Six Signs That Your Running Injury Is Nerve Pain

Stay the CourseOne challenge I come across as a practicing physiotherapist is the vast number of possible sources of pain and dysfunction. A foot may be a foot, but often–because the foot is connected to the lower leg, knee, and hip–a foot problem may arise from a hip issue. Moreover, because the nerve that supplies the foot runs the entire length of the body, literally from head to toe, foot pain may come from the spine! Indeed, a full 10 to 20% of runners with foot pain have an issue stemming from a nerve.

Nerve pain is far more common than we, as runners or medical professionals, realize. While it’s more common to overuse or strain a muscle or tendon, or if we fall, possibly break a bone, irritating a nerve is not only possible but perhaps even commonplace amongst trail and ultramarathon runners. This may be because of the extreme demands we place on our bodies and also because of our propensity for falling. Falling might bruise a muscle or bone, but it can also irritate a nerve.

This article outlines the signs and symptoms of nerve pain: how and why it happens, and how we can go about properly treating it.

What is Nerve Pain?

Nerve pain, or neurogenic (of nerve origin) pain, can arise any time a nerve is sensitized. Under normal circumstances, a nerve is quite robust and asymptomatic when exposed to mild to moderate pressure and/or stretch. However, once a nerve is irritated, it can be very sensitive to any compression, stretch, or chemical changes (even our own, internal stress hormones). This often results in neurogenic pain.

There are generally two types of nerve sensitization, mechanical and chemical sensitization:

Mechanical Sensitization 

This occurs any time the normal motion and position of the nerve is restricted. While this could be a severe pinch (say, from a vertebral disc), the vast majority of mechanical restrictions are far more subtle and related to stiffness of surrounding muscles, tendons, joints, and fascial (connective) tissues.

Moreover, mechanical stress may involve overstretching a nerve. In general, nerves are very sensitive and resistant to stretching (and under normal circumstances, have enough length so they, themselves, don’t need to actually stretch). Thus, any force (whether accidental or intentional) that overstretches a muscle, tendon, or joint might also overstretch–or even strain–a nerve!

Chemical Sensitization 

This occurs from some sort of inflammatory chemicals that come in contact with a nerve, possibly from an injury adjacent to a nerve (like a strained muscle or broken bone).

Where and Why Nerve Pain Occurs

There are two other important things to note about neurogenic pain.

First, the nerve can create pain anywhere along its length. It may surprise even the educated runner to know that a sensory nerve unit in the foot has but three parts: the peripheral nerve (which in a tall male could be four feet long), a tiny interneuron in the spinal cord, and the upper nerve (which runs the length of the spinal column and into the brain). As such, any sensitivity anywhere along that sensory (or motor) unit can cause pain anywhere above or below that nerve! It may be mind blowing to consider that a stiff neck could be causing your foot pain, but it is both possible and far more common than anyone (including the sports-medicine professional) may realize.

Second, nerve sensitivity is cumulative. Because a nerve runs the length of the body, there are countless areas where the nerve might come under irritation. A good analogy for this is a garden hose: a single small crimp in the hose may result in no perceptible difference in flow. But two or three crimps anywhere along the length of the hose often results in major interruption. The nerve functions in the same way: sensitivities anywhere along its length–at the neck, mid-back, low back, or pelvis–can cause a mild compression at the foot and ankle to result in severe pain.

Signs That Your Running Injury is Nerve Pain

Here are six signs that your running injury is actually nerve pain:

1. Your Pain Fails to Respond to Conventional Treatment.

If conventional sports medicine treats injuries to muscles, ligaments and tendons, and bone, then conventional treatment often includes RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. This is the standard treatment for acute injuries; however, it (at least the RI) is often used for chronic injury as well. Resting and icing chronic plantar-foot and Achilles pain continues to be prudent and useful for prolonged, subacute issues.

Sports physical-therapy treatment for orthopedic injuries also includes stretching and strengthening. For healing soft tissues, this stress-and-rest cycle, when patiently and progressively applied, nearly always results in progressive improvements–if the injury in quest is muscle, tendon, or bone!

However, if your pain is neurogenic, then conventional treatment rarely, if ever, is effective, for two reasons:

  1. There is no soft-tissue injury (to rest, ice, stretch, and strengthen).
  2. The sensitive nerve needs very specific (and often very gentle) treatment.

Not only that, but conventional orthopedic treatment–namely aggressive stretching, massage, icing, and compression–could make nerve pain worse by overstretching, compressing, or otherwise irritating an already sensitive nerve.  

Lastly, rest alone seldom improves nerve pain. The reason is simple: if there is a mechanical restriction of the nerve (either in the painful area or anywhere along its length), passive rest will not free the restriction and restore motion. Pain may subside with rest, but nearly always returns with the resumption of running or other activity.

2. Your Pain Includes a Dull Ache, Pins and Needles, Tingling, or Numbness.

Orthopedic pain is nearly always tied to activity, and symptoms will be experienced during activity (such as running, hiking, walking, or standing), and the symptoms are fairly consistent, ranging from tightness and stiffness, to a dull ache or sharp, stabbing pain.

Conversely, nerve pain–which can replicate those aches and stabs–often includes other abnormal symptoms. Pins and needles, tingling, and numbness are classic neurogenic symptoms, and seldom (if ever) arise from an orthopedic injury. That said, nerves can also replicate dull-ache, tight, or stabbing symptoms. What differentiates a painful nerve from the muscle and tendon is outlined below.

3. Your Pain is Extremely Variable and Disproportionate to Activity Level.

Another sign of neurogenic pain is inconsistency in pain behavior. Soft tissue pain–both acute and chronic–has a predictable pattern:

  • Stiff and sore with initial activity (first thing in the morning, after prolonged rest)
  • Generally warms up with small amounts of activity
  • At some point, will worsen with too much activity 

This is the classic pattern for muscle and tendon pain, such as Achilles or plantar-fascial irritation.

However, nerve pain can be maddeningly variable and difficult to predict: a 30-minute jog may feel fine one day, then another day, the same jog (route, pace) may result in a major flareup. Or, aggressive (but variable activity) such as a technical trail run (or a multi-directional running sport, such as ultimate frisbee) may feel okay, but a half-hour flat walk could be quite painful.

Additionally, another hallmark of nerve pain is variable location. Whereas something like plantar fasciitis has extremely focal symptoms (often at the base of the heel, near the anterior/medial aspect), nerve pain can wildly vary in location, often hopping around from one end or side of a bone or joint to the other. This is likely due to the nerve referring symptoms to the various locations of its innervation.

4. It is Difficult (or not Possible) to ‘Feel’ Your Pain.

Another hallmark of most orthopedic injuries is the ability to palpate (touch, massage, or otherwise locate) the precise area of sensitive tissue. Again, with classic Achilles and plantar-foot pain, there is nearly always a precise area of sensitivity: the location of strained, sensitive, and healing tissue that, when touched, often results in significant pain replication, sensitivity, or, when hotly acute, might send you jumping!

Nerve pain is often elusive. Regardless of how sharp, stabbing, or severe its intensity, many runners may be unable to find the precise area of injury or irritation. They themselves may poke or massage the area, or even get soft-tissue mobilization from a physio or massage therapist, but no one is able to actually pinpoint the sensitive area. This is likely because the pain in question is being referred to the area, from a sensitive area farther away. For nerve pain, this could be anywhere along the length of that nerve: farther up the leg, or in the hip, pelvis, back, or even in the neck.

5. You Have Pain at Rest.

If there is one hallmark sign of neurogenic pain, it is pain at rest. Unless extremely acute, orthopedic injury will not be painful at rest: namely sitting or lying down. Indeed, only if a runner has incurred a severe hamstring strain (resulting in swelling and bruising–which is rare) will they experience pain with sitting.

Conversely, a sensitive nerve often refers pain at rest. Why this occurs is variable (and not completely known); suffice to say that when a nerve is sensitized, several factors can create pain at rest, including:

  • Compression stress (in sitting, on the sciatic or obturator nerves)
  • Postural stress (usually sitting, but any position, due to nerve stress related to spinal position)
  • Restorative healing (as nerves will often try to heal themselves at times of rest)

Symptoms at rest is major red flag for nerve pain and should be considered a strong sign that your running pain is not a simple orthopedic injury.

6. Diagnostic Imaging Fails to Find Any Pathology.

When an injury fails to improve, most runners (and their sports-medicine professionals) will seek out diagnostic imaging in order to help identify the source of the injury and (ideally) why it fails to improve. So it can be a crushing blow to both runner and doctor when that imaging–often an MRI–fails to find any pathology at all. Especially in the case of severe, unremitting pain, how can that be?

Nerve sensitivity very often fails to show anything on diagnostic imaging because:

  • A sensitized nerve will not demonstrate any visual abnormality. Sometimes, mild swelling may occur around the sensitive nerve, but so long as the nerve is intact (not severed), no abnormality will be seen and the painful area often looks perfectly normal.
  • Pain may be referred from far away, out of the view of the imaging. An impinged nerve in the low back may not even appear in a lumbar scan, and certainly won’t appear in imaging studies of a foot and ankle, yet the low back is a common location of nerve sensitivity for the foot nerves.

So unless there is a blatant source of nerve impingement (where a tendon or other tissue may be seen, compressing a nerve), diagnostic imaging will fail to find the source.

More scary, therefore, is the prevalence of ‘false positives.’ These occur when a runner is experiencing neurogenic pain (either locally or peripherally from a sensitized nerve), but the imagining shows “mild arthritis,” “degenerative changes,” or other rather mild tissue wear and tear, which is falsely interpreted as the source of the pain. This often leads runners and doctors alike to rush into surgery to repair or clean up the area. Unfortunately, not only do these procedures fail to improve the symptoms, but they can often worsen them by creating additional scar tissue, mobility loss, or general post-operative sensitivity.

Common Running Pains and Possible Nerve Sources

Here is a short (but hardly exhaustive) list of common running-injury areas and the possible origin of neurogenic pain:

Injury/AreaPossible Nerve Involvement
Posterior pelvis, hip (butt)Cluneal, sciatic, obturator nerves
Anterior and lateral hip and thighCluneal, sciatic, lateral femoral cutaneous nerves
Medial thigh and kneeFemoral, obturator nerve
Lateral shinSuperficial fibular nerve
Medial shinTibial nerve
Lateral ankleSural nerve
Medial ankleTibial nerve
Plantar footMedial and lateral plantar nerves
Dorsal (top of the) foot and toesSuperficial, deep fibular nerves

How to Treat a Nerve-Pain Issue

This can be complicated–and is best left to highly trained professionals–but it is possible to treat a sensitive nerve. And when done carefully and skillfully, neurogenic pain can often improve rapidly. Some recommendations:

Think Like a Plumber (or Electrician).

While this somehow is baffling to an orthopedic professional, it is common sense a plumber: you must address the full length of the ‘cord’ (or pipe). Normal, healthy ‘flow’ requires the entire length of the nerve be free and clear from restriction or stress. This may include treatment of the spine (or even cranium) to get full resolution of pain.

Be Patient.

Sensitive nerves even when freed may still be sensitive. Once a nerve is even mildly irritated, it can take a very long time for that irritation to heal. Some texts believe that it could take a week per centimeter of nerve length for a severe nerve injury to heal (which is often why severe nerve compression from neck and back injuries can take a year to fully heal).

For severe nerve pain, be very patient in return to activity. The goal should not necessarily be a full abolishment of pain, rather a progressive decrease in frequency, intensity, and duration of symptoms.

