Why are my legs and feet numb?
Feeling your legs or feet “falling asleep” is not uncommon after sitting too long in a position that puts too much pressure on the nerves or reduces blood flow. However, long-lasting or unexplained or persistent numbness, beyond a few minutes, may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Long-term numbness or a tingling feeling in the legs and feet may, among other causes be due to…
- Pinched nerves: problems in the lower back, such as a breakdown or herniation of spinal discs, can cause compression of the nerves going to the legs, leading to numbness or sensory disturbances. Pinched nerves in your neck or wrist like in carpal tunnel as well as sciatica in your back also will cause numbness which may also be associated with wrist, neck or back pain depending on the area affected.
- Diabetic neuropathy: the elevated blood sugar can lead to areas of nerve damage particularly on the instep of your feet and your toes. Along with numbness and tingling, diabetic neuropathy can cause cramps and a loss of balance.
- Peripheral artery disease: if you have a buildup of plaque in your leg arteries, your blood flow may be restricted. When the lack of blood flow reaches a critical level, numbness may occur as the nerves are not getting enough oxygen.
- Mini stroke: if the buildup of plaque is in your neck arteries and reaches a significant level, you may experience a transient ischemic attack lasting minutes to hours. Numbness in one arm and or leg on one side of your body, particularly if it occurs with weakness or speech difficulty represents a mini stroke and should be reported to your doctor immediately.
- Multiple sclerosis: an autoimmune disorder that affects your central nervous system. It has many symptoms, including muscle spasms and dizziness. Tingling in the lower body is often one of the first signs.
- Fibromyalgia: a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. It is believed that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Home remedies that may help to relieve uncomfortable numbness in the legs and feet include:
- Rest. Many of the conditions that cause leg and foot numbness, such as nerve pressure, improve with rest, sleep and stress reduction.
- Heat. Heat can sometimes help loosen stiff, sore, or tense muscles that can put pressure on nerves and cause numbness. However, avoid overheating numb legs and feet, as this may or worsen inflammation and cause pain and numbness.
- Massage. Massaging numb legs and feet helps improve blood flow and may reduce symptoms.
- Supportive devices. Braces and specially designed footwear can help reduce nerve pressure caused by conditions such as injury, tarsal tunnel syndrome, or flat feet.
- A healthy, balanced diet. Malnutrition, especially vitamin B deficiencies, can cause nerve damage leading to numbness. Getting enough vitamins and other nutrients can also reduce chronic inflammation and pain, which can cause numbness.
When should I see my doctor?
You should talk with your doctor about numbness in the legs and feet that is:
- not related to postural habits or lifestyle factors, such as tight clothing and footwear
- unexplained and lasts for long periods
- accompanied by any other symptoms of mini stroke
- accompanied by chronic symptoms like neck or back pain or dizziness and tingling in your whole body
- accompanied by permanent or long-term changes in the color, shape, or temperature of the legs and feet, or pain in your feet or calves when walking a short distance.
If you think you have had a mini-stroke or may have peripheral arterial disease, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms, or call us to talk to one of our vascular specialists. Schedule an appointment with us today to get your questions answered.