Why Is My Big Toe Numb?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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It might seem like a little thing. Your big toe numb. Is it a big deal? After all, it’s just a big toe. However, does this mean something?

Why Is My Big Toe Numb? It Could Be a Warning Sign of Something Bigger

If your big toe is numb, or if you are having on-again, off-again episodes of numbness, consider this as a warning sign that something bigger is going on. One of those bigger things that can make your big toe numb is a pinched or irritated nerve in your low back. Big toe numbness can also be caused by things like poor circulation or even a pinched nerve between the toes themselves, but it’s more commonly due to a nerve, specifically the L5 spinal nerve in the lower back as this is the nerve that branches all the way from the spine down to the big toe.

But wouldn’t my back hurt if I had a pinched nerve in my low back? Not necessarily. The numbness in the big toe could be that first early-warning sign, and if it isn’t addressed back pain or stiffness might develop. On the other hand, you could have a pinched nerve in your low back and not experience back pain or other back symptoms.

What can cause the L5 spinal nerve to become pinched or irritated? There are a number of things. A bulging or herniated disc. An injury to the back. Even inflammation from arthritis pressing on the nerve. Any of these conditions can cause the foramen, the tunnel that travels out of the spinal column and houses the spinal nerve, to narrow. This narrowing is called foraminal stenosis, and it can cause spinal nerves to become pinched. So if one of these issues has made your big toe numb, having the spinal nerve nonsurgically addressed with PT or an injection of platelet growth factors sooner rather than later will save you a lot of headache in the long run.

Ruling Out Other Issues That Can Affect the Big Toe

Other issues that can affect the big toe include arthritis in the toe itself, tendon injuries, and bunions, so if there are other symptoms accompanying numbness, these should be ruled out. While arthritis is unlikely to make the big toe numb, it can cause pain and stiffness, and it, too, can disrupt how you walk. Unfortunately, the surgical solutions for arthritis in the big toe include fusing toe bones together or amputating and replacing the toe joint, both of which are big surgeries with lengthy recoveries and can cause more problems down the line. Nonsurgical regenerative medicine solutions should be considered before surgery.

An injury to the flexor hallucis longus tendon, which runs along the bottom of the big toe, can be debilitating and extremely painful. Injuries to this tendon can disrupt the ability to flex the big toe and also disrupt ankle stability as well as many other issues. Again, you are more likely to feel intense pain with an injury such as this rather than numbness.

When chronically irritated, the low-back nerves that can make your big toe numb can also cause a bunion, or bone spur, to form on your big toe. Numbness, tightness, and pain are all signs throughout the leg and foot that can accompany this issue. It’s best to treat this problem very early, before surgery becomes the only solution.

The upshot? In order to understand what is making your big toe numb, it’s important that you don’t procrastinate on having it examined. Acting early will allow you to rule out other issues that can affect the big toe, focus in on the root cause of the numbness, and find regenerative solutions to treat it before it gets worse.

Category: Back/lumbar, Foot

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28 thoughts on “Why Is My Big Toe Numb?

  1. Benjamin Fuchs

    My big right toe is numb.my right foot hurts..and my lower right leg bone hurts. Hard to walk .help

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Benjamin,
      In order to help, we’d need to examine you to diagnose the problem. An L5 spinal nerve, a flexor hallucis longus tendon issue, or a bunion which is a bone spur, can cause these types of symptoms, but we wouldn’t know in your particular case without examining you. These are the Doctors who can do that type of exam: https://regenexx.com/find-a-physician/

      1. Alicia Cruz

        My left big toe and right index finger are numb, Bunions are starting to form. My left calf feels tight and with a slight bulge. There’s a pain in my lower back (left side). I have scoliosis (right) which was diagnosed years back. correction: That’s back pain in my lower right side

        1. Regenexx Team Post author

          Alicia,

          The side to side curving of the spine in Scoliosis can result in a compressed spinal nerve which is often the cause of those types of symptoms. We’d need more information and an MRI to see what’s going on in your particular case. If you’d like us to weigh in, please submit the candidate form here: https://regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/back-surgery-alternative/

  2. Cynthia

    I have had left big toe numbness off and on but daily for years. My Primary sent me to a foot doctor who said I had arthritis and gave me an simple shoe insert which has done nothing! I also have what I thought were bunions on both feet – she said it is the arthritis. I fell twice on ice when I was young (in 60s now) and broke my tail bone – could that me related. Also I have very flat feet and usually go barefoot most of time because shoes hurt.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Cynthia,
      Bunions are most often caused by foot pronation, which is caused by a low back issue. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/bunion-removal-without-surgery/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/how-your-back-is-causing-your-bunions/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/bunion-surgery-alternatives/ To see what’s going on in your particular case, we’d need to examine you. If you’d like to do that, please submit the “Are You a Candidate” form, or give us a call.