Be Progressive.

Sensitive nerves heal best with gentle, frequent mobility and lots of blood flow. It is said that the nervous system is only 20% of the body’s mass, yet it ‘consumes’ 80% of its blood flow. Thus, gentle, frequent activity will not only help gently move the nerve, but also supply vital restorative blood flow–both factors that will result in the fastest possible healing.

In conclusion, just because you’re a runner doesn’t mean your injuries will only occur with muscles, tendons, and bones! Be aware of the importance of healthy and mobile nerves, know the possible causes and symptoms of nerve sensitivity, and, if you think you could have nerve pain, seek out comprehensive treatment from a ‘systems professional’–preferably one who thinks like a plumber or electrician!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Have you been diagnosed with a nerve injury? If so, what was the diagnosis? And where did you actually feel pain?

Joe Uhan

is a physical therapist, coach, and ultrarunner in Eugene, Oregon. He is a Minnesota native and has been a competitive runner for over 20 years. He has a Master's Degree in Kinesiology, a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and is a USATF Level II Certified Coach. Joe ran his first ultra at Autumn Leaves 50 Mile in October 2010, was 4th place at the 2015 USATF 100K Trail Championships (and 3rd in 2012), second at the 2014 Waldo 100K, and finished M9 at the 2012 Western States 100. Joe owns and operates Uhan Performance Physiotherapy in Eugene, Oregon, and offers online coaching and running analysis at

There are 139 comments

  1. Henry Bickerstaff

    You state above “Thus, gentle, frequent activity will not only help gently move the nerve, but also supply vital restorative blood flow–both factors that will result in the fastest possible healing.” Does this correlate or not correlate with doing Pilates or Yoga in preventing nerve pain or injury from occurring?

  2. Lee Chamberlain

    Great article. I’m from the UK I’m 38 and male. I used to regularly take part in sport from running, cycling, triathlons, boxing, etc in my youth, army life and after leaving. I then started ultra running.
    I completed two attempts of the 7 day treadmill record once in 2007 and again in 2009 where I was successful in a GWR. I was ultra running on the road also during this time.
    In 2010 I attempted a 800 mile road run speed attempt and it ended in bad hypothermia and a few days in hospital at the end. My wife remembers possible spinal fluid infection.
    In 2011 I noticed a winged scapula(dropped shoulder). I was advised I had a damaged long thoracic nerve, no associated pain and that it would reduce generate. Gentle physio etc overtime.
    In 2015 I noted the winging further and associated constant pain began. Hard to describe but like having a grown man sat on my right shoulder constantly and a constant migraine in my neck.
    Mri shows mild damage to my C5, C6 and C7. But no sign of nerve issues at the spine or damaged enough to fuse etc. These vertebrae are the exact starting point for the long thoracic nerve.
    More nerve testing shows my long thoracic nerve still damaged and after 6 years probally permanently damaged.
    The issues u describe as constant discomfort are spot on for anyone reading. Every day tasks causing issues and pain is correct. Some days are good others are bad for no reason. t’s horrible. On the outside I look healthy apart from mild winging.
    Injections work for a bit but I’m at the stage medically they are saying it’s just a case of pain management. When older they may consider other options.
    Have you come across this before with ur research and work? Everything u describe and discuss is great for anyone reading this article

    1. MikeD

      No input here, Lee but I thought I’d chime in as I am going on month 7 with my winged scapula (right side).
      It started the same time I had a severe pain and numbness in my right forearm. To this day, I still have the numbness but the pain is no longer present. The winged scapula doesn’t hurt at all, just makes push-ups and any lifting overhead difficult, even just raising my arm above my head.

      I attempted some physical therapy that included a few easy light weight exercises, ultrasound, KT taping and nerve flossing. I think some helped the nerve pain but not the winged scapula. Whilst running, I sometimes feel fatigued in my right shoulder and arm.
      Just trying to get this thing figured out…

    2. Joe Uhan

      Lee and MikeD, thanks for sharing, and sorry to hear about your injuries.

      With something like this, you do have to “think like a plumber/electrician” — is the issue with the formed nerve (in this case, Long Thoracic) or possibly at the nerve root (C6-T1), or even higher (at the upper cervical). A thorough assessment and treatment is the only way of knowing. Worst case scenario is some degree of nerve damage has occurred. Those nerves can heal, but it can take a very long time (>a year or longer).

      Good luck.

      1. MikeD

        Thanks Joe.
        Yes, The PT I saw described it much like you: he mentioned a hose connected to a water source. You can turn the water on and water will come out the sprinkler but if you kink the hose anywhere along its length, the water will not flow. Finding where that impingement lies is the mystery…

        Thanks for the articles.

  3. T. Anderson

    I wish you had published this article years ago! I have spent a small fortune on doctors, MRIs, nerve tests, acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors, gizmos, potions, lotions….all to no avail. It has only been recently that I found an ART/LMT soft tissue specialist who has found the source of my pain. I have finally been having small optimistic improvements just when I was about to give up all hope. It has been six long years of frustration.

    Thanks to you all for getting the good info out there to us as we toil away in this goofy sport.

  4. Tomek

    Thank you for this article—”glad” to read nerve related setbacks are more common that I thought; I had that impression that I’m all alone out there. I’ve had sciatic nerve causing around calf muscles cramps—I could tell it was not a calf muscle because the pain would be not directly there. Luckily I’ve had a luck with PT where they identify and were knowledgeable about the problem right away. One of the things not mentioned in the article was dry needling (to stimulate nerve as it was described to me), which has been working for me very well. Good luck to everyone fighting all kinds of body pains and niggles! Thanks again for this great info!

  5. Patrick E

    Interesting article. I think I may be dealing with nerve pain in my feet. It’s been 2 1/2 months. It’s mostly burning pain on top of both feet and around both ankles with some off and on aching/soreness in the outer side of the foot in front of the heel. Sometimes the burning pain reaches my toes.

    I’d been a runner for just 18 months or so when it started. I tried some over the counter insoles from a running store because as my long training runs topped 20 miles, a sore big toe was nagging at me, and it was suggested that a thicker insole might help. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try them out, and I did a pair of five mile runs with the insoles. The night after the second one, the tops of both feet ached and burned. I’d never felt anything like that before, even after my longest training runs. After a little research, I thought I might have irritated the extensor tendons. I got rid of the insoles and figured the problem would clear up, but also went to a physical therapist to see if I was okay to run my first marathon two weeks later. He concluded that if it was my tendons, it was very mild (no touch or pressure sensitivity on examination) and gave me the go ahead to run, which I did. And actually the marathon went okay. The problem wasn’t aggravated much, if at all, by the long run, and I’ve found that while I’m running, it’s usually not that bothersome.

    It’s when I’m at rest that it’s worse. It’s when I’m sitting still or lying down that it bothers me the most. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because of it. I immediately took six days off when it first started. Time off didn’t help, though I was still walking regularly. Recently, I resolved to take more time off with no running and much reduced walks and see if the rest helped. I made it 11 days. In that time all it did was get worse. So since it seems like rest makes it worse, I’m running again, though only about 15 miles a week.

    I’ve tried stretches and it seems like that didn’t help and maybe made it worse, so I didn’t try for long. I’ve tried different shoes, so far to no avail. I’m halfway through a 16 day course of prednisone from my family doctor. That’s not helping at all.

    I’m very frustrated and baffled at this point. Pain after some short runs with the wrong insoles seems like something that should respond to rest, ice, etc., not get worse with rest, and should be long since healed up anyway. After 2 1/2 months I’m getting scared that it’s more permanent pain. I have a referral to a podiatrist now, but frankly I don’t see how that will help.

    1. Cindy

      I have similar symptoms but I like to walk for exercise. I do feel the burning when I walk but not as bad as when I am at rest. I was told by a podiatrist to try tieing my sneakers by skipping holes in the sneaker near where the burning occurs which is the top of my foot. I do get referred pain in my arche though too. Well, that helped a bit but I still had the same pain just not as bad. It has been a year since this started so I did visit a foot/ ankle orthopedic Dr. He called what I have as Joggers foot. He did a cortisone injection in the nerve but did the injection a bit above where I was having problems…he used ultrasound to find the nerve. He said this will calm the nerve down and may take up to 2 weeks to feel better that it may get worse before better. Well, it has been almost a week …It was a bit sore from the injection for 2days then I got some weird pins and needles which was expected but now 5 days in I am feeling relief. No more pain at rest, I have however not been out walking for exercise ….just trying to give it the best chance to heal. I am optimistic this may help but I did ask if this was a cure and he said unfortunately it may return.

  6. Wil

    Very well written, I’m glad to see this article here

    Do you have any opinion regarding Dr. John Sarno’s concepts about nerve pain? I found his work to be very helpful

  7. Susan

    Hello, loved the detailed comments. I struggled more than 3 years with Pudendal Nerve pain and sciatic nerve pain. The cost dealing with this is around 50,000. Check out meditation. I do 3 short ones during the day. They are 5 minutes but totally relax the muscles which lay off the nerves. At bedtime, I play a healing meditation and fall asleep. So far, this has been the best therapy while I am working with a physical therapist. The pain Science by Mosley is the best. I worked on notebooks for my chronic pain by greglehman. I bought a book “Unlearn Your Pain”. Once we have the memory of pain it is tough to change the brain. You don’t need to join a meditation class look on utube they are free. Good luck!

  8. Tracy Boyer

    I foolishly overtrained or maybe undertrained for a half marathon. I’ve been running for 7 years 4-6 days/ week.
    This late spring I wasnt getting much running in due to our late winter. I was running 15 miles wk. and next thing you know my half was here. So the week before my half I ran over 40 miles. The following week I continued to run when I should’ve rested.
    I started having upper hamstring pain but only when I ran. I was going to PT but didn’t have a diagnois. Did some stretches, and soon pain started in the buttock. Doctors gave me a steroid injection for what they thought was ischeal bursitis. Felt okay backed off on working out but I did continue to walk a few miles at night. 10 days later..i felt pretty good. I increased my walking to 4-5 miles daily and doing elliptical. And I flared something awful. It’s been over a month and the inflammation and deep buttock pain have unleashed. It’s a cloud of constant ache deep in my left buttock. Sometimes it feels it’s in one specific spot, sometimes in my groin, sometimes numbness in front thigh, sometimes down the side of my leg. But there is always a constant ache in the low Glute..
    Mri pelvis showed a bunch of little things but nothing to indicate
    The pain is like a never ending tooth ache. I’m Scheduled to have another mri of lumbar spine. Not sure if I should proceed. I’m afraid they’ll find something really serious (this just is not normal), Or another fear they will find nothing at all and maybe I’m just going crazy. I haven’t ran in 2 mos. I’ve completely been resting from all activity for about 3 weeks and no improvement.
    This article explains so much. I am afraid I won’t be able to find a physician to treat this. So frustrating.

    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for the comments, and sorry to hear about your pelvis issue.

      There are a great deal of structures in the posterior pelvic area. One structure you might consider in your case is the obturator nerve. It can cause “sit bone” pain, radiation of glute/butt pain, as well as medial thigh/groin. It often gets irritated in conjunction with a hip stability issue, but also can get “tensed” by issues in the low back (and even the neck!).

      Referrals: My general recommendation is anyone listed below:

      These folks have advanced training, outstanding manual therapy skills, and are educated similar to me. They’ll know about al the possible goings-on in that area.

