Numbness & Tingling: When to Worry Updated

Published on February 20, 2024 by Dr. Nathaniel Rawicki

Based on one of our website’s most popular articles, Numbness and Tingling: When to Worry, written by Meegan Domangue, PA-C, I wanted to provide an update on this important topic with possible causes and treatment options.

Unfortunately, these phenomena are experienced by a multitude of patients, and it can be very hard to figure out where the sensations are coming from. 

What are some possible causes of numbness and tingling?

Numbness and tingling can be caused by various factors, some of the most common include: 

  1. Nerve Compression: Compression of nerves in the spine due to conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or nerve root impingement can lead to numbness and tingling. Often times these conditions can be associated with pain and/or weakness, but sometimes, changes in sensation are the only symptoms present. 
  2. Peripheral Neuropathy: This condition occurs when there is damage to the peripheral nerves, often as a result of underlying diseases such as diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, or autoimmune disorders. This often times fits a certain area of the skin, often times the feet, frequently involving the “sock” area of the feet. 
  3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Compression of the median nerve in the wrist can cause numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers, a common condition amongst our working force.
  4. Infections or Inflammation: Infections like Lyme disease or conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barré syndrome can lead to numbness and tingling.
  5. Trauma or Injury: Nerve damage resulting from accidents, falls, or sports injuries can cause numbness and tingling.
  6. Vascular Issues: Reduced blood flow to the nerves due to conditions like peripheral artery disease can cause numbness and tingling.

If you are experiencing persistent or worsening numbness and tingling, it is advisable to seek a spine surgeon’s opinion. Additionally, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience sudden onset numbness and tingling, particularly if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness, difficulty walking, or loss of bladder or bowel control.

How can numbness and tingling be treated? 

The treatment approach for numbness and tingling by a spine surgeon depends on the underlying cause of the symptoms. Here are some common treatment options:

  1. Conservative Treatments: Spine surgeons often start with conservative treatments before considering surgical options. These may include:
    • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain medications, or medications to reduce nerve inflammation or neuropathic pain.
    • Physical Therapy: Targeted exercises, stretches, and manual therapy to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, and alleviate pressure on the nerves.
    • Steroid Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the affected area to reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief.
    • Bracing: Wearing a brace or splint to support the affected area and reduce pressure on the nerves.
  2. Minimally Invasive Surgery: If conservative treatments fail to provide relief, a spine surgeon may recommend minimally invasive surgical procedures. These procedures aim to relieve nerve compression and address the underlying cause. Examples include:
    • Discectomy: Removal of a herniated disc that is compressing a nerve.
    • Laminectomy: Removal of the lamina (part of the vertebral arch) to create more space for the nerves.
    • Foraminotomy: Widening of the nerve root opening to alleviate pressure on the nerves.
    • Spinal Fusion: In some cases, spinal fusion may be necessary to stabilize the spine and prevent further nerve compression.
  3. Other Surgical Interventions: In more complex cases, spine surgeons may perform other procedures such as artificial disc replacement, spinal decompression, or nerve decompression.

It’s important to note that the specific treatment plan will vary based on the individual’s condition and the surgeon’s assessment. It is recommended to consult with a qualified spine surgeon who can evaluate your specific case and recommend the most appropriate treatment approach.

Share This:

More on Symptoms:

Spotting the Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc

September 1, 2019

Your spine is a complex set of bones. Each vertebrae is cushioned by a disc, which kind of resembles a jelly donut: a soft, pillowy ...

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

May 23, 2017

Lumbar spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar area, which is the area in lower back. The narrowing of the spinal ...

Numbness and Tingling: When to Worry

October 29, 2015

For new information including possible causes and treatment options read our 2024 update on numbness and tingling. Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs ...