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Numbness and Tingling

Numbness and Tingling

What are numbness and tingling?

Numbness and tingling are spontaneous abnormal sensations that may feel like pins and needles, a type of temporary paresthesia that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (the nerves outside the central nervous system including the cranial and spinal nerves). They can occur almost anywhere in the body but are often found in the arms, legs, feet and hands. Numbness and tingling are often a symptom of a spinal cord condition or nerve damage.

What causes these abnormal sensations?

There are a number of causes of numbness and tingling. It could be caused by:

  • Sitting or standing too long in one position
  • An injury: injury to a nerve can cause numbness and tingling. This can happen if you hit your funny bone or if you have a herniated disc in your spine. An injury to a nerve in the neck can cause numbness and tingling in the arm or hand. An injury to the low back can cause these symptoms in the legs.
  • Pinched nerves: When a nerve is pinched, it creates pressure on the nerve which cause numbness and tingling. This can happen if you have a herniated disc or arthritis in your spine (spinal stenosis). A pinched nerve in the wrist is carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Nerve damage: caused by lead, alcohol, tobacco, chemotherapy, radiation therapy
  • Some medications
  • Medical conditions:
    • Diabetes: Diabetes can cause damage to the nerves, which can lead to numbness and tingling.
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Stroke
    • Raynaud Phenomenon (an abnormal response to cold in hands and feet)
    • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Vitamin B12 helps to keep the nervous system healthy. A deficiency can cause damage to the nerves and lead to numbness and tingling.
    • Autoimmune diseases: Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or multiple sclerosis, can cause damage to the nerves and lead to numbness and tingling.

When should you call Ortho Illinois?

  • When there is no apparent cause of your numbness and tingling
  • When your numbness and tingling are accompanied by weakness and difficulty moving
  • When these symptoms occur after an injury to your head, neck or back
  • When you can’t control an arm or leg
  • When you have lost control of your bowel or bladder
  • When you have pain in the neck accompanied by numbness and tingling in the fingers

How is the cause of numbness and tingling diagnosed?

When you see an Ortho Illinois orthopedic specialist, they will review your medical history, ask about your medical conditions and medications, perform a physical exam including range of motion, testing muscle strength and function, and check the area where you have numbness and tingling.  They will discuss your symptoms, whether you have pain in addition to numbness and tingling, and inquire about when symptoms began, what caused them and whether anything makes your symptoms better or worse.

The physical exam will reveal the pattern and distribution of the numbness and tingling which can help identify the source of the nerve compression. If your symptoms are widespread affecting the entire hands or feet, it may indicate that it is a generalized problem called peripheral neuropathy.

Based on the information gathered and the suspected cause, further testing may include x-rays and other imaging studies such as a CT scan or an MRI.

How is numbness and tingling treated?

The treatment for numbness and tingling depends on the underlying cause. If it is due to an injury, the symptoms should resolve on their own or with conservative treatment with physical therapy or may require more intensive treatments.  If the problem is due to a pinched nerve, they may recommend specific treatments.

Our team of orthopedic specialists are here to help you discover the source of your numbness and tingling and treat the cause so that you can get back to the life you love.

Contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our convenient locations in Algonquin, Elgin, Rockford-Riverside, and McHenry.