Why Numbness Takes the Legs Out from Under You
By Martha Michael
You’re hiking in the mountains, breathing in the sweet scent of pine trees when your legs start to go numb. They aren’t permanently paralyzed, and you don’t tip over or fall in your tracks. But if you have frequent bouts of numbness in your legs, it’s important to explore the cause and seek proper treatment.
When you lose sensation in one or both legs, it’s unlikely to be life-threatening. It’s typically caused by a lack of blood supply to the lower extremities which may be due to your seated position or it can be addressed through changes in lifestyle, explains an article on Healthgrades.com.
Temporary causes of leg numbness can be the result of disproportionate pressure on the nerves from biking or sitting with your legs crossed. But sometimes the problem can be traced to another part of your body, such as a back strain that includes referred pain in your legs.
It may not last long, but if the problem of leg weakness is recurring, it can be the result of aging or arthritis developing on the spine. It may also be caused by spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing in the lumbar region of your spine.
It’s not uncommon to sit on the floor too long and get up with legs that need time to “wake up,” says an article on WebMD. This condition is known as paresthesia, and it occurs when the pressure applied to your legs compresses the nerves, inhibiting their ability to communicate with each other. There are several other symptoms you may experience, including tingling, burning, or a “crawling” sensation on your skin.
When leg weakness and pain travels down the back of your leg, it could mean you have sciatica, a condition that typically affects just one side of your body. The sciatic nerve stems from the lumbar region of your spine and spreads down your legs all the way to your toes.
One of the symptoms of sciatica is a growing pain that’s worse when you cough or sneeze. Although a mild case of sciatica may go away on its own, it can also last for weeks. A chiropractor can treat symptoms to reduce inflammation and minimize pain.
Serious Conditions Causing Leg Numbness
If your bouts with leg numbness seem to get longer and stronger, seek out the help of your chiropractor for a diagnosis and relief through mitigation. It could mean you have a degenerative issue or an acute condition requiring treatment.
Managing blood sugar levels is extremely important for a diabetic because the imbalance can cause nerve damage, the WebMD article says. If your extremities become numb, it may be a sign you have peripheral neuropathy from diabetes that typically begins in the toes. Your hands and feet can also be affected, and symptoms are usually worse at night.
For some diabetics the tingling sensation is accompanied by:
- Muscle weakness
- Foot sores
- Leg pain
An individual with multiple sclerosis, or MS, has an overactive immune system which attacks their own central nervous system. As a result, in the early stages you may experience numbness or tingling in your legs. It can be mild, such as a feeling of “pins and needles,” or so severe that you have trouble walking.
Symptoms vary from patient to patient, but people with MS report some of the following:
- Vision problems
- Mood changes
- Muscle spasms
In the rare event that you have a peripheral nerve tumor, the good news is that it’s usually benign. However, it can grow near the nerves controlling your leg muscles and either cause pain or it can damage your nerves.
If you have a peripheral nerve tumor you may also experience:
- Lumps under the skin
- Weak muscles
- Lack of balance
Because numbness can have a range of causes from back strain to multiple sclerosis, you need the help of an expert to gain clarity. Bringing your symptoms to the attention of a chiropractor is an effective way to get a diagnosis and a treatment plan. For patients who make routine visits to a chiropractor, the existence of a baseline makes it easier for their chiropractor to monitor changes in their health.
The use of your legs is one of those abilities you can take for granted until it’s gone -- even temporarily. A little hitch in your step doesn’t make you bedridden but ignoring changes to your health can turn a slowdown into a cancellation. Whether your bucket list includes the Pacific Crest Trail or the Great Wall of China, you want to keep your legs in motion for future adventures.
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