Leg Numbness, Tingling and Pain: Causes and Treatment
Leg numbness, tingling and pain is delved in-depth here. Leg numbness refers to a decreased sensation in the leg, while the unusual feeling can be referred to as tingling sensation. There is a wide variety of causes for numbness and tingling sensations felt on the legs, feet and toes.
Leg Numbness Causes
Long periods of sitting with legs crossed usually result to decreased sensation on the legs. The same is true for prolonged sitting on your foot and squatting. These positions exert pressure on the nerves and arteries in the leg, thus, resulting to the leg going numb. This numbness or tingling sensation in the leg or the inability to move the foot or leg will resolve itself several moments after the pressure is taken off the leg. Stretching the leg and changing positions while sitting also help. You should keep in mind, though, that there are severe cases wherein forceful leg position, such as leg crossing for prolonged periods, resulted to long term and permanent damage of the peroneal nerve in the leg.
Any disorder of the sciatic nerve will cause lower back and leg pain. Sciatica is characterized by leg numbness, tingling feet and toes, pain or weakness on the foot or leg on one side and sometimes even on both sides. Pain in the buttocks and the lower back is also to be expected.
There are different causes of sciatic pain. The following are some of them:
Herniated Lumbar Disc
A herniated or bulging disc in the lumbar spine exerts pressure on the roots of the sciatic nerve. Lifting of heavy objects can result to the gradual, or in other instances, sudden herniation of the disc. The DDD or the degenerative disc disease is likewise, a common cause.
The symptoms of herniated lumbar disc are numbness, tingling or pain from the lower back and buttocks, to the thigh, calf or foot. The sensation is usually on one side only. The symptoms get worse while standing, sitting, sleeping, bending and other specific movements. Swimming and walking may relieve these symptoms.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
The narrowing of the spinal canal due to the overgrowth of vertebral bone manifests symptoms similar to herniated lumbar disc.
The piriformis muscle, found in the lower portion of the spine, may have spasms that compress the sciatic nerve, resulting to lower back pain.
Pregnant women may experience pain on the lower back and tingling sensations in the legs. This is caused by the pressure exerted by the womb on the sciatic nerve. These discomforts will vanish after delivery.
Spinal Tumors and Infections
Inflammation caused by infections and tumors in the spinal cord or spine may cause the sciatic nerve to be compressed, resulting to back pain and sciatica.
This condition is the slippage of the vertebra and the spine on top of it. This may be the result of trauma, injury from operation, degeneration brought about by age, or could even be congenital. Symptoms are very much like that of herniated lumbar disc’s. Read more about Spondylolisthesis here
When you have a broken leg or foot you may experience any of the following: swelling of the leg or foot, deformity of the leg, tenderness and pain especially when you move. Also, the range of motion of your leg may be restricted, and you may not be able to walk properly.
Leg numbness and pain could originate from a surgical fusion of the lumbar vertebra.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
This condition may arise from long periods of walking, injuries, inflammation of the tendons due to rheumatoid arthritis or even wearing new shoes. These things compress the posterior tibial nerve, causing pain on the foot, a tingling or burning sensation surrounding the inner ankle or sole, and leg numbness. Resting could relieve these symptoms partially.
There are cases of leg numbness, tingling feet and toes where the cause cannot be determined. Listed below are some of these conditions.
This condition brings about tingling and numbness in the arms, legs and other parts of the body. You may also experience fatigue, urinating, hearing and vision problems.
Restless Legs Syndrome
This is a neurological disorder that presents itself with an overpowering impulse to move the legs. When at rest, this condition gets worse and may disturb sleep. Until the legs are moved, there is a tugging, pulling and itching sensation in the legs.
This is the swelling of one segment of the spinal cord. The symptoms of which are pain on the lower back, leg numbness, burning, tingling and partial paralysis of both legs, bladder and bowel dysfunction, respiratory problems, loss of appetite, headache and fever and weakness in the arms.
Some hereditary diseases have symptoms that include feet and leg numbness, weakness and pain. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease and Marfan Syndrome are examples.
Diagnosis of leg numbness generally depends on the description of the symptoms felt, the patient’s personal and family medical history, details of any injury to hip, surgery and relevant activities. Examination of the sensory differences between the legs will also be done to pinpoint which nerves have problems. X-rays, CT and MRI scans and electromyography nerve conduction examination may also be conducted.
Leg Numbness Treatment
Most cases of foot and leg numbness, tingling and pain cannot be resolved if the cause is not treated. Treatments differ for each case, ranging from altering the patient’s activities, to taking in medication for the pain and inflammation, to surgery, or a combination of these.
The following are the typical courses of action for cases with low levels of pain. It should be noted, though, that it takes weeks before full recovery is attained. And there are instances wherein numbness will persist.
- Reduction of inflammation with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This is usually taken for one week or so.
- Application of electrical stimulation, ice or heat.
- Rest periods in between prolonged walking, standing or other activities which might worsen the problem.
- Loose clothing to relieve compression especially at the upper front hip area.
- Strengthening of the muscles in the abdomen through exercise; and
- Weight loss for those who are overweight
For severe cases when the aforementioned are no longer effective, nerve blocking using local anesthetic, such as lidocaine, and corticosteroids may be administered to relieve the symptoms.
For severe and persistent cases, one may opt for surgery for nerve decompression. Surgery may also be done to resect the nerve, rendering the area permanently numb.
Depending on the extent of damage to the nerve and regardless of the origin, it generally takes weeks, even months, to recover. Loose-fitting clothes and use of suspenders instead of belts are recommended to treat and prevent further foot and leg numbness, tingling and pain.