Common peroneal nerve dysfunction is damage to the peroneal nerve leading to loss of movement or sensation in the foot and leg.
Neuropathy – common peroneal nerve; Peroneal nerve injury; Peroneal nerve palsy
The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve, which supplies movement and sensation to the lower leg, foot and toes. Common peroneal nerve dysfunction is a type of
Dysfunction of a single nerve, such as the common peroneal nerve, is called a
Damage to the nerve destroys the
Common causes of damage to the peroneal nerve include the following:
- Trauma or injury to the knee
Fractureof the fibula (a bone of the lower leg)
- Use of a tight plaster cast (or other long-term constriction) of the lower leg
- Crossing the legs regularly
- Regularly wearing high boots
- Pressure to the knee from positions during deep sleep or
Injury during knee surgery or from being placed in an awkward position during anesthesia
Common peroneal nerve injury is more common in people:
Who are very thin (for example, from
Who have conditions such as
diabetic neuropathyor polyarteritis nodosa
Who are exposed to certain toxins that can damage the common peroneal nerve
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is an inherited disorder that affects all of the nerves. Peroneal nerve dysfunction occurs early in this disorder.
Decreased sensation, numbness, or tingling in the top of the foot or the outer part of the upper or lower leg
- Foot that drops (unable to hold the foot up)
- “Slapping” gait (walking pattern in which each step makes a slapping noise)
- Toes drag while walking
- Walking problems
Weaknessof the ankles or feet
Exams and Tests
Examination of the legs may show:
Loss of muscle control in the lower legs and feet
Atrophyof the foot or foreleg muscles
Difficulty lifting up the foot and toes and making toe-out movements
Tests of nerve activity include:
Electromyography(EMG, a test of electrical activity in muscles) Nerve conduction tests MRI
- Nerve ultrasound
What other tests are done depend on the suspected cause of nerve dysfunction, and the person’s symptoms and how they developed. Tests may include blood tests,
Treatment aims to improve mobility and independence. Any illness or other cause of the neuropathy should be treated. Padding the knee may prevent further injury by crossing the legs and remind you to not cross your legs.
Corticosteroids injected into the area may reduce
You may need surgery if:
The disorder does not go away
You have problems with movement
There is evidence that the nerve axon is damaged
Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve may reduce symptoms if the disorder is caused by pressure on the nerve. Surgery to remove tumors on the nerve may also help.
You may need over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers to control pain. Other medications may be used to reduce pain include gabapentin, carbamazepine, or tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline. Whenever possible, avoid or limit the use of medication to reduce the risk of side effects.
If your pain is severe, a pain specialist can help you explore all options for pain relief.
Physical therapy exercises may help you maintain muscle strength.
Orthopedic devices may improve your ability to walk and prevent
Vocational counseling, occupational therapy, or similar programs may help you maximize your mobility and independence.
The outcome depends on the cause of the problem. Successfully treating the cause may relieve the dysfunction, although it may take several months for the nerve to grow back.
However, if nerve damage is severe, disability may be permanent. The
- Decreased ability to walk
decrease in sensationin the legs or feet
weaknessor paralysisin the legs or feet
- Side effects of medication
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of common peroneal nerve dysfunction.
Avoid putting long-term pressure on the back or side of the knee. Treat injuries to the leg or knee right away.
If a cast, splint, dressing, or other pressure on the lower leg causes a tight feeling or numbness, call your health care provider.