Physical Exercise for Peroneal Nerve Dysfunction

Peroneal nerve dysfunction is a form of peripheral neuropathy caused by nerve damage within a branch of the sciatic nerve that leads to the leg. Treatment typically includes peroneal nerve injury exercises to maintain mobility of the affected leg.

Ankle rotations are a great exercise to help peroneal nerve dysfunction.
Credit: Staras/iStock/GettyImages

Peroneal Nerve Dysfunction Symptoms

The peroneal nerve is a part of the sciatic nerve that allows sensation and movement of the foot and lower leg. Damage to the nerve can destroy the myelin sheath covering the affected nerve and lead to degeneration of the nerve cell, advises the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Some causes of peroneal nerve dysfunction include a fractured fibula, knee injury, regularly crossing your legs or wearing high boots or pressure to the knee while asleep, in surgery or in a coma. It may also be seen in individuals with medical conditions such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, diabetes, anorexia, alcoholism and some autoimmune conditions.

People suffering from this condition often experience numbness within the leg as well as a loss of muscle tone, muscle mass and even muscle control. They may be unable to hold their foot up — which is called foot drop — and drag their toe when walking.

Doctors will perform testing to confirm the diagnosis and uncover the cause of the peroneal nerve dysfunction. These may include an MRI, a nerve ultrasound and nerve conduction tests.

Read more: Exercise and a Pinched Nerve: What to Do and What Not to Do

Peroneal Nerve Damage Exercises

Peroneal nerve palsy exercises are only one part of a treatment plan. Treatment of peroneal nerve dysfunction starts by treating the underlying cause of the condition. Depending on the cause and severity of the nerve damage, the loss of movement may be permanent. Corticosteroids may help to reduce swelling affecting the nerves.

Peroneal nerve palsy physical therapy exercises help to maintain strength and range of motion. Check with your doctor before performing any exercises for this condition.

Here are a few exercises to maintain strength and mobility in the foot and ankle recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

  • Heel Cord Stretch - This stretches the calf muscles. Place your hands on the wall and place your non-affected leg forward with the knee slightly bent. Your affected leg should be back behind you. Keep your heel on the ground to stretch the calf. Repeat this stretch with the back knee bent to target a different part of the calf muscle.
  • Golf Ball Roll - Roll a golf ball on the sole and arch of the affected foot for two minutes.
  • Calf Raises - Hold the back of a chair or the wall for balance and lift your unaffected foot so that your weight is on the affected leg. Raise the heel of the foot and then lower back to the ground to strengthen the calf
  • Ankle Rotations - Sit in a chair or on a bench so that your feet hover in the air without touching the ground. Use your affected foot to write the alphabet in the air.

Read more: How to Stretch the Outside of the Calf Muscle

In some cases, surgery may be required to treat peroneal nerve dysfunction. Surgeons will attempt to release the pressure on the nerve. In more severe cases, a nerve transfer procedure may be performed by moving parts of the tibial nerve to the foot, advises the Washington University in St. Louis. After surgery, physical therapy exercises are required to regain motion and learn to activate the new nerve pathways.

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