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What are the Most Common Causes of Numbness?

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  • Written By: Tess C. Taylor
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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Numbness, or parasthesia, is a marked decrease or loss of sensation in the skin often accompanied by a tingling feeling in the nerve endings. Among the many causes of numbness are poor circulation, standing or sitting in one position for long periods of time, pressure or injury to nerves in the back neck and extremities, and serious health conditions like strokes and heart attacks. Numbness can also be caused by some medical treatments themselves, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and some drug and alcohol treatments.

In most cases, occasional numbness can be attributed to physical pressure on an area of the body. This numbness can be relieved simply by switching position and moving around more often. It’s common for people to experience numbness from sitting or standing at work for long periods of time, or by crossing the legs while sitting. This numbness is sometimes referred to as a limb “falling asleep,” though it is really a temporary loss of blood supply. Getting up to stretch or changing positions will generally restore sensation in a matter of minutes.

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Other causes of numbness can include a past injury to the bones, ligaments, and nerves of the back, spine, neck, and extremities. This is common when someone experiences a serious physical accident, such as a car accident or a sports injury. It is also common to develop numbness from repetitive use of the hands, such as in carpal tunnel syndrome. Numbness of this variety can often be handled with a careful course of medical care, which can include muscle relaxers, massage, exercise, and physical therapy. In addition, chiropractic care has been shown to reduce numbness when other treatments don’t work well. Cases that are more serious can be corrected with surgery.

Numbness can also be caused by cancer treatment and vitamin deficiencies. A physician can suggest treatments to alleviate the symptoms of numbness on an individual patient basis. In some cases, however, the causes of numbness are hard to treat and patients may have to learn to live with this annoying feeling for long periods of time. This is especially true for patients receiving radiation treatment, getting medical care for a drug or alcohol problem, or suffering from an injury too severe for surgery and medication.

The most serious causes of numbness include a heart attack or a stroke. This type of numbness generally begins on one side of the body, then it quickly radiates to the other side of the body as the nervous system tries to protect vital organs. Patients experiencing this type of numbness should seek immediate emergency care. The numbness caused by a stroke can linger for many months and even years following this incident.

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bear78
Post 3

Muscle issues can lead to numbness too. It has been nine months since I had a back spasm. The numbness was severe in the beginning and I had trouble walking too. It has gotten better over time but some days I wake up with little feeling in my left leg, below the knee.

I had no idea before this that an injury to the back will affect the legs so much. And spasms are usually not take very seriously. It was a spasm that occurred while I was exercising but it was terribly painful. The side effects are lasting a very long time and I'm always afraid that I might experience another spasm.

SteamLouis
Post 2

I have a relative who developed paralysis on one part of her body due to a stroke. She has received treatment but the paralysis and numbness hasn't gone away. She has gotten used to it now although it is very difficult. Her immediately family has been very supportive and take care of her. I also visit her when I have the opportunity.

I only experienced numbness in my life when I broke my arm. The nerve was a little damaged due to the fracture and this caused numbness until my arm healed completely.

turquoise
Post 1

Numbness occurs to everyone. It happened to me today. I simply sat in the wrong position for too long. When I tried to get up, one of my legs was completely numb and in pain. It took about fifteen minutes for my blood circulation to return to normal and for the symptoms to go away.

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