Numb legs and feet may be caused by sitting in a position that puts too much pressure on the nerves or reduces blood flow. Long-lasting numbness in the legs and feet may indicate an underlying condition.
Numbness refers to a lost, reduced, or dulled sensation in a particular area of the body, while tingling feels like a prickling sensation.
Numbness or tingling in the legs may be felt in the whole leg, below the knee, or in different areas of the foot.
Short-term numbness is typically caused by a person’s posture and will resolve on its own. However, chronic numbness may be a sign of an underlying health condition.
In this article, we look at some of the causes, symptoms, and treatments of numbness in the legs and feet.
There are many different causes for experiencing numbness in the legs and feet.
Postural habits that put sustained pressure on nerves or reduce blood flow in the lower limbs are the most common cause of temporary numbness in the legs and feet.
These may 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
Many people describe this feeling as their leg having “fallen asleep.”
Injuries to different parts of the body may put pressure on certain nerves that could cause feet and leg numbness. These may include the:
Some causes of injury may include:
- slipped or herniated discs
- hip dislocation
- foot or ankle injuries
- sitting on the feet for too long
- other back problems that trap a nerve
Lower back issues and sciatica
Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or compressed. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the legs and is the longest nerve in the body.
If this nerve becomes irritated or compressed, a person may experience
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve that runs down the back of the leg, 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
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) causes the peripheral blood arteries in the legs, arms, and stomach to narrow. This reduces the amount of blood they can pump, reducing blood flow.
PAD may cause the
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.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic 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:
- muscle stiffness and soreness, especially in the morning or after sleeping
- chronic exhaustion
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- memory problems and difficulty thinking clearly, sometimes called fibro-fog
- restless leg syndrome
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 (MS) causes sensory nerve damage that may lead to numbness in a region of the body.
Numbness associated with MS may only last a short period of time. However, in some cases, it could gradually worsen and become physically 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.
Numbness is just one of the many symptoms associated with temporary and chronic numbness.
Many people with numbness in their legs and feet also experience dysesthesia, which may feel like:
- a crawling feeling under the skin
The proper treatment for numb legs and feet depends entirely on the cause.
Some medical options for long-term numbness in the legs and feet include:
- Antidepressants: Some antidepressants, such as duloxetine and milnacipran, have been approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
- Corticosteroids: Some corticosteroids may help reduce chronic inflammation and numbness associated with conditions such as MS.
- Gabapentin and pregabalin: Medications that block or change nerve signaling, like gabapentin and pregabalin, may help reduce numbness associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia, MS, and diabetic neuropathy.
Some home remedies may help relieve uncomfortable numbness in the legs and feet by reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, or reducing nerve pressure.
- ice or heat treatment
- supportive devices
- knee braces
- Epsom salt baths
- a healthful, balanced diet
- alcohol reduction or avoidance
Some alternative therapies may also help with symptoms of conditions that may cause numbness in the legs and feet. Therapies include:
When should I worry about tingling in my legs?
A person should see a doctor about tingling and numbness in their legs and feet if it:
- is not related to postural habits or lifestyle factors, such as tight clothing and footwear
- lasts for long periods
- is accompanied by other chronic symptoms
- is accompanied by permanent or long-term changes in the color, shape, or temperature of the legs and feet
Does a blood clot in the leg cause tingling?
- throbbing calf or leg pain when standing or walking
- swelling in one leg
- hot or warm skin in the affected leg
- change of skin color in the affected area
- sore, swollen veins
Numbness in the legs and feet is common and typically goes away on its own. However, when it becomes chronic, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Anyone who experiences numbness that is unexplained, persistent, painful, or accompanied by other chronic symptoms should see a doctor for a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.