Tingling Feet Treatment
Tingling feet—the “pins and needles” sensation also known as paresthesia—is a very common symptom that can be mild or severe, temporary or chronic. Often tingling feet are caused by pressure on the nerves, which in turn can be caused by crossing your legs or sitting on your foot for too long. This kind of tingling goes away soon after the pressure is relieved. However, tingling feet can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition such as peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) or diabetes. An estimated 20 million Americans have some type of peripheral neuropathy (there are over 100 different types) and suffer from tingling feet. If the tingling feeling is temporary, and you know the cause, you shouldn’t be as concerned with seeking medical attention as you should with prevention. But if the tingling feeling is affecting you daily, and you’re not doing anything to cause it (such as crossing your legs for long periods), you should consider seeing a podiatrist in case there is an underlying condition such as a systemic disease.
Tingling Feet Symptoms
Besides the pins-and-needles effect, there are other symptoms that can sometimes accompany tingling feet, including::
- Muscle spasms
- Vision changes
- Difficulty walking
- Confusion or loss of consciousness
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
If your tingling feet are accompanied by additional symptoms such as these, there could be a variety of causes. These symptoms should be taken seriously and looked at by a podiatrist.
EVERYDAY CAUSES OF LEG NUMBNESS
Sitting With Legs Crossed
Sitting with legs crossed, sitting on the foot, prolonged sitting or squatting, or a wallet in a back pocket may be the cause of a pressure on the leg nerves or arteries resulting in leg “falling asleep”:
- Numbness, tingling or inability to move the leg or foot, resolving within few seconds or minutes after releasing the pressure and stretching the leg
- In extreme situations, prolonged leg crossing or other forceful leg position could cause prolonged or even permanent damage of the peroneal nerve.
Sciatica is a common name for lower back and leg pain, caused by any disorder involving sciatic nerve (listed below). Common symptoms are:
- Pain in the lower back and/or buttocks
- Pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg or foot, usually on one side, occasionally on both sides
Causes of sciatic pain:
Herniated Lumbar Disc
Bulging or herniated disc in the lumbar spine, mostly between 4th and 5th lumbar, or 5th lumbar and 1st sacral vertebra, can press on the roots of the sciatic nerve. A common cause is degenerative disc disease (DDD). A disc may herniate gradually or suddenly, often after lifting a heavy object from the ground. Symptoms include:
- Pain, tingling or numbness in the lower back, buttock, thigh, calf or foot, usually only on one side
- Worsening of symptoms during sitting, standing, sleeping and during certain movements, bending or lifting objects from the ground; symptoms may be relieved by walking or swimming
- Cauda equina syndrome is typically caused by a large herniated lumbar disc that presses on the lumbar nerves. In the lumbar spine, the nerve roots and nerves are spread out like a ‘horse’s tail’ (in Latin cauda equina). Symptoms frequently appear on both sides: low back pain, bilateral lower extremity weakness, numbness around the anus and on the inner thighs (saddle anesthesia), bladder and bowel incontinence. These symptoms are a surgical emergency.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spinal canal. It can be genetic but is usually due to an age related overgrowth of vertebral bone that narrows the spinal canal. Symptoms are like in herniated lumbar disc (see above).
Spondylolisthesis (Gk. spondylo = spine, listhesis = to slip or slide) refers to slippage (usually forward) of a vertebra and the spine above it. Disorder may be congenital, or caused by an age related degeneration, trauma or operative injury. Symptoms are like in herniated lumbar disc (see above).
The piriformis muscle, which is located in the lower part of the spine, can have spasms and compress the sciatic nerve thus causing low back pain. More about piriformis syndrome.
Spinal Tumors and Infections
Tumors in the spine or spinal cord, and inflammation in infections, like spinal tuberculosis, can compress the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica and back pain.
During pregnancy, especially when lying down or walking, the womb can press on the sciatic nerve and can cause low back pain and tingling inone or both legs. Bulging or herniated disc is also a common cause. Symptoms usually go away after childbirth.
Leg Numbness After Surgery
Leg pain and numbness may appear after surgical fusion (merging) of the lumbar vertebra.
Broken Leg / Foot
Symptoms of a broken leg may include:
- Pain, tenderness or cramps, made worse by movement
- Leg or foot swelling
- Leg deformity or grating of bone ends
- Limited range of motion or inability to walk
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by a compression upon the posterior tibial nerve where it runs along the inner ankle. Causes include prolonged walking or wearing new shoes, injuries, swelling of tendons in rheumatoid arthritis, and so on. Symptoms include:
- Foot pain, numbness, tingling or burning around the inner ankle or the sole of the foot, aggravated by standing or walking, and partially relieved by rest
- Foot weakness
Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder of an uncertain cause, in which you experience an irresistible urge to move your legs. Symptoms include:
- Creeping, tugging, itching or pulling sensation in legs, worsening at rest and partially or completely resolving by moving legs
- Symptoms worsen at evening and may disrupt sleep
Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of the whole width of one segment of the spinal cord. The exact cause is not known. It can occur at any age, but mainly affects people between 2o and 40 years of age. Symptoms may include:
- Localized lower back pain
- Burning, numbness, tingling or partial paralysis of both legs
- Urinary bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Headache, fever, and loss of appetite
- Respiratory problems
- Weakness in the arms
When to See Your Doctor
Tingling feet should never be ignored, as they may be a sign of a more serious problem. Identifying conditions such as peripheral neuropathy and poor blood circulation in their early stages could mean the difference between a simple visit to a doctor or an extensive treatment plan. If you are experiencing dizziness, confusion, weakness, or paralysis in association with your tingling feet, do not attempt to drive. If no one is around to take you to a hospital when this occurs, call 911 immediately.
Diagnosing Tingling Feet
Tingling feet are not as easily diagnosed as other problems due to the variety of possible causes. Your podiatrist will give you a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history, family medical history, social activities, dietary habits, risk of infectious diseases, and toxic exposure. To rule out certain disorders, conditions, and diseases, your doctor may wish to conduct blood tests, a nerve biopsy, thyroid function tests, measurement of vitamin levels, a spinal tap, an electromyogram (which tests your muscle activity levels), and CT scans and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) to figure out what is causing the tingling feet.
Tingling Feet Treatment
Treatment of tingling feet will be based on the underlying cause. For example, if you are low on vitamins, a vitamin supplement may be recommended. If the problem is being caused by a certain medication, you may need to adjust your dosage or change the prescription. If you have diabetes, you may need to better control your blood-sugar levels. If the pins and needles only appear when you sit in your favorite position, you may need to find a new way to sit. A proper diagnosis by your podiatrist can prevent the tingling feet from returning.