  9. Susie

    Thank you for posting this article. I have become so incredibly jaded by the healthcare realm at this point and preaching this “plumber’s approach” is the most accurate advice I’ve read in a long time. I used to run about 15 miles a week and did yoga. I developed peroneal tendonitis and was put in a boot… took care of it… and I was okay. About 7 months after the initial injury I overdid it again by running 6 miles on the first nice day of spring. …went back in the boot. However this time, I never fully recovered. I was still doing yoga, but running was painful on the outside lateral side of my boot. I was about to do a hiking trip and so my ortho gave me a cortisone shot. Had an MRI, no tears just some mild inflammation. After the hiking trip I was determined to make a full recovery so went back into the boot for 7 weeks. Instead of healing my calf shrank to half its normal size, and it still wasn’t back to normal. Had a second MRI… nothing but very mild inflammation right under my fifth metatarsal. 3 months after my first cortisone shot I had a second. Worst mistake. I had a reaction to the cortisone and it completely wiped out the muscles and fat on the bottom of my foot and under my ankle.

    No one has been able to help me and instead they’ve just made things worse. At this point I’ve stopped seeking ortho/podiatrist medical help because they try to get me into surgery without any proof that something is damaged… and with very high risk and long recovery times. I have been trying acupuncture and a chiropractor which has had some minor improvements. I’m convinced it’s nerve related because I’m starting to feel it in the other foot even though I haven’t ran in over a year. The bottoms/outsides of my foot feel strained or tingly… especially when they’re resting. I am (and have always been) a healthy athlete- now a 27 female at 130lbs… but I can’t wear heels or walk. The only shoes I can wear have to have very padded soles.

    Do you know any type of nerve specialist I should seek out, or any advice? Have you heard anything like this? I’m desperate for my old life back! I can hike… but would love to wear normal shoes or play tennis again!

  10. Jason

    What are your views on returning to sport? I’m suffering hamstring neuralgia from compulsive massaging but am slowly recovering and leaving my hands off of it, so it’s not a problem of a pinched nerve. In this case, would it be okay to continue training hard? Should I see improvement in the nerves regardless of how hard I’m working the muscle as long as there’s no interference with its circuit? (pinching)

    Thank you!

  11. Jason

    Thank you for this article, Joe. I’m curious about this point you made: “Pins and needles, tingling, and numbness are classic neurogenic symptoms, and seldom (if ever) arise from an orthopedic injury.”

    I have numbness in my left foot and a bit in the back of my left thigh associated with sciatic pain throughout my left leg and buttock. Orthopedist says it’s caused by a herniated disc and that I may have already done permanent nerve damage, and the damage could get worse unless I can address it with steroid shots or surgery. I have a lot of distrust of traditional Western medicine, especially after reading Dr. Sarno’s work, and so I wonder about your point above. It’s encouraging.

    Do you mean to say that the numbness is most likely not the result of the herniated disc? What are other possible causes of the numbness? I know what Dr. Sarno would say but what do you think? I’m encouraged by this line of thinking but would love to hear more. Thank you!

  12. Amy

    Has anyone experienced damage to their sural nerve? After 3 years of copious amounts of testing, multiple doctors visits, PT, massage, you name it…I finally found a doctor who specializes in the nerves of the feet and diagnosed sural nerve damage. Checking to see if anyone has had a sural neurectomy and if it was successful at relieving pain and the numbness from the neuectomy was tolerable?

  13. Joe Uhan


    I’ve had multiple clients I’ve treated with sural neuralgia. None have had to do surgery, but when a nerve is involved, you have “treat the whole length”: making sure it is free/unrestricted from head to lateral foot (where it ends).

  14. Charlie

    I have lateral knee pain / just below the knee, in and around the tib fib joint but hard to pinpoint. It only comes on after running for about a mile, I have been trying to sort this for a few years now with physios and chiropractors. I had an MRI but all they saw was minor fat pad inflammation and a cortisone injection was no help.vI get a numbness / tingling in my lower leg at the same time – do you think this could be nerve related? If so how should I got about finding the source?

  15. Joe Uhan

    It could ***definitely*** be neurogenic.

    The scatic nerve splits to two, just above the knee, in the back of the leg. From there, you have a branch go medial (inner shin = tibia nerve) and lateral (outer shin = fibular nerve).

    The fibular nerve, in particular, wraps around the fibular head, a little notch of a bone just below the lateral knee. It then immediately splits in two, again, forming the superficial and deep fibular nerves. The former (I think) actually wraps around the fibular head.

    So yes:

    * numb/tingle is a dead-on nerve sign
    * the question then is, what’s causing the nerve irritation?

    Your manual therapist needs to look at how the fibular head moves: this is called the proximal tib-fib joint (and is considered a third “knee joint”). Poor movement here could compress/strain that nerve.

    Good luck!

  16. Max Williams

    I am a runner and have pain in the joints of my great toes. I had hallux rigidus surgery in 1991. This relieved the pain, but I did not get full mobility in the joints. I was OK until about six years ago when again had pain in my toes. Several prolotherapy and osteopathic adjustments took care of the issue. I am again having pain. A prolotherapy injection and a PRP injection in January, and an ozone injection in February, have not helped. I haven’t run in several weeks, but the pain was sometimes less when running than when walking. The pain generally isn’t in the large joint but is sometimes in the first joint or along the outside of the toe. The pain is mostly in my left toe. I did break the metatarsal bone of the little toe of the left foot in 2015. It healed OK with only a cast and boot (no surgery). I am researching stem cell injections. Any thoughts on other treatment options or if this might be nerve pain?

  17. Tyler

    Hi Joe,

    Thank you for the content that you provide. I find that your articles are very detailed, well thought out, and informative.

    I have been having pain in my anterior thighs (vastus lateralis/tfl on both of my legs) for almost a year now (ever since running the Boston Marathon). The pain is a deep dull ache that intensifies slightly with exercise and then is particularly noticeable at rest during hours/days after exercise. I have remained active for most of the year despite the pain (not running so much, but mountain biking a fair amount, and swimming), however, I finally got scared that I had femoral stress fractures and have been resting for the past 6 weeks. I got an MRI and it turns out that I don’t have stress fractures (I do have a labral tear though – but I think I’ve had this for a while with no pain), so I am surprised that this time off hasn’t healed this injury. Does it seem like it could possibly be a lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment?

    I have tried:
    Strengthening: core, glutes, hamstrings
    constant foam rolling
    EMS/TENS stimulation
    Postural restoration (which is amazing for anyone with hip impingements) (

  18. Sam Shah

    Dear Joe
    I got severe nerve compression after a gym deadlift injury which caused a herniated disc. This was confirmrd by MRI. I had back pain and stiffness and spasms for 2 weeks and now i am totally pain free. Spine surgeon said no surgery needed and i am taking pregabalin tablets twice daily. Its now 3 months since my injury but i get pins n needles and slight numbness in both feet after i walk for more than 12 minutes. Is this normal? Will this numbness n pins n needles ever go away? My surgeon has said only to walk and swim for exercise. No lifting weights or jogging allowed. Do reply- Sam

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Sam-

      Very sorry to hear about your injury, but thank you for sharing.

      My take: just becase the disc is healed (and you don’t need surgery) means that the tissues (muscles, joints, ligaments, etc) in the low back area are efficiently alilgned and moving correctly. I strongly suggest you see a skilled manual PT to be assessed. Without proper assessment – and treatment if things aren’t aligned/moving correctly – it’s likely that you will continue to have symptoms. Here are among the best manual PTs in the country:

      Good luck, -Joe

  19. Jacqueline

    I have been experiencing a burning/pressure type sensation on the sole of my foot, at about the level of the metatarsal-baby toe joint. Sometimes the pain extends vaguely into my baby toe as well. It starts after about 2 hours of running, and I’ve had it for almost a year, despite switching to Altras. It can become quite painful, especially on uneven surfaces but it will disappear for brief periods. As soon as I’m off my feet there is no trace of it. It feels very superficial, but deeper than the skin (not blisters). Could this be nerve pain? I would love to solve this mystery!

    1. Joe Uhan


      This sounds a lot like a Morton’s Neuroma:

      This is nerve pain, which often arises from two stride issues:

      1. Over-striding
      2. Narrow/lateral striding (thus loading the forefoot in an abnormal, stressful way)

      Check out this and be sure you’re not landing too narrow!

      1. Jacqueline

        Thanks so much Joe! I had a tib post injury on the same foot not long before I first started experiencing this. Your article makes me think I may have altered my stride to compensate. I plan on trying the drills and hope I can widen my stride, or at least strike wider with my right foot since I run a lot of narrow trails.

  20. D. Murphy

    Competitive swimmer – flip turns; similar nerve injury – as you’ve described – that has progressed over the past 8 years.

    After a couple years of middle-age neighborhood running, transitioned back to sport of preference, competitive swimming. Early nerve discomfort at base of toes has deteriorated. Initially saw GP, who recommended nerve-conduction testing, did that twice and referred to orthopaedic surgeon who had no clue, saw podiatrist who recommended PT who could not locate source of pain, then to chiropractor who likewise offered no relief, 2 x acupuncturists, a second orthopaedic surgeon tried steroidal injection and back again to the podiatrist who wanted CT scan. Tried OTC vitamins B12, alpha lipoic acid, curcumin – no relief while chasing these pariahs. All x-rays negative (3 – 4 times over the years); not diabetic.

    So headed to muscular neurologist next as pain continues to progress.

    Joe, your description of the condition tracks precisely symptoms experienced from pool swimming 4,000 yards (160 laps) 3-4 x week for the past 8 years. 160 laps converts to about 125-150 flip turns and very strong pushing off the wall.

    Grateful that you have a provided a check list that suggests a possible, if not probable, diagnosis of the mechanical issue causing the pain. I know that your description is not a diagnosis of my condition, but it is more logical than the stone silence I’ve gotten from 2 orthopaedic surgeons, a nerve conduction specialist, 2 GPs, a podiatrist, a chiropractor, and 2 acupuncturists.

    Now, I just need to find a neurologist or PT who is willing to work with me on dealing with healing the extant nerve damage.

    Much appreciated.

  21. Liliana Tincher

    Wow, you hit it right on the nail! Wish I would have found your site sooner. Finally went to the doctor because three months of extra stretching was not working, and it turns out I have a compressed fracture on the lower lumbar which is possibly pinching a nerve/s that shoot pain down one leg all the way to my toes, causing tingling, numbness and pain that won’ let me sleep at night, after 3-5 miles of walking, can’t even run for a minute anymore.

    It was so difficult to describe the pain to the doctor because it shifts and is totally deep and dull!
    Awaiting patiently for MRI in a fee days. Unfortunately a surgery consult will follow.
    And to think I only thought it was my piriformis compressing my sciatic nerve. Wish I would have gone to the doctor sooner.

  22. martina mcintyre

    At the start of a race on Jan 1st I got a stabbing pain in my glute – excruciating pain. I had 3 mri scans first one in Feb showed swelling at isheal tuberosity and second scan on lower back and glute and hamstring 3 days ago showed everything normal – no reason for me to be in pain. I came accross this article last night and I think my pain is nerve damage. I’ve had complete rest from training (am an ironman athlete) for months and pain did get alot better – yesterday I decided to do 30 mins on turbo easy cycling and my leg was burning/throbbing after it – mainly middle to lower hamstring and on isheal tuberosity. I’ve seen doctors, specialists, physios, chiropractors, osteopaths, therapists have spent a fortune and am no wiser today as to the problem than I was on Jan 1st. Who is best to treat this type of injury? its a great article thank you

    1. Joe Uhan


      Sorry to hear about your pain. A couple notes:

      1. Unremitting pain doesn’t mean “damage”; rather, there’s aspects of this system (motion, stability) that are clearly dysfunctional.

