sort of noticed one day. They weren't always like this, though.

My shoes fit fine, not heavily calloused, and I'm not wobbly. I do have pretty flat feet and wear combat boots, but I don't wear my shoes all day long, thanks to the miracle of working at home.

The diabetes thing occured to me, especially since my dad has it and apparently other folks in my family further out have as well, but my dad's diabetes seems to be related to his weight which isn't as big of an issue for me (6', 165lbs). I haven't presented any of the other symptoms either (i.e. my pee doesn't smell sugary sweet).

As soon as I can, I fully intend to get a real doctor to look at this. It's been constant, at least, so I'm not as worried about it getting worse.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 12:41 PM on February 6, 2006

Diabetes can be sneaky - even at a healthy weight many of us lose blood sugar control as we age. Do you feel noticeably better and happier if you drink a lot of water every day? That and tingly feet were the first signs for me that something was up. I don't have diabetes myself either, and I am at a healthy weight -- but it runs in my family too and I'm just a happier camper if I control what I eat to keep my blood sugar even. (There ya go - more genuine anecdotal evidence courtesy of AskMefi!)
posted by selfmedicating at 1:25 PM on February 6, 2006

I was gonna say diabetes too.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:29 PM on February 6, 2006

What might make my big toes numb for years on end?

The neurologic complications of diabetes take years to develop, and far more trouble and will occur in the meantime that would not escape a person's attention. This was brought up in MeTa yesterday, but honestly, just because you can come up with an uninformed opinion doesn't mean you need to share it.

And Captain, the list of possible causes for this is quite vast. Most of them are harmless, some are correctable, and a few are serious. So as you can see, the people who might be able to give you some real advice can't because you've pretty much said you aren't going to see a doctor, and everyone else is going to chime in with inaccurate insights that will only augment your concern.

If you really do care about getting an informed opinion on this, spend a little time and money and get it done properly.
posted by docpops at 2:12 PM on February 6, 2006

This happened to me, too, in my early 20s. I assumed it was because my long feet "flapped" against the ground too hard. However, it eventually went away nearly 10 years later. I never figured out why.
posted by stevis at 2:48 PM on February 6, 2006

Not to alarm you, but my father has a degenerative nerve disease with the same symptoms as you describe. He's slowly been losing feeling in his lower extremeties, and it's gotten to the point where is has trouble walking for a long period of time or driving long distances.

It's called Marie Charcot Tooth, and there's a ton of info online about it.

It probably isn't this, as it's quite rare, but I thought I would throw it out there for your scare-ification...
posted by sauril at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2006

Response by poster: docpops: I fully intend to see a doctor about this as soon as I can, and thought I gave that impression. I just knew that there would be the "go see a doctor, not" comments, and I wanted to address those.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 3:15 PM on February 6, 2006

Sorry, that's Charcot-Marie-Tooth
posted by sauril at 3:16 PM on February 6, 2006

I fell out of my bunk and landed hard on my ankle. I couldn't feel the big toe on that foot for about 8 months. It is better now.
posted by adamwolf at 3:23 PM on February 6, 2006

Vitamin B6 can cause numbness in the extremities. I got a numb big toe (only on my right foot, as it happens) a few months back at exactly the same time I started taking a mega-multi-B-vitamin.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:07 PM on February 6, 2006

"This happened to me, too, in my early 20s. I assumed it was because my long feet "flapped" against the ground too hard. However, it eventually went away nearly 10 years later. I never figured out why."

I had for several months to a year or two the front halves of the bottom of my big toes felt numb - not completely, but sorta like they had gone to sleep without the pins and needles feeling. It went away by itself eventually.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:32 PM on February 6, 2006

When I rode bikes a lot this happened to me. It took at least a year of not riding to have the feeling come all the way back.
posted by OmieWise at 6:28 AM on February 7, 2006

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