The nerves in your body form an intricate network connecting the tips of your fingers and toes to your brain and back again. You can suffer numbness or a loss of sensation in one or both of your feet if a nerve that passes to your foot is damaged, blocked, infected, or compressed. Long-lasting or unexplained numbness may indicate a severe underlying medical condition.
The symptoms can also be progressive and temporary or chronic. You may begin to lose some sensation in your foot and then slowly lose more and more feeling as time goes on. Seeking medical advice for numbness in your foot may help slow or delay its progress. The sensation may be felt below the knee, the whole leg, or different foot areas.
Many individuals who have numbness in their legs and feet have other symptoms that come and go, such as:
- a crawling feeling under the skin
Causes of numbness in the foot
Numbness in the feet can signify various illnesses that damage the nerves or limit blood flow. This comprises:
Poor postural habits that pressure nerves or restrict blood flow to the lower limbs cause temporary numbness in the legs and feet. The medical word for this sensory loss, transitory (temporary) paresthesia, frequently referred to as “going to sleep,” is compression of the nerves that lead to the foot.
The following behaviors can put your feet and legs to sleep:
- leg-crossing for too long
- prolonged periods of kneeling or sitting
- sitting on the feet
- wearing too-tight clothes, socks, or shoes
When you stand and blood flow returns, your foot may feel as if it’s numb. A pins-and-needles feeling usually follows before circulation and sensation return to your foot.
Nevertheless, as previously indicated, persistent numbness or tingling could be a symptom of one of the following illnesses:
Chronic alcohol abuse or alcoholism
Alcohol’s toxins can damage nerves and result in numbness, especially in the feet. Alcoholism that is chronic or excessive can also damage the nerves and cause numbness. Reduced B vitamins like B-1 (thiamine), B-9 (folate), and B-12, brought on by excessive alcohol consumption, are connected to this kind of nerve injury.
Spinal injury or nerve pressure
Nerve strain brought on by injuries to the trunk, spine, hips, legs, ankles, and feet can numb the feet and legs. Numbness or a pins-and-needles feeling can be caused by overtaxing your nerves due to overuse or an injury.
Diabetic neuropathy is a form of nerve injury in some people with diabetes. If diabetic neuropathy is severe, it can also affect the legs and produce numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet. One of the initial signs of diabetes-related nerve damage in many patients is tingling or numbness in the feet. Peripheral neuropathy is what this is. It’s usually worse at night.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that results in widespread bodily aches, discomfort, and pain. Some fibromyalgia patients may experience tingling and numbness in their hands and feet. It is doubtful that fibromyalgia is the cause of numbness in the legs and feet if it does not come with any other symptoms or if it does not last for a long time.
Damage to sensory nerves in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) can result in numbness in a localized area of the body or throughout the limbs. Although many people’s symptoms will gradually get worse, most people will go through periods of symptom remission and relapse.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome happens when a nerve that runs down the back of the leg, inside the ankle, and into the foot is squeezed, compressed, or damaged. The ankles, heels, and feet of those who have tarsal tunnel syndrome frequently experience numbness, burning, tingling, and shooting pain.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
PAD is the most common vascular cause of numbness in the feet. Because of the accumulation of fat and cholesterol on the arterial walls, PAD causes the arteries to constrict gradually, reducing blood flow to the extremities.
Stokes and mini-strokes
Brain damage from strokes or mini-strokes may impact how the mind processes and interprets nerve messages. Parts of the body may become temporarily or permanently numb due to a stroke or mini-stroke.
Relief for foot numbness
The following could assist in easing painful leg and foot numbness:
- Rest. If an injury has caused pain or numbness in your feet, resting your feet can help your body heal without causing further damage.
- Ice. Nerve pressure-causing edema can be lessened with the aid of ice. For 15 minutes at a time, apply cold compresses to numb legs and feet daily.
- Heat. Heat can sometimes aid in loosening tight, painful, or tense muscles that can strain nerves and result in numbness. Avoid overheating numb legs and feet, though, since this could exacerbate inflammation, resulting in pain and numbness.
- Massage. Massaging your feet can promote blood flow, stimulate the nerves, and enhance performance.
- Exercise. The heart and blood vessels can weaken from insufficient activity, making it difficult to pump blood to the lower limbs. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are exercises that help increase blood flow and lessen chronic pain or inflammation.
- Supportive devices. Braces and specialized footwear can help reduce nerve pressure caused by conditions such as tarsal tunnel syndrome, flat feet, and other problems.
- Foot baths. Your symptoms might improve if you soak your feet in Epsom salt. Magnesium, a substance believed to improve circulation and blood flow, is a component of Epsom salts.
- Stress reduction methods and mental strategies. People with chronic numbness, such as MS and fibromyalgia, should remember that these episodes are frequently brief and resolved independently. Also, stress tends to exacerbate the signs and symptoms of CNS illnesses.
- Sleep. Many chronic conditions that cause numbness in the legs and feet are known to worsen when people don’t get enough sleep.
- A healthy, balanced diet. Numbness can result from malnutrition, especially vitamin B deficits, which can harm the nerves. A lack of vitamins and other nutrients can worsen numbness and reduce chronic inflammation and discomfort.
- Alcohol reduction or avoidance. Toxins found in alcohol can harm nerves and make you numb. Additionally, alcohol frequently worsens the signs and symptoms of inflammatory diseases and chronic pain, and it may even bring on a flare-up.
Numbness can sometimes be a temporary condition brought on by circumstances like prolonged periods of inactivity or exposure to extreme cold. The numbness usually goes away as you change your posture or environment, but many conditions that cause numbness require long-term changes or treatment to resolve entirely. Contact your doctor if the numbness lasts for an extended period. It might be a sign of a bigger, more serious problem.