      2. MRIs are like family pictures: everyone sitting, motionless, neatly arranged. Unless there’s a knife in “brother”‘s head, they often fail to show “family dynamics” — or how things function with motion, in daily life.

      Thus, you need a highly-skilled, hands-on, functional orthopedic assessment: not just a five-minute talk, or another scan (or drugs or surgery).

      These folks are best suited for the job:

      These folks have advanced training, outstanding manual therapy skills, and are educated similar to me.

  23. Crystal M.

    This article has helped me. I have been a runner for 10 years and never had anything like this. I am wondering if this stemmed from different running shoes I had been wearing. I have been having numbness, tingling, and some pain for a month. Had MRI and all came back good for my neck, spine, and lower back. My problem starts from the knee down and travels to the foot. I dont know what to do for this other than rest it as much as I can. I see a neurologist but have to wait 3 weeks . This has been awful as it makes it difficult to sleep or enjoy much. We have vacation plans that involve walking and sightseeing and this will definitely interrupt my enjoyment. I pray this will subside soon. Good luck to all.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Crystal-

      Sorry to hear about your issue, but thanks for sharing.

      Numb/tingle is classic nerve signs; “knee down to foot” can be either tibial (medial) or fibular (lateral) nerve symptoms.

      Scans will only show severe pathology (see snarky reply above); impaired motion of the nerve (/fascia) can cause the symptoms you describe, absent of any actual damage.

      To treat, one needs to “think like a plumber or electrician” and treat the entire length of the nerve. These folks are best suited for the job:

      These folks have advanced training, outstanding manual therapy skills, and are educated similar to me.

      Good luck!

  24. Kelsey


    I’m an elite marathon runner who is trying to avoid surgery for plantar nerve impingement (entrapment ). I’ve taken over 16 weeks off, done PT, and have gotten all kinds of therapies and still have pain on my medial side of heel. Was wondering if you have seen such a case and had recommendations.

    1. Joe


      Thanks for sharing, but sorry to hear about your foot.

      How was the entrapment diagnosed? Was it actually “seen” clearly on imaging?

      If so (hate to say it): a surgical excision could be a simple way to treat it (with way less than 16 weeks of downtime). However, if this entrapment diagnosis is MD conjecture, having skilled manual treatment, to the heel (as well as potentially all the way up the chain) is necessary.

      These folks are best suited for the job:

      These folks have advanced training, outstanding manual therapy skills, and are educated similar to me.

      Good luck!

  25. Adam

    Dear Joe,

    For three months I have been experiencing a weird, consistent discomfort in my crotch area. At first the sensation started as a tight feeling in both groins (precisely in the spot where the groin “joins the pubic bone”), however over time it became more of a stabbing, stining sensation that has spread all over the whole crotch area including scrotum, provoked even by walking. I can´t really pin down a specific moment the pain started, it sort of developed gradually, without any obvious trigger moment, after training 4x times a week on a pretty hard artificial surface (I play as a goalkeeper and am thus pretty often getting into a almost split position). The pain is not anyhow cripling, I´m still able to carry on playing football, running, stretching, etc., but it has become really annoying and uncomfortable. Even when I press my skin near the groin, I can feel the stinging sensation, as if the skin itself was anyhow more sensitive. I also sometimes feel a pressure right under the scrotum, close to buttocks while sitting after a longer walk.
    I would like to ask you whether you think that this sensation might be caused by a nerve irritation or something similar, as I have found some of the symptoms somehow related.
    Thank you very much in advance.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Adam-

      Thanks for the comment – and sorry for the delay.

      This symptoms certianly could be neurogenic (and I would wager a guess it’s “pudendal nerve” – look it up). As “inconvenient” as it may be, we have a lot of mechanical (and “electrical”) structures in our “pelvic floor” area and if they’re stiff/dysfunctional, can cause a lot of issues.

      Looking at your coccyx would be a good start for any skilled manual PT:

      But I would also consider seeing a PT who specializes in pelvic floor treatment. As always, My general recommendation for great manual therapy PTs is anyone listed below:

      These folks have advanced training, outstanding manual therapy skills, and are educated similar to me.

      Good luck,

  26. Simon Bucknell

    I am a former competitive middle distance runner (4:04 mile/1:51 800m) and track/running was a huge part of my life. But since 2014 I havent been able to run due to what I believe now to be nerve pain. My symptoms are: A light cramping sensation begins in the calf area which continues to build as I try and run, when I get to approximately 5mins of total running the cramping gets to a point where I get a sharp spasm/grabbing sensation and have to stop running straight away. This pain feels like a calf tear (which is what I initially thought) but numerous MRIs confirmed this is not the case. Once I get to this stage it takes about 2 weeks to subside whereby I wont be feeling virtually any discomfort/pain while walking (maybe 1 out of 10 for pain while working). I do get the pain in both legs but it varies, and some days I first get pain in the right leg and other days I get it in the left leg. You name it I have tried it – Physical therapy, Deep Tissue Massage, Osteopathy, Yoga, Pain therapy, dry needling/acupuncture, MRIs on legs and spine, local corticosteroid in the calf area, corticosteroid in the epidural region of my spine, vascular ultrasound testing, podiatry, medication with Gabapentin and Amitriptyline, Nerve Flossing…I have probably missed something. I think I am close to giving up trying to find relief to be able to run again which really breaks my heart. Any other advice would be hugely appreciated.

    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for the message, and sorry for the delayed response.


      1. Is the pain in the posteiror calf, about midway up (just below the point where the two “bellies” of the calf split off)?


      2. Is the pain felt deep, and feel like a building-up pressure?

      For #1: the culprit may be the sural nerve (look it up): it’s a cutaneous nerve that pops superficially at the mid-calf (as described above), then does sensory innervation for the whole lower calf.

      For #2: this typifies Compartment Syndrome (look that up, too) and is due to excessive pressure within the fascial compartments of the calf (where at least one nerve lives).

      Either way, you’ll need someone (else) to take a close, mechanical look at your systemt to see how both your nerves, and overall calf tissues, move.

      My general recommendation for great manual therapy PTs is anyone listed below:

      These folks have advanced training, outstanding manual therapy skills, and are educated similar to me.

      Good luck!

  27. Anna

    Hi! I am a college distance runner and I have been dealing with some posterior tibial tendinitis issues since this past spring. Oddly, I also have “nerve” irritation like symptoms in the same leg and even in the other leg at times. It feels like a pins and needles or pinching sensation, always from the knee down into my foot. I have tried a ton of different therapies on it and have been seeing a PT for 12 weeks. It is independent of activity, I feel it pretty much all the time. It is mostly from my inner thigh down into my inner foot. Any suggestions on what to do?

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Anna-

      Thanks for the comment, and sorry to hear about your shin pain.

      What you can do:

      * try this test:

      If this test — especially with ankle/foot “pumping” — replicates (even generally) the area of your symtpoms, it’s likely the issue is largely nerve

      * talk to your PT. Ask about nerve pain, if they can check for it, and how to treat it

      If you fail to get resolution, you might consider a different PT: My general recommendation for great manual therapy PTs is anyone listed below:

      These folks have advanced training, outstanding manual therapy skills, and are educated similar to me.

      Good luck,

  28. Jesse Dunn

    I am a physical therapist in Washington and if you haven’t tried fascial counterstrain for nerve pain,
    you should. It is a newer branch of the strain counterstrain technique that not only looks at the nerves, but also looks at the fascia around the veins and arteries as a source of this neurogenic type pain. Call the Jones institute to see if there is a practitioner in your area.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Thanks for the comment, Jesse. I agree – what’s actually lacking mobility is likely the fascia around the nerve, rather than the nerve itself. IPA-training physios have extensive training in this sort of soft tissue mobs, as well.

  29. Eileen

    I have been running for 20 years. 4-6 times per week, 3-5 miles per run. I slacked off for a few months and began to resume lately. I noticed last weekend a strange feeling in my right foot. Almost like my foot was waking up from being asleep. But as the day went on it felt more like buzzing in the bottom of my foot in the very middle….same buzzing feeling somewhat in the back of my calf. It’s not painful but super annoying. It almost feels more noticeable with my blood circulation,pulsating buzzing. I know that sounds crazy. I’m healthy, no injuries (that I’m aware of), not diabetic. I haven’t been to Dr yet. Any words of advice? I’m a worrier so my mind goes to scary places like, do I have MS?? Just let me know your thoughts. I enjoyed your informative article.

    1. Jacqueline

      Eileen-look up tarsal tunnel syndrome and tibial nerve irritation. I seem to be holding some minor version of this at bay. Would love to hear how this works out for you.

  30. Kevin

    I have 3 pinched nerves in my lower back left side which have been hampering my runs more and more as I age which is frustrating and depressing. The only thing that seems to calm it is dry needling in the area by a PT. Hoping for a miracle it’ll go away one day.

    1. Joe Uhan


      At some point, I’d like to write a post that’s more detailed in terms of strategy in dealing with nerve pain.

      “Pinching” can happen from a variety of tissues/locations. What needs to be cleared:

      * lumbar joint mobility
      * posterior pelvis (“butt muscle”/piriformis, etc) and posterior thigh (hamstring) tissue mobiltiy
      * general nerve “flossing and gliding” mobility
      * thoracic and cervical mobility

      Think like a plumber/electrican when you have a nerve “pinch”: trace along its entire length to “free the pinch”! It’s quite possible, and can provide relief.

  31. Grace

    Dear Joe,

    I was an active runner until about 2.5 years ago but had to stop due to my on-going pain in my left leg (with a sudden loud stomping and feeling of heaviness). The pain was associated with a strange sensation from by left buttock running down my thigh and travelling down the outer side of my lower leg (shin). My left leg often felt weak and constant uncontrollable stomping.

    When I first felt this pain, I visited two physiotherapists and a chiropractor, and they had mentioned that this was due to a sciatic nerve pinched from my lower back and was given a stretch routine. I felt better at first but a couple of months later, I had attempted to return to run, but the pain continued. The pain (with the sensation) typically started after 5 minutes of run and couldn’t continue. A year later, I went for an MRI but the result showed no signs of sciatic pinched nerve.

    I have visited multiple physiotherapists and chiropractors, completed MRI and X-rays,and visited my family doctor but they don’t seem to have an answer for my condition. Could this be nerve related? Any advice would be great!

    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for sharing.

      It sure sounds like nerve pain. The interesting (/frustrating) aspect of nerve pain is that it WILL cause strange, abberent movement issues (“stomping”): increasing tension will make it almost literall throw a monkey wrench into the works of the stride.

      Of note: MRIs seldom will show nerve impingment unless it’s really bad. It doesn’t take much “neuro-fascial” restriction to cause dysfunction, unfortunately.

      My advice: find a high-level PT (see recs above) AND request they look at your whole nervous system (e.g. treating cervical, thorax, lumbar, sacrum, and especially coccyx:

      Good luck!

  32. Guy

    Hi Joe,

    Great article – certainly describes my symptoms which I’ve been dealing with for over a year: persistent low level nerve pain – even at rest, burning/spasm-y pain in glute, tingling/burning in little toes/foot, occasional “zing” next to knee when curling my leg, deep tightness/pain in buttocks when trying to run. No idea where it’s getting pinched. Been trying to work on my lumbar mobility put that hasn’t helped. (nor has shots in L5-S1, piriformis, and SI Joint)

    Do you have nerve mobility exercise that you would recommend? Anything else?

