Why are My Legs Numb?

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Experiencing numbness or tingling in your legs? One of these three common conditions could be the culprit.

Numbness is an uncomfortable symptom of nerve abnormality that can occur anywhere in the body. It is marked by a loss of feeling or a tingling sensation, which is often preceded by a burning or pins-and-needles feeling called paresthesias.

Persistent numbness in the legs and lower extremities is generally the result of an underlying condition involving nerve damage or disease. This guide explores some of the most common causes of leg numbness, weakness, and pain, as well as the most effective ways to treat them.

SCIATICA (LUMBAR RADICULOPATHY)

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerves in the lower back become pinched or compressed. Characterized by pain and numbness in the lower back and leg, it is a symptom of an underlying problem rather than a condition itself.

Sciatica is often a sign of disc herniation, spinal stenosis, or piriformis syndrome. Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal becomes abnormally narrow, usually due to wear and tear over time. This condition can pinch or compress the surrounding nerves and result in sciatic pain. Piriformis syndrome is caused by a spasm of the piriformis muscle at the base of the spine. This can irritate the sciatic nerve and lead to pain and numbness.

If you’re suffering from sciatica, an orthopedic specialist can conduct diagnostic tests like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs to determine the underlying condition. Once diagnosed, sciatic pain usually responds well to conservative treatments like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and cortisone injections. Surgery is rarely necessary, but may be required in cases of severe nerve damage.

DISC HERNIATION

A herniated disc is the result of a tear or rupture in the cartilage surrounding an intervertebral disc. This causes the gel-like center of the disc to protrude and irritate the nerves in the neck or lower back. Symptoms of disc herniation include pain, numbness in the legs and extremities, and a feeling of weakness.

This condition can be caused by everyday irritations like coughing, sneezing, or sitting for a long period of time. Lifting weights, especially when using improper form, can also result in a slipped disc. As the spine often degenerates with age, older people may be at an increased risk of disc herniation.

A herniated disc can often be treated with conservative methods including anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. A comprehensive physical therapy regimen can help reduce pain, improve flexibility, and redevelop the muscles in your back. Epidural steroid injections can also be used to minimize inflammation and manage pain. Surgery is not generally recommended for disc herniation, but may be necessary in more extreme cases.

LEG FRACTURES

A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone, generally caused by a traumatic injury. Leg fractures may involve the femur, knee, tibia, fibula, ankle, or the bones in the foot. When a bone breaks, other nearby structures may be damaged, including the nerves. This can result in numbness or tingling in the legs.

Leg fractures are often caused by falls, car accidents, or sports injuries. Osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones due to age, can increase the risk of fractures. Overuse may also contribute to the development of stress fractures in athletes.

In the case of a broken leg, a physician will generally use a cast or splint to allow the bone to heal. The traction method can be used for more serious fractures and dislocations. Surgery is not required for minor cases, but may be necessary for more serious fractures. Throughout the recovery process, patients are encouraged to gradually increase their activity through gentle exercise and physical therapy.

If you’re experiencing numbness or tingling in your legs, it’s important to visit an orthopedic specialist to diagnose the underlying condition. The surgeons and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists can help you pinpoint the cause of your symptoms as well as develop an effective treatment plan. Call or book an appointment online with one of our top-rated specialists.

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