Why Are My Feet Feeling Numb?

It is hard to know exactly when I started to get this strange sensation in my feet but I think it is about three and half years ago now.
The numb feeling began in my big toes,  and over time this slowly radiated outwards to my other toes, the side of my big toes and under the ball of my foot.

Photo: http://Surfphotosofyou.com.au - That's me surfing at Narrabeen
 - circa June 2017

As a keen surfer for 40 plus years, at first I wrote this off to being callouses probably caused from the pressure of my feet on my surfboard.

During the past 30 years or so, I have been an avid jogger, daily running along our local beach here in Narrabeen. I have always run with shoes, often in the dark before sun up, and not wanting to step on anything sharp by running barefoot.

When my old running shoes needed replacing, I remember asking the shop assistant in the sports store, if the running may have been making my toes hurt.

After she took a look at the fit of my old running shoes, said they appeared to be the right size and would probably not have caused the pain. She did mention that I may have some “nerve damage” and this was the first time I had encountered any thought of this.

Where Has My Balance Gone?

Another strange thing that I began to deal with was a weird loss of balance that no doctor could explain.

The usual responses from the doctors I saw thought it could be a post viral effect of a middle ear infection. Tried various medications, mostly antibiotics but still this strange lack of balance remained. This on the first rotation of the condition (it would typically come and go for no apparent reason) lasted about 6 months.

After the balance issue seemed to fix itself and disappear the numb feeling and painful to touch sensations in my toes and feet remained.

Eventually it was suggested to see my ENT (ear nose throat) specialist Dr Frank Elsworth, and after some basic testing and an attempt to solve the issue with an Epley maneuver. Nothing much was discovered from his tests and things didn’t really change from the Epley adjustment. It sort of worked but it didn’t provide anything permanent. So it was suggested I should get an MRI to checkout what might be happening to my brain.

Naturally I began to worry and search for reasons for what might explain my condition. No doctor came up with anything to begin with, but somewhere down the line the suggestion of neuropathy was mentioned, but I was told this was probably not what I had. And by the way they told me there was no recovery for neuropathy, or at least that is what a neurologist would probably tell me.

Troubling Internet Diagnosis

At first my “internet” diagnosis lead me to believe I was on the pathway to MS (multiple sclerosis).

This was a terrifying feeling, believing that I had MS. However, upon further examination of the symptoms, and a clear MRI result, MS was ruled out.

Phew! Was I relieved but at the same time, I still had no diagnosis of what was wrong with me.

My ENT didn’t put together the numb feet and balance issue, either.

I probably should describe the lack of balance issue in some detail, to help you understand what I was experiencing. If you are facing anything similar you will know what I am talking about here.

The feeling of not being in full control of my balance when walking was troubling and down right annoying when trying to surf!

Best way to describe it, is the sensation of being drunk.

A feeling of my head swimming, and not being able to find a steady balance even just standing. Then on one occasion while surfing, and doing a fairly radical backhand turn, whilst approaching the lip of the wave for the rotation of the board, my head suddenly thought I was completely upside down, which I wasn’t.

Not having a successful diagnosis, and feeling like I was in prognosis limbo, all I could do was hope my condition would improve and go away all by itself.

This was not the way things turned out.

Fast Forward To A Year Ago

Fast forward a couple more years and in 2016 – 2017 I had a series of surfing accidents, possibly caused by my numb feet and lack of balance, that produced lower back injuries that showed themselves as localised muscular trauma and within a few days, horrifically painful sciatic pain down my left leg.

This happened 3 times in the one year and I was seriously trying to figure out what was going on, and how to NOT do the same injury ever again.

I sought treatment from my osteopath and acupuncturist which was helpful in relieving the pain, which ranged from 2 – 9 on the pain scale.

The only way I could get relief when the medications didn’t work, was to sit on a wooden bench or chair and angle myself in such a way as to put pressure on the upper quad and glut muscles for about 5 minutes.

If anyone tried to talk to me at this time, I would yell at them to “back off” as I could not speak but had to bear the double pain of the sciatic nerve pinch and the leg brace pain on the bench.

After up to 5 minutes had passed, I was in a state of much relief and could walk and talk to people again.

Episode 1: Boxing Day 2016

It was boxing day, 2016 and I was surfing at my home beach Narrabeen, which is situated on the northern beaches of Sydney.

The waves were a fun size (around head high) and the conditions were quite pleasant.

It was sunny, and the surf was not too crowded, which at this world famous beach is rather rare, especially in this holiday period, being the day after Christmas.

I remember a wave came through and as I took the drop down the face of this 4 footer, I stood up awkwardly (my front foot did not land far enough forward) and trying to recover, caused the board to spin-out, which put me into a twisting falling position.

Immediately I felt pain in my back as the wave landed on me and pushed me underwater, in this awkward twisted and bent pose. Not good!

There’s a funny thing that happens when you injure yourself surfing, your first instinct is to brush it off as nothing and simply paddle back out to catch another wave.

