Numbness and tingling

Central nervous system
Central nervous system

Numbness and tingling


Numbness and tingling are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your body, but are often felt in your hands, feet, arms, or legs.

Alternative Names:
Sensory loss; Paresthesias; Tingling and numbness; Loss of sensation
Common Causes:

There are many possible causes:

  • Remaining in the same seated or standing position for a long time.
  • Injuring a nerve supplying the body part where you feel the sensation. If you have a neck injury, for example, you may feel the sensation anywhere along your arm or hand. Similarly, a low back injury can cause sciatica -- a sensation of numbness or tingling down the back of your leg.
  • Lack of blood supply to the area. For example, plaque buildup from atherosclerosis in the legs can cause pain, numbness, and tingling while walking. (This is called claudication.)
  • Pressure on the spinal nerves, as from a herniated disk.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This can cause numbness or tingling in your wrist, fingers, hand, or forearm.
  • Certain medical conditions, including diabetes, underactive thyroid, multiple sclerosis, seizures, or migraine headaches.
  • Abnormal levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium in your body.
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke
  • Certain medications.
  • Toxic action on nerves, such as that from lead, alcohol, or tobacco.
  • Radiation therapy.


Viera AJ. Management of carpal tunnel syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2003; 68(2): 265-272.

Smeal WL, Tyburski M, Alleva J, Prather H, Hunt D. Conservative management of low back pain, part I. Discogenic/radicular pain. Dis Mon. 2004; 50(12): 636-669.

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