What causes numbness or tingling and what should I do?

Symptom Database

Numbness and tingling are common sensations that many people experience at some point in their lives. These sensations can be quite uncomfortable and may occur in various parts of the body, including the hands, feet, legs, arms, fingers, and toes. Understanding the causes of numbness and tingling is essential for determining the appropriate treatment and finding relief. In this article, we will explore the different causes of numbness and tingling and discuss the available treatment options.

Causes of Numbness and Tingling

Peripheral Neuropathy

One of the most common causes of numbness and tingling is peripheral neuropathy. This condition occurs when there is damage to the peripheral nerves, which are responsible for transmitting signals between the central nervous system and the rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by various factors, including diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, alcoholism, infections, and certain medications.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Numbness and tingling in the hands can be attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the wrist, becomes compressed or irritated. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often associated with repetitive hand movements, such as typing or using vibrating tools.


Sciatica is a condition that causes numbness and tingling in the legs. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down to the legs, becomes compressed or irritated. Sciatica is commonly caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or muscle imbalances.

Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve can lead to numbness and tingling in various parts of the body, including the arms and legs. This occurs when excessive pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, muscles, or tendons. Pinched nerves can be caused by injuries, poor posture, or certain medical conditions.

Treatment for Numbness and Tingling

Addressing Underlying Conditions

If you are experiencing numbness and tingling, it is crucial to identify and address any underlying conditions that may be causing these symptoms. For example, if peripheral neuropathy is the cause, managing diabetes or correcting nutritional deficiencies may help alleviate the symptoms. Similarly, treating carpal tunnel syndrome may involve wearing a wrist splint, modifying hand movements, or, in severe cases, undergoing surgery.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be beneficial for individuals experiencing numbness and tingling due to conditions like sciatica or pinched nerves. A physical therapist can design a customized exercise program to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and alleviate pressure on the affected nerves. Additionally, physical therapy may include techniques such as manual therapy, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to promote healing and reduce symptoms.


In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage numbness and tingling. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain associated with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or pinched nerves. Antidepressants or anticonvulsants may also be prescribed to help manage nerve-related pain.

Lifestyle Modifications

Simple lifestyle modifications can often make a significant difference in reducing numbness and tingling symptoms. These may include:

  • Avoiding repetitive movements or activities that exacerbate symptoms
  • Practicing good posture and ergonomics
  • Engaging in regular exercise to improve circulation
  • Managing stress levels through relaxation techniques
  • Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption

Alternative Therapies

Some individuals find relief from numbness and tingling through alternative therapies. These may include acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, or herbal supplements. While the effectiveness of these therapies may vary from person to person, they can be worth exploring as complementary treatment options.


Numbness and tingling can be caused by various factors, ranging from peripheral neuropathy to carpal tunnel syndrome or pinched nerves. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment approach. Whether it involves addressing underlying conditions, undergoing physical therapy, taking medications, making lifestyle modifications, or exploring alternative therapies, finding relief from numbness and tingling is possible. If you are experiencing persistent or worsening symptoms, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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