What causes weakness or numbness in arms and legs?

Symptom Database

Weakness and numbness in the arms and legs can be a concerning symptom that may indicate an underlying health issue. These sensations can range from mild to severe and can greatly impact a person’s daily activities and quality of life. Understanding the causes of weakness and numbness in the arms and legs is crucial in order to seek appropriate medical attention and find effective treatment options.

Peripheral Neuropathy

One common cause of weakness and numbness in the arms and legs 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
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Infections
  • Autoimmune diseases

Peripheral neuropathy often presents with symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and weakness in the extremities. Treatment for peripheral neuropathy focuses on managing the underlying cause and relieving symptoms. This may involve medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc in the spine can also lead to weakness and numbness in the arms and legs. The spinal discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, and when one of these discs becomes damaged or ruptured, it can put pressure on the nearby nerves. This pressure can cause symptoms such as:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain

Treatment for a herniated disc may include rest, physical therapy, pain medication, and in severe cases, surgery to remove or repair the damaged disc.


A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, leading to damage to brain cells. Depending on the location and severity of the stroke, weakness and numbness in the arms and legs may occur. Other symptoms of a stroke can include:

  • Sudden severe headache
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Confusion
  • Trouble walking or loss of balance

A stroke is a medical emergency, and immediate medical attention is crucial. Treatment for a stroke may involve medication, rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of future strokes.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers, leading to communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. Weakness and numbness in the arms and legs are common symptoms of MS, along with:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty walking
  • Coordination problems
  • Vision changes

While there is no cure for MS, treatment aims to manage symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and improve quality of life. Medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications are often recommended.

Other Causes

There are several other potential causes of weakness and numbness in the arms and legs, including:

  • Pinched nerves
  • Muscle or nerve damage
  • Infections such as Lyme disease
  • Certain medications
  • Spinal cord injury

It is important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan if you experience persistent weakness and numbness in your arms and legs.


Weakness and numbness in the arms and legs can be caused by various factors, ranging from peripheral neuropathy to stroke. Identifying the underlying cause is essential in order to receive appropriate treatment and manage symptoms effectively. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the cause and develop a personalized treatment plan. Remember, early intervention can lead to better outcomes and improved quality of life.

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