Foot numbness is also called peripheral neuropathy. It may occur in the bottom or top of the feet, the toes or the legs. In this condition, people experience a sensation of “pins and needles” in their feet. And often the feet may also feel pain.
This may occur because of sitting in a position which reduces blood flow or puts too much pressure on the nerves. Tingling feeling or long-lasting numbness in the feet and legs may be due to conditions like diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), peripheral artery disease, or fibromyalgia.
The sensation of numbness may be in the whole leg, below the knee, or in different areas of your foot. Usually, it is not a reason for concern. It may occur due to pressure on the nerves when you have been in one position for too long. And the feeling should go away when you move. However, continuing or unexplained numbness can be a sign of the medical condition.
Numbness in the feet and legs may be accompanied by tingling or burning sensations. Numbness is one of the many symptoms linked with temporary and long-lasting numbness.
Many people also experience additional symptoms with numbness in their legs and feet at the same time or intermittingly, like;
- a crawling feeling under the skin
Causes of numbness in legs and feet
There are several causes for numbness in the feet, toes, and legs. Foot numbness may be very aching, but sometimes, it may present only as an irritating sensation or absence of any sensation.
Crossing your legs for a long time may also cause numbness and burning in the legs and feet. This posture often causes a person’s legs to go numb temporarily. However, chronic or long-lasting numbness is almost always a sign of an underlying medical condition. Conditions associated with feet numbness include;
The most common cause of temporary numbness is the postural habits which put pressure on your nerves or reduce the flow of blood in the lower limbs. Mostly, people say that their leg has “fallen asleep,” and the medical term used for this is transient (temporary) paresthesia. Following are some habits which can cause the feet and legs to fall asleep;
- crossing your legs for too long
- sitting or kneeling for a long time
- sitting on the feet
- wearing too tight pants, socks, or shoes
Injuries to the legs, chest, spine, hips, ankles, and feet can also put pressure on your nerves. Thus, causing the feet to go numb.
Some diabetic patients may develop a type of nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can cause tingling, numbness, and pain in the feet, and if severe, it can also effect legs.
Lower back problems and sciatica
Problems in the lower back, like a breakdown or spinal disc herniation, can cause compression of the nerves going to your feet and legs. Thus, leading to numbness or sensory disturbances.
Sciatica is responsible for irritation of the sciatic nerve. It runs from your lower back to the legs. A person may practice numbness or tingling in legs or feet due to compression or irritation in this nerve.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
This syndrome occurs due to compression or damage to a nerve which runs down the back of the leg and along the inside of the ankle and into the foot.
The tarsal tunnel is a slight space on the inside of your ankle. People with this syndrome tend to feel burning, tingling, numbness, and shooting pain in their feet, ankles, and heels.
Peripheral artery disease
This disease causes the peripheral blood arteries in the arms, legs, and stomach to narrow. Thus, reducing the amount of blood they can pump. It also reduces the flow of blood. Mostly, legs are impacted by peripheral artery disease.
In most cases, people with PAD experience cramping and pain in their legs and hips while walking or going upstairs. Some people also experience leg numbness and faintness. But, symptoms of PAD typically go away after some minutes of rest.
Tumors or other abnormal growths
Tumors, cysts, swellings, and benign (non-cancerous) growths can also put pressure on your brain, spinal cord, or legs and feet. This pressure can restrict the flow of blood to the legs and feet which cause numbness.
The toxins present in alcohol are responsible for nerve damage which is associated with numbness, particularly in the feet.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause nerve damage which causes numbness. This type of nerve damage is associated with reduced levels of B vitamins, like B1 (thiamine), B9 (folate), and B12. This is caused by excessive and chronic alcohol intake.
It is a chronic or continuing condition which is responsible for widespread body pain, aching, and soreness. Some people with this disease also experience numbness in the hands and feet. Most people also experience a variety of symptoms counting;
- stiffness and tenderness for no apparent reason, particularly in the morning or after sleeping
- chronic fatigue
- memory problems and difficulty thinking visibly, sometimes called fibro-fog
- restless leg syndrome
Almost every person with fibromyalgia experiences these 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 long-term or is not accompanied by any other symptoms, it is improbable to be caused by fibromyalgia.
People with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience sensory nerve damage. It can cause numbness in a small region of the body or whole limbs. Though numbness associated with MS 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. They may affect how your mind infers and processes nerve signals. Sometimes, a stroke or mini-stroke can cause temporary or long-term numbness in different parts of your body.
The right treatment for numb feet totally depends on its cause.
Medical options which can be used for long-term numbness in the legs and feet include;
- Antidepressants; some antidepressants, like duloxetine and milnacipran are used for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
- Corticosteroids; some corticosteroids can help reduce numbness and chronic inflammation related to problems like MS.
- Gabapentin and pregabalin; these medications block or change nerve signaling which may help reduce numbness associated with conditions like fibromyalgia, MS, and diabetic neuropathy.