  33. Jason

    Hello everybody,

    I just came to the realization of how to fix my 2-year ongoing battle with this problem…

    Let me preface this by saying that I have seen 3 athletic trainers, 2 chiropractors, 2 MD’s and a massage therapist about this condition, gotten 2 MRI’s, ultrasound, and tried every conservative treatment available to me.

    So what I have been experiencing is biceps femoris pain (lateral hamstring) when performing knee flexion. When I would flex it laying down or standing I would get a deep pain and cramping. That is annoying enough as it is. After runs, I would then get deep gluteal soreness and if I was doing something like 200m intervals, I would even have some back pain. The solution seems obvious then, right? Strengthen the hamstrings… Except, my hamstrings did not tolerate calisthenics or lifting of any kind. The research points to eccentric strengthening of the hamstring, I did countless hours of this rehab, only to experience the same cramping and pain sensations over and over again. I tried to just continue my training regimen and run track (400m/800m) only to put so much strain on my glutes that I had to take 3 months off for IT band syndrome. This was all caused by the hamstring’s neuromuscular deficiencies.

    The solution came just recently when I decided to try to activate my hamstrings consciously during my run. I did 6 miles easy, basically kicking back up to my butt the entire way. The result was astounding. Later that day I experienced normal hamstring soreness for the first time in months. I thought, okay, we’re getting somewhere. Now, about a week into this running with conscious activation, I really feel like I am gaining back the strength that I have not had in the hamstring for years. I also noticed a huge flaw in my biomechanics that I have also developed to compensate for the weak hamstring. My stride rate has gone down and I have started leaning my back forward slightly. If you know anything about running biomechanics, both of these actions increase hip flexion and put more strain on the glutes, rather than using the hamstrings. I have been consciously working on my heel recovery, posture, and stride rate, and I have been absolutely blown away with the results. My thought, my hamstrings needed the lowest level of activation possible to reestablish that neural connection and begin to fire; the workout/lifting sessions were too much for them because these were ISOLATED activities.

    My suggestions, if you have nagging deep gluteal pain after exercise as I did, address the possible piriformis syndrome by strengthening your hips, try to take some time off of what you’re doing and strengthen your glutes as well, make sure your entire hip complex is working in harmony. If you’re still getting that nagging pain, then your glutes are definitely working too hard and it may be neuropathic in nature, originating in the hammys. Even if you’re not a runner, try running the way I described it. It is the lowest level stimulation you can offer your hamstring and I’m sure it will help you if this is your chronic issue as well.

    I really tried to keep this in lay-terms and succinct, but this is a very complex and involved process. I have much more detailed descriptions of the problem and the pathophysiology. If anyone thinks this may apply to them, reach out to me and I’ll do my best to respond.

    – A runner of 9-years, a former biochem student, current nursing student, and lifetime student of the sport of running.

    1. Guy

      Thanks Jason, this really resonated with me as I’ve had similar symptoms. Particularly the deep glute pain when trying to run and the cramping when curling my leg standing up or lying down. As it happens, I also noticed a “better-feeling” gait when trying some butt-kicks and other drills recently. Seems like that’s something I should pursue further. I’ve done a ton of glute strengthening over the last year, but not too much on the hamstrings. Do you have any exercises that you would recommend to re-awaken the hamstring a bit more? Seems to me that starting with the simple leg curls with no weight might be a good start. Thanks!

      1. Jason

        If you are a runner and if it is truly a similar situation to mine, you should start with exactly what I’m doing which is avoiding any activity that isolates the hamstring as this will probably cause pain and subsequent muscle “guarding” and exacerbate your issue. If it is an issue with hamstring activation, try to focus on running form and consciously activate the hamstrings while running by keeping a stride rate of 90/min/leg and staying upright with a relatively straight back. It sounds goofy that these little tweaks could make such a profound change but don’t knock it till you try it. If you find that your glutes are still taking the brunt of the soreness, take the pace down a notch and again, just focus on doing “seat-kickers” while running. I personally have not found a way to remedy this condition with anything but running with these techniques. It seems like the aid that accessory muscles give in running takes the stress off the hamstring and allows you to work it at a consistently low level. The way I knew this was working for me was the normal hamstring breakdown and soreness I felt after these really easy runs. Normally my runs would not cause any soreness (besides slight glute discomfort), but after taking down the pace and focussing on the activation of the entire posterior chain, I am VERY sore. Try it out and don’t get possessed by the idea that you need to work the hamstring harder in order to make a difference, we’re talking about a neuromuscular problem.

        1. Joe Uhan


          Thanks for the comments, insight and experimentation.

          To that end, I have one vitally important rule that governs all running injury treatment:

          “The Efficiency Rule: Anything that *sustainably* relieves pain must also make you faster”.



          First, it’s easy to make pain go away simply by doing something different (for example – no joke – a research paper published findings recommending the best way to decrease landing stress while running is to….quickly walk). Changing something — such as doing concerted efforts to activate muscles while running (e.g hamstring curling) — MIGHT decrease pain, but what collateral issues might result?

          The Efficiency Rule asks: is doing “seat-kickers” while running going to make you more efficient (and thus faster)? Does it improve overall stride efficiency? (Does it pass “the look test”? Does it LOOK better?)

          If not, beware. You’re making a wholesale stride change that, while maybe relieving strain, could, over time, could cause a major derailment of your stride.

          1. Jason

            I’m not suggesting this as a prolonged and consistent treatment strategy, I’m talking about this as a gateway to reestablishing a neural connection with the musculature in question. It’s all about maintaining a balance between the heads of the biceps femoris and semimemb./semitend. This has been my issue at least, which is why I gave my insight.

            1. Joe Uhan

              Is there a balance between heads of hamstring muscles? And do you (/does anyone know) what this is, versus what it isn’t? Seems awfully complicated (and arbitrary). When changing hamstrings, what other thing (or 10, or 25 things) might also change (for the worse)?

              While it’s useful to occasionally zoom in, ultimately zooming out is abslutely crucial in running efficiency — for consistent efficient motor control, peak performance…and not driving onself insane with all the moving parts.

              Two recommended readings on this subject:

              My take:
              The source material:

            2. Jason

              Nothing changes for the worse and simply because you find something to be arbitrary does not mean that it does not work for the individual, especially given your “source material”.

  34. Joe Uhan

    As I say about all nerve issues:

    “You gotta think like a plumber or an electrician”

    The nerve flows from the cranium to the toe. As such: it’s possible that any dysfunction along that path can be relevant to your symptoms.

    Thus, if you (your medical team) has done treatment to the lumbar/lower quarter with no improvement, I would suggest addressing cervical and thoracic.

    I hesitate to recommend any nerve mobility exercises (over-doing them can make things worse); however, if you’re curious, a simple google search of nerve mobility (with emphasis on upper- or lower- body) will provide some options.

  35. Harley

    Hi. I am so glad I found your website. I have had pain in my shins from a running injury for about 8 months. I’ve had an MRI and nuclear medicine bone scan which showed very mild shin splints and soleus irritation but hasn’t responded to months of physio therapy, deep tissue message and won’t go away with rest. I am going to ask my doctor about possible nerve issues as every symptom you have described fits what I am going through perfectly. I was starting to think that I may never find a solution.


  36. Meg

    Hi Joe.
    Thanks for this article, which delineates most of the pain I’ve been dealing with (electric feeling in the feet stemming from some nerve impingement further up) in both legs. It had gotten better with some muscle strengthening of my back working with a chiropractor, but then got worse again when I started running and barre (requiring lots of leg strength) again. MRI of my back showed nothing and the Drs. just want me to pursue PT, without any other answers. None of them have done a clinical (movement) exam, except for the neurologist’s general exam. So, hopefully going to a PT solves this and locates a specific issue area.

    Any chance you can recommend someone in Washington, D.C.? The area is not listed on the NAIOMT website.


  37. Gav Pierce

    Hello Joe,

    Really a great article and still reading alot of the comments and advise to find the right remedy for my problem.

    About 3 months ago after a moderately paced 10 mile run, I started to get lower back pains, there was no radiation to the limbs. Visits to the Physio seemed to work and I slowly started running again. After about 1 or 2 runs, I got super tight hamstrings and glutes. Hamstrings seemed to get better (with Physio) after a few days but a deep muscle pain was still in my left glute and I felt a strange sensation (like sock is double) in my left heel and outer side of my foot. Chiropractor tested for strength this was good but I was missing a reflex in my heel. He thought that problem arised from my back.
    I have had treatment for my back for the last 2 months from Physio and the Chiropractor but still regular pain in my left glute and then strange sensation in my foot. It doesn’t seen to matter if I train or rest, sitting or standing. 1 day its there constantly, the other day it comes and goes.
    Tried the slump test and no pain shoots.

    Keep up the good work.

  38. Guy

    Hi Gav,

    My guess is that Joe is going to tell you to think like a plumber : ) I kid!

    I’ve had very similar issues with a deep muscle pain in my glute (kind of a cramping feeling), hamstring irritation, and some weird spasming in my toes on occasion (but not much). This has been going on since August 2018. I’ve tried 30-50 different types of physio exercises, back treatment (2 shots, chiro adjustments – I think we’ve all ruled out the back). Also tried shost in my piriformis and SI joint. 3 MRIs on my back, pelvis and knee – showed nothing.

    Out of frustration – after doing all these exercises and going to 100 docs/physio appointments, I finally shut it down. Total rest and relaxation – no PT exercises, stretches, cross training. Only when I did this, did I start making (slow, but regular) progress. I started playing a lot of Mario Kart. Now, the pain in my hamstring and weird toe sensation are gone. I still have some deep glute pain, but it seems to be improving as well. Tried to do some walk/jogging this weekend and it felt pretty good.

    Probably not what you want to hear, but it’s the only thing that’s helped me so far. Maybe you could nip yours in the bud quickly with some total rest (and a little Mario Kart).

    1. Joe Uhan

      The both of you guys could have your primary (remaining) dysfunction at the *neck*.

      Runners blow off neck pain more than anything else, because they don’t think it’s relevant to a current leg injury, or directly stops them from running.

      Neck dysfunction can cause pervaisive nerve tension and pain/dysfunction in the leg. Thus, if you haven’t had anyone assess your neck, it would be a worthwhile exploration.

      1. Gav Pierce

        Hi Joe,

        Thanks for your answer. My Physio has only been concentrating aroung my lower back area.
        During my regular (8 weekly) visits to the Chiropractor he starts with a check and corrects my neck, also whilst knuckling the top of my glute he was elbowing around my shoulder area, wasn’t the nicest feeling I ever had.
        He didn’t mention that the neck could be related to my injury. I will ask him to check this out next week.

    2. Gav Pierce

      Hi Guy

      Thanks for your reply and advice, changed my training schedule about 8 weeks ago to see if it would help.
      So instead of running for about 5 hours a week, I visited the gym for weight training, intensity of the training is about the same just different type of training. Dont get so tight hamstrings anymore but the pain/tightness in the glute area and tingling in the foot are still there. Maybe I have to back this off as well and steal my son’s Xbox.
      I have an appointment with the neurosurgeon today to discuss the recently made MRI scan. I hope that he can give me a clear area to focus the treatment on.

      1. Gav Pierce

        Just a update, had a MRI and consultation with a neurologist, I have a bulging a L5/S1 level, left side more prominent than right. According to the doctor this perfectly explains my symtooms and has advised me to keep seeing a Chiropractor. Absolutely no running as the shocking is bad for the recovery, only biking and a bit of weight training. If no improvemnets within 8 weeks than I ahve to get back in touch.
        What I found strange is that he told me to stop making a hollow back (mackenzie therapy) and start to exercise with a rounded back. This is totally different to what my chiroprator advises me.