As I went through this ritual, what happened was what usually happens, I realised that I was too injured to get anywhere near catching another wave.

So I paddled in prone (lying down on my board) and proceeded to get back home and the above painful scenario unraveled itself upon me.

Episode 2: I Did It Again

It was about 6 months later, when I did a very similar wipe-out and within a couple of days was back there in the same sciatic pain hell.

I had a similar recovery period to the first incident and just when I thought everything was good with my back and surfing everyday, I did it again. This time it was not in the surf but on dry land.

It’s My Party And I Will Fall Off A Chair If I Want To

It was my birthday party, I was turning 56 and I had been preparing the dance floor, in our outdoor dinning area of our home over the past week or so.

There were lights to put up, a disco ball and smoke machine (of course). I had been very careful to not fall off the ladder I was cautiously using when getting to the high stuff.

Down at the beach there was a wise saying going around, “Over 50 stay off ladders!” I had not adhered to this snippet of wisdom but I had been extra careful, not to step down from anything but the bottom rung.

This steady approach to the high work, served me well and no falls, until…

Five minutes before the guests began to arrive, I sat with my lovely wife Sandra, and opened cold beer and sat down to enjoy all the glitz and glamour of the scene, (we had a fancy dress theme – Hollywood).

Admiring the streamers and balloons, that one of our good friends Sarah had provided for the party, I looked up and noticed that there was one final flood light that was pointing in the wrong direction.

So quick as a flash, I put down the beer, dashed across the room to the chair that sat directly under the area where the light was.

I jumped up on the chair using it as a surrogate ladder, and before I knew what was happening, the chair which sat on a slippery tiled patio floor had whooshed out from under me.

And bang there I was fallen flat on my back, well almost flat. I did manage to land on my side/back as my elbow hit the floor first followed by my back.

In a state of shock and disbelief at my stupidity, (no I wasn’t drunk, that beer still had a head on it) I immediately jumped to my feet and tried to deny what had just happened.

Sandra got me some ice packs and I sat there trying limit the damage.

Low and behold, after 5 minutes, I felt fine. No pain and the guests began to arrive and for the most part completely forgot about the episode and had a fun time on the dance floor that night.

As you may well know, that this type of injury can have a delayed effect and it was on the Monday night after the Saturday, that I had a slight bend and twist when getting up off the floor, (I had been visiting my Mum in the nursing home and her bed was down quite low) and boom it hit me.

Episode 3: Oh No! Not Again

Yep I was back in lower back misery and sciatic pain hell.

If you have ever suffered with sciatic pain to any degree, you will know that when the pain hits you and you can’t find any relief, it must be the closest thing to torture you could imagine.

The pain that strikes your feet when you have advanced peripheral neuropathy, or when it is flaring up with (hot feet, uncomfortable feet, stabbing pain feet, needles feet) is something others have described as a painful torture, so you know what I mean when I refer to this as a torturous disorder, condition or disease – whichever you prefer to call this.

Now for the past 3 and half years, my doctors had been telling me that there was no recovery for peripheral neuropathy. You have it for life and that’s it. It may get worse, it may stay the same but it is not going anywhere.

I was so put off by this advice that I didn’t bother to consult the neurologist, as it was seeming like a waste of time, money and hope.

But this time, my third episode of agony, lead me to the computer to see if they were wrong.

Peripheral Neuropathy Cure?

I was for the first time, typing in the word “cure” after the search term, peripheral neuropathy. Previously I had only ever searched for treatments. If you have done this, you will no doubt have come across some pretty unhelpful looking ebooks that affiliate marketers seem to be promoting. Just take a look at the comments in most Youtube videos on the topic and you will find every Tom, Dick and Harriette trying to cash in on those in pain and suffering with something that most reviewers in Amazon discredit.

So what did the Google search bring up when I typed in – “peripheral neuropathy cure“?

I found a website called the nervepainclinic.com.au and there were a range of people on there talking about the treatment they were receiving from a Dr Dulitsky.

Apparently his treatment, somewhat “alternate” was a thing called Ozone Theraphy. I watched the videos of the patients he had treated and seeing they looked legitimate, I decided to give them a call.

Fortunately for me, they were located in my home city Sydney, about a 50 minute drive from the Northern Beaches.

I rang and made an appointment to see if this was going to work for me. They told me the first appointment was not going to cost, and was just to determine if I could be helped by this ozone therapy or not.

I sure hoped he could help me, as the pain and effects had gotten a lot worse than what they were before my 3 episodes of lower back trauma. I was on Tramadol (a mild opiate drug) that was effectively masking the pain in my feet, but the prospect of being addicted to something like this to just cope with my life, did not appeal. And the thought of the PN getting worse, to the point of being bed ridden and in constant pain left me feeling extremely concerned.

So I went off to see what this controversial, Russian doctor Dulitsky with his radical treatment, could do for me.