  3. Stacy

    So you say to see a doctor as soon as possible, but like some of these comments said, the doctor gives them something that doesn’t work. I refuse to go to the doctor until they can tell me what is wrong with me instead of “practicing” medicine on me. I broke my left foot 6 years ago and it took three doctors AND a radiologist, three weeks to figure out that I broke the cuboid bone in my foot. Then when I developed a blood clot, not only did the doctor not read my chart to realize that I was a pack a day smoker, every person that took blood from me had to butcher me to the point that I looked like a junkie. I have not had blood drawn since. And that was 6 years ago. Any suggestions on how to treat the numbness in my big toe and the one next to it (right foot), on my own? The medical facility I use to go to is very prominent in the state I live in, but I just can’t bring myself to pay them $250 again to practice on me.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Stacy,

      We’d need to examine you to give advice.

  4. Carsyn R Bouchard

    ive been having lower back problems and a stiff neck as well as shoulders. everything feels tight all the time and sometimes theres swelling on my neck and down my spine. Also my big toe has been numb for months now.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Carsyn,
      Sounds like you an extensive exam… Let us know if you’d like to be referred to a location that can do that type of exam.

  5. Carim

    Hello, my big toe got bigger and I went to the hospital and they said it was a gout and now I am having a having a numb beneath my big toe, need advice please, thanks

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Carim,
      Swelling can cause numbness, but we’d need to examine you to advise.

  6. S

    I had a wart on my foot in between the crease of my big toe I used wart off to remove the wart but I didn’t use patrolium jelly and it left a burn I can’t feel my toe and have had no feeling for nearly a month will I regain the feeling in my big toe/side of foot once my foot has healed

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi S,
      Sorry, not our field, but you should see a Doctor about this.

  7. Erkhes

    My right big toe is feeing numb 2 weeks is it serious ?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Erkhes,
      It depends on what’s causing it. If other medical issues are ruled out and it’s a musculoskeletal issue, our UK Regenexx Physicians would likely be able to help. Please see: https://www.algocells.com/?utm_source=regenexxreferral&utm_medium=webreferral&utm_campaign=regenexxlocations

  8. Joanne Mitchell

    My left big toe has felt numb for some time. I have 2 lower bulging discs in my spine and severe sciatica in my right buttock. Could this be related?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Joanne,
      Yes. Please see: https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/spine/bulging-disc/ If you’d like to see if we can help in your case, please use the “Get Started” button.

  9. Kimiajavid

    I have a bulging in my lower back
    After mri scanning
    In these few days i feel numbness in my right big toe
    I am worry about this
    But hefor felling numbness i had a truma in my toe but it was not boig truma

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Kimiajavid,
      It may be from your disc bulge or the toe trauma – we’d need to examine you to tell. Here are locations that can do that type of exam: https://regenexx.com/clinics/ or you can submit the Candidate form and we can get the process started by phone: https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/spine/bulging-disc/

  10. Elaine Pavone

    My right big toe has toe drag. It does not have pain, and is not numb. The other four toes have movement, this one does not. My issue is tripping and falling. I’ve had a Cat Scan and an MRI. They want me to have back surgery. I am not in favor. I’m hoping their is something way less extreme that can help me. I’m at the point of being afraid to walk.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Elaine,

      These issues are often caused by nerve compression. We may be able to help, but we’d need more information through a Candidacy review. To do that, please use the Candidate form here: https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/foot-and-ankle/

  11. Keah

    I recently started a retail job and I am on my feet all the time “40 hours a week”, (not to mention) I have completely flat feet, and after work my feet hurt a lot… I’ve recently started noticing that my right big toe would go numb after I lay down to rest at night. It’s just one toe, but I’m concerned because literally every video and website says diabetes. I’m thinking i need compression socks and better shoes, because I’ve never 40 plus hours a week before. Any advice?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Keah,
      Ruling diabetes in or out is very simple. We’ve outlined the most common orthopedic causes for big toe numbness in the Blog, the most common of which is an L5/S1 problem in the low back. If you’d like our help in diagnosing the orthopedic issues causing the Bog Toe numbness, give us a call at 855 622 7838 to set up an exam.

  12. Debra Maxwell

    Hit foot on exercise equipment swollen big toenail black and blue

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Debra,
      If it doesn’t heal, likely a good idea to see a Doctor.

  13. Ian Lee

    I have the numbness in my left big toe but it is only numb on the right side of the toe. This has been going on for quite a few months, although unnoticeable, touching it a little bit can trigger the numbness feeling. Could it be possible from my usual slouched position of sitting in front of a screen for too long?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Ian,
      Toe numbness is an important symptom, but we’d need to examine you to determine what’s going on in your case. Our Houston Regenexx Provider would be able to do the type of exam needed. Please see: https://www.texasinterventional.com/

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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