          1. Gav Pierce

            Hi Joe,
            Another 2 months have passed, deep uncomfortable pain just under my hip/top of outer thigh is still there, achilles reflex is still not responding and strange feeling in foot is also still there.
            Been stretching hamstrings regularly (5 x per day) and the tightness in the glute is nearly gone.
            Noticed that I have a tilted pelvis, 1 side looks higher that the other according to the physio it comes from the muscle tightness in my glutes. Although the MRI, Physio and Chiro points to my herniated disc as the trigger, I’m starting to think that I have an issue with my hip/outer thigh.

  39. Martyn

    I’ve recently come back to running after 5 weeks off with high outer pelvic pain above my hip. Always just on my right side. I’ve been to physio last year and am regularly carrying out the exercises she gave me to strengthen up. I started back on Jan 1st with just 2, gentle miles, slowly building it back up, no speed work or ‘efforts’ either. As I’ve returned to running so has the pain in my hip / pelvis and once again a very sore soleus muscle and very tight calf on my right side. My massage lady called it ‘hypertonic’. I’m at my wits end. I’ve had my gait checked and am supposedly in the right shoes, fitted by a running shoe shop and I’m always being told the my ‘form’ is great so I give up! What is wrong with me? ‍♂️

    1. Joe Uhan


      It certainly could be nerve pain. Unhappy (tensioned, irritated-by-running) nerves can cause those symptoms. Have a skilled manual therapy practitioner look at you (links to those affiliations posted numerous times, above). Sorry, and good luck!

  40. Manuelle

    Hey. Thank you for the article. I’m an ultra trail runner and everything was fine until one day I just woke up and had a ver weird pain close to my lateral right meniscus. We tried everything and it wouldn’t stop. They even found that because of that pain I had broken the meniscus for which they performed a surgery. I’m recovered from the surgery but the pain is still there. I’ve been having neural therapy but I feel it’s not helping at all. I don’t know what else to do anymore. Can you give me better tips to heal it?
    Thank you

    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for the message.

      Based on your symptoms description/location, it’s less likely this is a nerve pain issue; rather, a knee (mechanical/alignment) issue. (If knee bones aren’t properly aligned and moving, pain will persist, even if the meniscus is repaired).

      I do offer remote video consults should you wish to discuss your case more specifically (for that, visit my website

      Good luck,


    Hi Joe

    I have a good level track and field athlete with chronic bilateral hamstring soreness. We’ve tried all sorts of ways to address it with flossing, glute strengthening etc and nothing has made much difference. Your article seems spot on. We need to find someone who can do some work with neurogenic pain?


    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for the comment/question.

      I’d have to say: it’s pretty rare for nerve pain to be bilateral (/symmetrical) AND only “soreness”. Based on those alone, I have my doubts it’s neurogenic (though an actual evaluation is warranted).

      Given his a T&F athlete, it’s more likely there’s hamstring over-use due to inefficient form (What comes to mind: upright/hyper-extended lumbar, pelvis anterior tilt, excessive heel recovery (heel to butt)).

      You’re welcome to submit a running stride video to my site for a “free estimate”:

      Good luck,


        Thanks Joe

        Fair to say I am an absolute stickler for technique and I am always very attentive to if the athlete is holding their pelvis in an undesirable position in particular, as things generally fall apart from there.

        I have submitted a video for your feedback.

        1. Joe Uhan


          Thanks for the submission. I’ve posted it here:

          Assuming your athlete is in “lane 4” (roughly)?

          I’m by no means a sprint form expert, but what I see that I don’t like:

          1. More side to side trunk motion than desire (can only see in first 2 and last 2 seconds of clip) – compare to woman in lane 3

          2. More static AND active (on/off) lumbar extension with stance-push-off

          Both of these issues can:

          A. cause nerve irritation (due to spinal stability deficits in two planes), and
          B. cause hamstring overuse

          Here’s my (relative) gold-standard for short-sprint technique video:

          Note the lack of significant trunk rotation/sidebend AND static (and moderate) lumbar lordosis.

            1. Joe Uhan

              Ah, OK, thanks.

              Then it is easier: heel recovery is excessive. That stresses the hamstring on both ends:

              * too much active “curl up”


              * leg extends/over-reaches too far (eccentric load)

              A good follow to work on sprint mechanics (and a lot of commentary of excessive heel recovery) is Stuart McMillan from ALTIS:


              He’s written a lot on the subject.

              (My take: gotta work on the “triple flexion: hip/knee/ankle — straight up, to decrease that extra curl behind and trim the excessive reach, in front)

  42. CJ

    First article that makes sense!
    I’ve got an odd issue.
    Returned to running after extended break and now have weird uncomfortable knee/lower leg sensation when I take a deep breath.
    Any ideas?

    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for the message. Leg pain in response to *neck motions* is a classic sign of neurogenic pain, I’ve never heard of the same symptoms arising from taking a deep breath. It’s certainly possible that there’s some tensioning between the upper quarter nervous system (including even the cranial nerves, which course through the diaphragm to various organs) and the legs.

      I have no advice or ideas, other than consider consulting with the above-posted referral lists. Good luck!

  43. dr wime

    Thanks Joe; Finally some information that hits home! I am a Triathlete (Level 1 Coach also !). I am absolutely on love with this sport and can’t get enough! My body tells me otherwise. Training is at a low volume now with the whole virus think going on. You’ve touched on a number of issues that I am experiencing with the outside of my left foot. Tingling, numbness that won’t go away and won’t respond to conventional treatment of any kind. After a casual run, or after a Tempo bike ride is when I feel the most discomfort/pain/tingling/numbness. My physio does the massaging and my podiatrist has seen me a few times, built custom orthotics, cortisone shot (lasted 5 days) and this pest still comes back. I’m open to suggestions, but not being a Triathlete is not one of them. Thanks so much.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Dr Wime-

      Thanks for the message. Tingling and numbness are certainly hallmarks of a neurogenic issue, but where it could be coming from isn’t an easy answer. As with any nerve pain, the issue could be anywhere (and multiple) from head to (in this case), toe.

      Given your activity level, I’d wager hefty sums that running stride is playing a role, as well.

      Consult with your medical team; you might also consider doing an online consult, which I offer through my clinic page.

      Good luck,

  44. Darran george Todd

    hi diagnosed with peroneal nerve injury from running 4 weeks in now ..can i walk about as normal (minus any heavy impact) or should i basically be resting up

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Darran-

      Thanks for the post.

      First, I can’t give specific advice on your case, simply because I don’t know enough (/anything) about your specific case.

      That said, it is of utmost importance that your medical team is looking at how you run and walk. Foot strike and foot loading patterns play a huge role in balanced loading, vs overloading the lateral leg (or hip/pelvis/back). Check this out and think about how you’re loading your foot when you walk:

  45. Danielle Costanza

    I’m a marathon runner and have been dealing with tightness in my left hamstring/glute for years. I’ve monitored it with only running 3xs a week and the rest is cross training and yoga. I also lift. This year though, it’s blown up. Now it’s pain staring in the butt, goes to the hamstring, then the IT, finally the calf. At first I thought it was bc my glutes are weaker than my other leg muscles. (common in runners.) Been doing glute strengthening exercises but it still seems tight. I’ve tried massage, a chiropractor, dry needling, yoga, rest… At this point I haven’t gone running in over a month and I’m not noticing any improvement. I qualified for Boston and I really want to run it this September but I’m worried that my injury is not improving. If it is nerve pain, what is my next move? What kinda of doctor or therapist should I see? I’m in uncharted waters :/

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Danielle-

      Thanks for sharing. Based on your symptoms (and their resistance to treatment), it very well could be a nerve issue.

      For help, you need a comprehensive treatment approach (of the folks you’ve seen, none have fit that bill). What needs to be looked at:

      * hip and pelvis mobility (links in a chain: if hip and pelvis don’t move, the lumbar spine/nerves can be under constant irritation)
      * the enitre spine (nerve irritation can happen at any point where the nerve “flows” – head, neck, trunk, low back, leg…)
      * foot/ankle (what input does is have/not have with the hip/pelvis/lumbar?)

      A full explanation of “whole person approach” to treatment:

      As for who, specificially, see above for listings of the highest-qualified hands-on-certified physios that practice a whole-person-approach (I’ve posted these links numerous times).

      Lastly, I am now offering video pain consults for all runners, nationwide. See my website for that, as well.

      Good luck,

  46. Emily

    Hi Joe,

    This is the first article I have read in a year that sounds like it explains my condition so thank you! After dealing with runners knee and patellar tendinitis, I have the constant tingling/dull ache you describe in the anterior section of my knee. I haven’t run for a year, have seen 3 physical therapists, and have been strengthening it every day. I haven’t had any direct impact to the knee – rather, I think the nerve was just irritated from a tight quad/IT band that has now been loosened by aggressive scraping. My PT thinks I am ready to slowly return to running. Do you think this will exacerbate the nerve issue, or the nerve will slowly heal on its own and its okay to slowly start running again? Thank you so much for your help!

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Emily-

      Thanks for the comment, and sorry to hear about your knee.

      In the past year, I’ve had two PT clients with this issue: “knee pain” in the anterior/distal thigh that is neurgenic.

      They’ve been challenging to resolve, and it’s taken both local (quad mobiilty) and global: spine (neck to tailbone), abdomen (femoral nerve outflows in the anterior abdomen/pelvis, and – of course – nerve mobility.

      The big question, of course, is WHY? Why did the nerve get irritated (and could it be due to how you’re running?). Without answering that, I can’t say whether or not running with re-aggravate. Just be sure your medical team is making sure you’re max-efficient in everything you do: sit, stand, squat, walk, run. etc.

      Good luck!

  47. Emily

    Hi Joe,
    Thank you so much for your prompt response! I sincerely appreciate it. One quick follow-up question: in your comment, when you say it’s taken both local and global to treat your clients, what do you mean by that? Do you mean local and global manual treatment (ie: massage, scraping, etc)? I wasn’t sure what treatment you meant by local and global.

    1. Joe Uhan

      When a nerve is irritated, “treatment” is anything that restores normal mobility and integrity (removes any restriction or potential “pinch”) to the nerve and its associated tissue (muscles, fascia, spine bones/joints).

      “Treatment” is a broad term that could encompass:

      * therapeutic exercise (“DIY”)
      * manual therapy (hands-on mobilization of all types – only one of which is “scraping”)
      * efficiency work (improving posture, motor control, etc)

      Most medical professionals tend to focus only locally:

      * a knee is a knee, so we treat the knee (only)

      A “global” approach is treating all potential (/relevant) connections to a knee. This is doubly important for nerves, since they’re connected tissue running from head to toe.

  48. Mr. Dusan Jankovics, CPA

    Back in high school, 1978 I started feeling a sharp pain under my ribs when I ran ( I had recently crashed a 10 meter dive) The nurse said it was a runner pinch, I got on with my life, no x-rays or medical consult. anyways over the years that followed the sharpness, numbness and paid put me to the grounding the early 90’s, The Doc ruled everything out, the only thing that wasn’t tried was a MIR. A few more on the grounds in 2019 finally got a MIR, yes some previous injuries but everything looks fine. Now the pain runs from Sternum following lower ribs back around to the spine, Where or how much pain or discomfort is not consistence, sometimes the only way to relieve is lay on my back, but that usually causes a shortness in breathing and sometimes the only way to get relief is drink till I pass out. Well that was till a few months ago, I had read an article about a treatment for shingles using Gabapentin to deal with nerve pain. 3 – 600MG a day and while all the muscles, bones and whatever can still make walking or sitting an unpleasant experience I having periods when I feeling no discomfort at all.

