Fibromyalgia Neurology / Neuroscience

Why are my legs and feet numb?

Woman sat on a bench with her legs crossed which may cause numbness in legs and feetShare on PinterestCrossing the legs for a long time may cause numbness and tingling in the legs and feet.

Often, a person’s legs go numb temporarily because of their posture. However, chronic or long-lasting numbness in the feet and legs is almost always a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Conditions associated with feet and leg numbness include:

Posture

Postural habits that put pressure on nerves or reduce blood flow in the lower limbs are the most common cause of temporary numbness in the legs and feet. Many people say their leg has “fallen asleep,” and the medical term is transient (temporary) paresthesia.

Habits that can cause the feet and legs to fall asleep include:

  • crossing the legs for too long
  • sitting or kneeling for long periods
  • sitting on the feet
  • wearing pants, socks, or shoes that are too tight

Injury

Injuries to the torso, spine, hips, legs, ankles, and feet can put pressure on nerves and cause the feet and legs to go numb.

Diabetes

Some people with diabetes develop a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet, and if severe, the legs as well.

Lower back issues and sciatica

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.

Sciatica is the name for irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the legs. If this nerve becomes irritated or compressed, a person may experience numbness or tingling in their legs or feet.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve that runs down the back of the leg and along the inside of the ankle and into the foot is compressed, squeezed, or damaged.

The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space on the inside of the ankle. People with tarsal tunnel syndrome tend to feel numbness, burning, tingling, and shooting pain in their ankles, heels, and feet.

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) causes the peripheral blood arteries in the legs, arms, and stomach to narrow, reducing the amount of blood they can pump and reducing blood flow. The legs are one of the most common parts of the body impacted by PAD.

Most people with PAD experience pain and cramping in their legs and hips when they are walking or going upstairs. Some people with PAD also experience leg numbness and weakness.

Symptoms of PAD typically go away after a few minutes of rest.

Tumors or other abnormal growths

Tumors, cysts, abscesses, and benign (non-cancerous) growths can put pressure on the brain, spinal cord, or any part of the legs and feet. This pressure can restrict blood flow to the legs and feet, causing numbness.

Alcohol use

The toxins in alcohol can cause nerve damage that is associated with numbness, especially in the feet.

Chronic or excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to nerve damage that causes numbness. This type of nerve damage is linked to reduced levels of B vitamins, such as B-1 (thiamine), B-9 (folate), and B-12, which is caused by excessive alcohol intake.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic or long-lasting condition that causes widespread body pain, aching, and tenderness. Some people with fibromyalgia also experience numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

Most people with fibromyalgia experience a variety of symptoms including:

  • stiffness and soreness for no apparent reason, especially in the morning or after sleeping
  • chronic exhaustion
  • memory problems and difficulty thinking clearly, sometimes called fibro-fog
  • restless leg syndrome

Almost everyone with fibromyalgia experiences symptoms in more than one part of their body for at least 3 months at a time. If numbness in the legs and feet is not accompanied by any other symptoms or is not long-term, it is unlikely to be caused by fibromyalgia.

Multiple sclerosis

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience sensory nerve damage that can cause numbness in a small region of their body or whole limbs. Although numbness associated with MS often only lasts for a short period, it can last long enough to become disabling.

Stokes and mini-strokes

Strokes or mini-strokes can cause brain damage that may affect how the mind interprets and processes nerve signals. A stroke or mini-stroke can sometimes cause temporary or long-term numbness in parts of the body.

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