Numbness occurs when you lose the feeling or sensation in a particular part of the body. You may feel tingly all over your body or the sensations may be focused on a specific area such as the arm or leg. Paresthesia is the medical term used to describe numbness or a tingling sensation. You may be at risk of developing serious health complications if the underlying cause of your numbness is not treated in time.
Numbness in the legs or arms is a common symptom associated with sensory-related conditions or neurological damage. Doctors often use a comprehensive neurological workup to determine the exact cause of numbness in a patient. This article gives an in-depth view of numbness and tingling including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
What Does it Entail?
Numbness or tingling can cause various feelings in different parts of your body including a burning sensation, chronic pain, and loss of sensitivity. A burning sensation is different from a dull or aching pain and is often related to nerve problems. People usually rely on their sense of touch to feel changes in the environment or quickly pull away from a sharp or hot object. However, when a part of your body becomes numb, the sensations become impaired which means that you cannot feel anything or react to changes around you. Numbness can replace typical sensations with different ones or cause the absence of feeling. Impaired sensations caused by numbness or tingling can lead to balance problems and injury if not addressed early.
Causes and Symptoms
Temporary numbness can be caused by a wrong posture such as resting your head on a crooked arm or sitting cross-legged for a long period. This occurs because of compression, damage, or irritation of the nerves in your arms, wrist and leg muscles. However, long-term or severe numbness is often a sign of nerve damage or a neurological condition. Diseases affecting the peripheral nerves and problems in your brain or spinal cord can also cause numbness.
Other possible causes of numbness include chronic conditions, infectious diseases, trauma, or overuse injuries. Some of the common symptoms of numbness include tingling, tickling, itching, and a burning sensation in the affected area. You may also experience a crawling feeling under the skin.
Doctors use a comprehensive workup to identify the cause of numbness as it can be caused by many factors. They will take your medical history, conduct a physical examination, and perform a clinical test to visualize the brain and check for any nerve disorders.
Treatment for numbness or tingling may vary depending on your medical history, symptoms, and the test results from your doctor. Numbness related to multiple sclerosis is considered relatively harmless and painless. However, you may be given a short round of corticosteroids in severe or painful numbness. It reduces inflammation in the affected area and quickens recovery. Other medical treatment options for long-term numbness include antidepressants, gabapentin, and pregabalin.
Antidepressants are used to treat numbness caused by underlying medical conditions. Gabapentin and pregabalin are used to alter or block nerve signaling which helps to reduce numbness and tingling sensation in the affected region. Gait training is essential for people with numbness in their feet. This training is a physical therapy method that helps you practice walking with numbness.
Many ways exist through which you can manage your condition at home to relieve uncomfortable numbness in your legs. This includes getting enough rest, using ice packs or heat compressors, proper exercises, massage, supportive devices, a balanced diet and learning stress reduction techniques. Nerve pressure and other conditions that cause numbness in the leg and foot improve with rest. Applying heat has the effect of loosening stiff, tense, and sore muscles that put pressure on the nerves. Therapeutic massage may help reduce the symptoms by improving blood flow while relieving you from pain and chronic inflammation. Other alternative therapies that can help with numbness include hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and reflexology.
When to see a Doctor
It is important to see a doctor when you experience numbness or a tingling sensation in any part of your body. You may also require immediate medical attention if you are unable to move your leg or arm, or experience secondary symptoms related to numbness.
Numbness is a common disorder but can be a sign of an underlying medical condition when it becomes chronic. It is important to visit a doctor for a diagnosis if you experience numbness that is painful, persistent, disabling, frequent, or accompanied by other chronic symptoms. Treatment options will be based on your medical history and the severity of your symptoms.