    Was the nerve damage causing damage because the nerve causing the muscles/tendons to push my body out of alignment?

    If the nerve was spasming and the gabapentin is working somewhat, does that mean that the muscles/tendons and what ever will heal?

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Dusan-

      Thanks for the reply and sorry for my delay.

      This *sounds* like this could be due to a rib dysfunction. This has to do with how the rib connects from back (vertebrae – two joints) all the way aorund to the front (2 joints). This (and the corresponding nerves) is the only truly plausible explanation of your pain that:

      * is both front and back
      * is heavily impacted by breathing

      I strongly recommend you see a skilled physio that can look at your entire spine, with special attention to your ribcage.

      Good luck!

  49. N


    I’m a female In my mid 40s (thin, good health) who has been dealing with medial heel pain (presumed bilateral plantar fasciitis )for last 1.5 years

    From the getgo, Ivd been religiously doing daily stretches of hamstrings and calves a few times a day, using orthotics , foot muscles exercises, multiple rounds of shockwave treatments, etc. (No steroid shots)

    My heel pain is overall better, 18 months later, but not gone. But ….it’s always been a burning pain bilaterally , not on my plantar foot but on the medial side of my posterior heels. Pain is worse with standing. First step pain was always mild. Not classic PF, I think.

    So I saw a doc who ultrasounded both heels a few weeks ago. Both plantar fascia were totally normal in thickness and appearance. Bilateral post tibial nerves, Medial plantar nerves, and lateral plantar nerves looked normal on US. Didn’t image medial calcaneal nerves. I had normal foot exam bilaterally . Neg tinel sign

    Doc felt my story sounded more like a sensory neuritis, like a Baxter’s neuritis. Seems more like a medial calcaneal nerve issue to me.

    Frustrating part is that though overall my burning heel pain Is better, I feel an annoying constant low grade burn bilaterally on most days. I get unpredictable flare ups frequently. Doc didn’t want to inject my nerves with anesthesic solution bc my pain happened to be minimal during the visit.

    What is the best course of action now? I’m biking a lot. But the burning pain ,although low grade, limits my activities with my young kids. Nervous about any vacations which require lots of walking and standing.

    Thank you for any advice

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, N-

      Thanks for sharing.

      This does sound like neurogenic foot pain. “Burning” is not a symptom commonly associated with “classic” PF.

      Regardoing nerve scans/imaging: worth noting (for everyone):

      Just because a scan (of any kind) notes the nerve is “normal”, doesn’t mean the nerve isn’t irritated or dysfunctioning. (In fact, an irritation far above (or below) the pain area can be the source of dysfunction!)

      Movement/mechanical assessment — how the nerve and associated tissues move, and finding areas of potential restriction — is the next step. Potential problem areas might include:

      * locally (around the foot/ankle, but likely in the shin)
      * proximal leg (shin or above)
      * lumbar
      * cervical

      See above for listings of highly-skilled manual PTs that can provide this service in your area.

      Good luck

  50. Terry Fowler


    I’ve been getting numbness both feet and slight pins and needles. Worse when sitting down and eases of when laying down and totally goes when walking. Osteo thought my hips were badly misaligned and clicked them back into the right place. Have zero pain anywhere. Been a runner for 30 odd years and rested it for 4-5 weeks. Osteo thinks piriformis has irritated the nerves due to hips out of alignment. As I’m getting numbness both feet but no pain anywhere I’m not sure resting it is the right thing to do

    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for the message, and sorry to hear about your symptoms.

      If you haven’t seen either your primary MD or neurologist, now is the time. This is likely a low back issue (of some sort) and – due to the nature of symptoms – is important that you’re not having nerve impingment somewhere. Numbness in your feet is a more significant sign of nerve irritation, and it’s a safety issue. I recommned you get it checked out by a bonafide MD.

      Good luck

  51. Szilvia

    Dear Joe,

    I’m a 31 years old female, who suddenly developed anterior knee pain on both knees (left knee significantly worse). Pain is dull and can be felt in various parts in my knee.

    I overdone exercising in the last 2 months to prep for a hiking trip then had a week long break where I mostly rested. Issues began when I first out on my heavy backpack and applied a patella brace to prevent knee pain. Ironically, I ended up with persistent knee pain, which is present when I’m resting and gets worse when I’m straightening my leg. Also, tingling sensation in my foot, both legs, mostly when I’m laying down. While walking the pain also creeos down to my calf, bigtoe and sole at times. Historically I have an issue with walking down hill as my knee can feel extremely painful then.

    Kinesio taping my patella helped the pain in my knee, but the tingling/burning sensation got worse. Knee brace leaves me with similar results.

    Could it be that my knee braces pinched a nerve in my legs?

    Is it safe to use patella braces/kinesio tape with these symptoms?

    My Gp diagnosed me over the phone with chondromalacia patella, and recommended gentle quad/hamstrings/glute/hip stretches and exercises, but now I’m afraid of exaggerating the issue.

    Please help me by advising what course of action would help me to avoid making my condition worse.

    I am losing hope in being abke to participate in the hiking trip I was training for… And I’m worried about my health. Thank you foe your reply in advance.

    Silvia, UK

  52. Ryan

    Hey Joe!

    I hope all is well with you during these crazy times and thank you for providing such great help to so many people.

    I’m a 34 yr old male who is suffering from a consistent injury.

    I’ve been running on/off since my mid 20s. By no means would I consider myself a “runner”. Most of my running sessions would last about 30 – 40 minutes, would only be a few sessions in a given month, and I go months without running.

    About two years ago I began experiencing a shooting electrical pain at the back of my right leg. Although it can be sometimes hard to pinpoint the exact spot, I know it’s somewhere in between the lower portion of my calf and heel (8 inches if measuring from the very bottom of my foot going up the back of my leg). So, I would say the achilles tendon maybe?

    The pain can be best described as a very quick, hot electric shock lasting less than a second but fairly painful and distracting. The shock usually makes me jump (as if startled by a loud noise) because it’s so sudden and sharp.

    Here’s what’s tricky…. The pain does not happen while I’m running at all. It happens randomly throughout the days, weeks, months after my running. Not running at all results in these random shocks completely going away after 3 – 6 months.

    Sometimes, I can go a day without a shock. Other times, I might get a few shocks or a single shock in a given day. It’s all very random.

    I cannot do anything to “provoke” a shock. There are no physical activities or stationary body/leg positioning that can trigger a shock.

    The last time I experienced these shocks was earlier this year a few days after running on a treadmill. I thought maybe the shock absorption of a treadmill, instead of running on solid ground, would help prevent the shocks but it resulted in the shocks happening for maybe 3 months after using the treadmill (2 separate sessions).

    I haven’t changed my running sneakers throughout the years… I’m not sure if any of this can be connected to my running sneakers?

    So far, I have tried massaging the area, stretching my lower leg out via stretching strap ( 3 – 7 minutes of stretching multiple times throughout the day), and using foam roller. Nothing really makes the shocks stop unless I stop running completely for 3 – 6 months.

    I’d love to get back running again without electrical shocks occurring afterwards.

    Now, I once went to PT for this and I don’t feel they knew what was causing the problem as they literally told me a bunch of “possibilities” but could not give me at least any probabilities. They had me do multiple stretches, performed rolfing, used a deep vibrating machine on my leg, and carried out spinal decompression. This led to the shocks going away immediately ( this the only time I had the shocks go away without just giving my leg rest from running) but they come back every time I run. However, this PT visit was treating the very first time I experienced the issue.

    Please shed some light on what might be happening and if there may be anyway I can prevent the shocks from being triggered with running. Thank you very much!

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Ryan-

      Thanks for the post, and sorry for the delay. And sorry to hear about your longstanding leg pain!

      In short: the “shock” symptom may be coming from the sural nerve (

      This is a superficial sensory nerve that exits the deep part of the calf exactly where you described (mid-calf). It then usually runs straight down and innervates the (lateral) heel and (lateral) foot.

      As I said above, when nerves become irritated (not necessarily “pinched”, but simply “stuck”), that can happen anywhere along the length of the nerve:

      * the beginning (upper spine)
      * where it first exits (low back)
      * above the pain area (upper leg, upper calf)
      * below (ankle/foot)

      You noted that “spinal decompression” helped. This is a clue for future treatments. But the most skilled practitioner should “clear” (fully treat) the whole length of the nerve. The folks I recommend, thei nationwide listings I’ve linked multiple times above.

      Good luck!

  53. Joe Uhan

    Anterior hip replacement for (any/all) neurogenic pain? Outstanding idea!

    Oh, and for our convenience, thanks for including the hyperlink for the (spammy) Indian hospital/proctology clinic!

    We’ll send ’em over!

  54. Louise

    I would be keen to hear any advice. I have been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in my cervical spine C5/C6. This took over a year to get diagnosed and after me reporting to my Doctor the pain was getting worse and worse at night, to the point where I could not sleep, it was always at night, got better in the day but lying down became hell on earth. I was in tears could not pick up a coffee cup in the morning it hurt so much. not to mention the sleep deprivation. could barely move my arms it was like they were crushed by an elephant such pain to move them at all. It was horrible. Anyway it was not until I begged for an MRI that I finally got some answers middle of this year (happy tears). I do not believe running caused my injury as this built up over a year and I have PTSD and I believe it was literally nervous tension and night terrors leading to tense neck/ crouching in a ball over time lead to a pinched nerve. Maybe running did not help in hindsight or doing HIIT workouts but I had no idea I had a pinched nerve at the time and yes it got to crisis point pain eventually thanks to many useless DISMISSIVE doctors.
    Anyway my question is when can I start running again? I miss it so much but I have found while the pain is there on some days, if I run it always gets worse especially at night :( I now go for long walk but it is so boring walking compared to running. Plus running helped my PTSD sooooo much. The mental health benefits of running I really need and miss.
    My General Practitioner said I would have to give up running as it stresses the spine as it is high impact. FOR LIFE!!! :( However the neurosurgeon was the opposite and thought running was ‘not a problem’ and non-chalant (mind you he barely spoke to me and was so dismissive just gave a bilateral steriod injection and on my way).
    Who do I listen to? I am listening to my body and it appears if I wake up with a stiff/sore neck, running makes it worse. On a day when I have no pain, running can bring on pain. And it gets worse at night.
    Has anyone got any advice or experience?
    How long did you rest for before returning to running?
    Did obtaining from all running help, did you ever return?

    I also want to do yoga or pilates to tone up but again the pressure on my upper body/spine and neck I am worried.

    I saw a physio but that did not help much. But only one physio. Again not sure if a neurophysiotherapist “specialised in this area” would help or osteopath or acupuncture or exercise physiologist.
    Can anyway relate?

    thanks for any information. If anyone can answer even one of my questions much appreciated!!

  55. Louise

    I should add I am in Australia and not sure if anyone here has any ideas on physiotherapists or companies that help with this.
    I also had loss of sensation and the whole arm feeling crushed and finger tips numb.
    As your article says it jumps the pain, some days its all on the right, other days left. And originally it was only the left then went to both sides.
    I want to live an active life but I also do not want to sabotage my recovery and not sure what to do. The doctors (neurosurgeon vs GP vs internet vs physio) have all said different things. Although technically on balance there seems to be more advice that says do not run when you have a pinched nerve, even though the neurosurgeon said it was ‘fine’.
    I used to run every day for around 40 mins (for fun) not competitively.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Louise-

      Thank you for the message, and I’m very sorry to hear about your struggles with your nerve pain.

      Your case is indeed, complex, but not without hope.

      Step 1: get this book and read it:

      (also available in e-format).

      Step 2: find a physio who has either affiliation or training from NOI group (an Australian physio/pain education institute known worldwide for their excellence).

      This group will provide the multi-dimensional approach necessary to tackle your issue and get you on the healing – and active – path!

      (Also check out “NOI Group” content on Youtube!)

      Good luck!

      1. Louise

        thank you so much I will do all those steps, anything that helps!
        My GP never mentioned any of this and I am in Australia. Just sent me to a regular physio which did not do much. Finding that like everything if you want answers you have to fight hard to research it yourself as pain, PTSD and anything complex that may affect mind and body and is not straight forward and I am realising gets put in the too hard basket for doctors. The best help I have found has been through research and finding people and articles like this. anyway thank you

  56. Gregory Weaver

    Hello Joe,

    Are there any doctors/surgeons located in the US you would recommend for nerve entrapment in the foot/ankle?

    Your article highlights my exact issues/symptoms. And after more than four years, I have exhausted everything to date (ie, PT, chiropractic services, multiple MRI/CT scans that show no issues, a failed surgery for nerve release, one podiatrist, two foot/ankle orthopedic docs and RICE).

    I stopped running four years ago and now having issues just standing for more than five to ten mins.

    Any recommendations are appreciated.


    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi Greg-

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with your foot/ankle pain.

      Question: do you really want to try another surgery, knowing the first one was unsuccessful?

      I question that, especially since surgeries nearly always *add* scar tissue (which reduces mobility). Unless there is a definitive (“no-brainer”) structure that is entrapping, “exploratory” (or otherwise meandering) surgery may not be the best course.

      Advanced, elite-level manual therapy and orthopedic rehab skills are what you need. See above/previous comments for the NAIOMT and IPA/FMT directories to find truly elite-level physios near you that could give your case a fresh and expert look!

      Good luck, Joe

  57. Louise

    I have been told so many different things from different doctors. It seems a common theme nerve pain is complex and it is the blind leading the blind. Even doctors get it wrong.
    At this point I am too scared to do anything that may affect my neck/pinched nerve including further treatment.

  58. Liz

    Hi Joe – I just found this article and it is like reading a list of my symptoms!

    I am a 47 year old triathlete (racing competitively for the past 25 years). I’ve had a nagging left quad pain for years (with some of that strange foot numbness) but never really restricted me from activity (but looking back likely a nerve issue). I did an off-road tri last October and felt bad calf pain towards the end of the mtn bike and hobbled to the finish line. Since then I have had severe pain throughout my left leg anytime i do any activity (kicking while swimming, walking up hill, jogging/running, biking) including the same numbness/pins+needles in my foot. As you note the pain varies on location (all up and down the leg – calf, quad, hamstring, even front of my hip!) and is pretty intolerable after 30-60 seconds of activity. When at rest I don’t have much pain at all.

    Like everyone else, I have been to MDs, had MRI/x-ray, seen chiro, massage, had a few epidural steroid injections. Nothing has made any difference. Definitely a nerve being affected SOMEWHERE and really need someone with your level of knowledge to help me figure this out.

    I know you have given links to potential PTs with specialized training but none are in the Raleigh-Durham NC area where i am located. Any suggestions on who to look for and questions to ask to find the “right” PT (e.g., is “manual Therapy” a god enough indicator?). Really appreciate any advice!

      1. Elizabeth Skiba

        Hello Joe

        I posted here a few months ago and wanted to give you an update on my prognosis as it was surprising to me! I was finally diagnosed with a fully occluded left external iliac artery endofibrosis from years of cycling. I just had bypass surgery (prosthetic bypass) 10 weeks ago. It was a tough surgery but I am now running and cycling with no quad pain! Surgery is always a serious outcome but something to look into if you are working with any serious cyclists- apparently EIAE not that uncommon! Lots of vascular surgeons are educated in the condition but it is extremely hard to diagnose.

        1. Joe Uhan


          Thanks for following up.

          One word: WOAH!

          I’m so glad you got an accurate diagnosis (and I’m sorry I wasn’t more useful in this regard).

          Looking back, potential hints to discern between nerve pain and circulatory:

          1. Pain in both flexed (hiking, biking) and extended positions (swimming). Nerve pain is usually only in one direction (the tensioning of the nerve).

          2. Pain at an extremely predicable exercise duration (“intolerable after 30-60 seconds of activity”)

          How did they figure this out? Ultrasound? I’m assuming surgery was to remove the fibrosis?

          Thanks for sharing and for contributing to my learning!

  59. sue

    Hi Joe ,

    I,m a 61 year old from England who loves running , cycling , pilates ,and kettlecise but 5 months ago my injury stopped me doing any of theses activities.

    After reading your article which was so interesting as it sounds just the problem I have so wondered if you could help me .
    I started with a really bad pain down my right shin then it quickly moved to under my right foot while running so had to stop everything and rest where the pain then went into my lower back then under back and neck.

    The pain is a constant ache but goes away when I lay down , I am just starting to do my pilates again and a small cycle but so miss my running .
    One day it feels better then the next its back , its so upsetting and wonder if you could give me any advice .

    Thanks so much

    Sue .

    1. Joe Uhan

      HI, Sue-

      Thanks for the post, and sorry to hear about your shin/foot pain.

      It sure sounds like nerve pain. But as you can read from above, nerve pain requires comprehensive treatment (or at least evaluation) of the entire spine, and the nerve that goes to the shin and foot.

      You might consider doing other online searches for spinal and nerve mobility exercises, but I won’t/can’t recommend anything specific because each body/case is different. Please note that nerves are VERY sensitive to stretching, so take extreme caution to anything you try on your own.

      If you can find an osteopath or physio in the UK who treats nerve pain hands-on, that’s your best bet.

      Good luck,

  60. Phil

    Hi Joe,

    Stumbled across this article (thanks!) on what is now a fairly regular search for ‘foot nerve running’ and quite a few things ring true with my issue, partcularly #3 and #4 above. My background: I’m a 45 year old (in the UK), always been physically active, I’ve done a bit of (casual-ish) running on and off for the last 20 years or so, though much more so over the last couple of years. Usually 5k and 10k but also a half marathon this time last year. Not electric pace but I push myself.

    I noticed an issue with my stride around 4-5 months ago where halfway through a run my left foot would sometimes ‘fall over’ towards the outside and my knee would be pulled outwards. No real pain or discomfort, just unable to stride in a straight line. I finally spoke to a physio who suggested there might be a hip issue but the strengthening exercises to target this made no difference.

    Around this time I noticed that there was a new (related?) issue where my foot would ‘claw’ and toes would grip the insole. Sometimes a bit of numbness/pins and needles, sometimes a bit of cramp in the arch. Later still I’ve noticed that my big toe is lifting and this seems to be causing the rest of the toes/foot to take the load, which I guess could cause the mechanical problem I first noticed.

    I’ve finally had face-to-face physio a few weeks ago and although I’ve been unable to trigger the issue on a treadmill (typical!) it’s tentatively being treated a big toe nerve issue, possibly from where the nerve passes the calf.

    I think I’m in the right hands at this stage, just wondering if this ‘big toe-lifting’/’foot-clawing’ thing is something you’ve come across. It’s driving me crazy and desperately want to get running properly again!

    Thanks again for the article!


    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Phil-

      Thanks for the comment.

      What you describe may *possibly* be a more significant issue in your spinal cord, namely your neck. (Do you have any neck pain history and/or recent trauma there?)

      How your foot is responding, sounds similar to a positive Babinksi Test:

      I strongly suggest:

      A. Return to your physio and ask that s/he perform “the Babinski test”, and/or
      B. See your doctor (if your physio isn’t comfortable in accurately assessing this test)

      Best to clear this issue to be sure there’s not something else – more serious – going on in the rest of your nervous system. I would do this at your earliest convenience and – should any other symptoms arise (especially: – seek immediate medical care.

      Good luck,

      1. Phil

        Hi Joe,

        Thank you for taking the time to reply – very much appreciated.

        I held off getting back to you until I hada bit more clarity. Thought you might be interested in an update as various investigations may have found an (if not the) issue. The working theory from a foot and ankle specialist (with use of an MRI scan) is that there is instability/damage/weakness in the ATFL, hence the toes gripping to gain traction. Treatment plan in place for this.

        New physio has also checked for Babinski sign, as well as L5 nerve check. Both seem fine, though she’s also identified mild plantar fasciitis… so a lot going on and not clear at this stage exactly what the root cause is.

        Thanks again,

  61. Shilpa Sood

    hi joe

    Thanks for this excellent piece of information. I am 45 plus female who had been religiously running 10Km for many years. About 3 weeks ago I ran a competitive Half marathon, my first . My daily activity level had been high the following week demanding standing for long periods of time each day, meanwhile I continued to run 12-14 km on alternate days. 4-5 days after the half marathon, I started feeling heaviness n weakness in my left thigh. Now I feel tingling, heaviness and cramps in the entire leg. Initially it was transient but is persisting longer now. Standing, walking or laying down on left side all trigger it every now n then. I have been off track for almost two weeks now. I can very well relate my symptoms with your writing. is there any hope? Will I b able to resume running? thanks in advance

    1. Joe Uhan


      Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay!

      This sure sounds like nerve pain. As for where and why, it is difficult to say. Given your description, there may be something about how you’re running that’s compressing and irritating your low back, and the nerves that go to the leg on that side.

      Be very careful with these symptoms. I would see a physio or doctor if this fails to resolve, and do not let it get any worse!

      Good luck,

  62. Robert Howell

    I had vertebrae surgery on my lower back with leg, hip, and sciatica. Solved my problem on my right side. No pain whatsoever. Now that I started to run, I have a problem with my left lower leg, and foot with pain after about 3 or 4 minutes of running. Believe maybe operation solved one problem, but created another. Only hurts running or on a long walk.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Robert-

      Sorry to hear about your surgery, but glad most things are better.

      An analogy:

      Back pain/sciatica/severe leg pain + surgery = “the basement is flooded”

      Post-op lower leg/foot pain with running = “post-flood water damage”

      “Sticky nerves” are often the result of both acute injury and post-op outcomes.

      Good luck,

  63. Charity

    Hello, I’m not sure if this post is still active but I’ve had pain for two years now that seems to be nerve related. Like many of the above commenters I’ve spent a bit of money on Orthopedic Dr, neurologist, PT and chiro with little relief. It got to point where i could barely walk. It’s a lot better now that I’ve quit running a year ago but comes right back as soon as i try to run – even the tiniest bit. It started with pain in my glutes that radiated down my leg and has slowly morphed into numbness that goes all the way to my feet and toes. It’s more numbness than pain now. I’m not sure where to turn at this point. I clicked the link you shared in above comments for good manual therapy PTs but there doesn’t seem to be any in my area. Any recommendations for another way to find someone who can help with trapped nerves. Any key words I should be looking for in my search. Thank you so much for any info. Desperate over here :)

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Charity-

      Sorry to hear about your leg pain.

      Unfortunately there’s no easy way to find/assess who’s “the best” at treating neurogenic pain.

      Either post here what your (relative) hometown is, or email joe at and I’ll see if I can help.

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