What Are the Most Common Causes of Back Numbness?

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  • Written By: Valerie Goldberg
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Numbness refers to a loss of sensation or tingling pain in the body. People with numbness in their bodies also can experience burning pain and the sensation of pins and needles. Common causes of back numbness include a herniated disc, sciatica and multiple sclerosis (MS).

When one of the discs in a person's back falls out of alignment, it can be referred to as a herniated disc and is a common cause of numbness in the back. People often get herniated discs after lifting heavy objects. X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography scan (CT scan) can be used to help a doctor make a firm diagnosis of a herniated disc. Herniated discs occur much more often in older adults than younger adults and often improve on their own in two months or less. Narcotic pain medication can be used to treat the pain along with at-home heat or ice therapy; corrective surgery is only needed in a small number of patients.


Sciatica is another common cause of back numbness. Pain or numbness in the sciatic nerve, which affects a person's lower back, legs and buttocks, can be very uncomfortable. Back numbness from sciatica is usually a symptom of a larger issue, such as a tumor or back injury. Doctors can help to control sciatic nerve pain in a patient using chiropractic therapy, physical therapy and, possibly, prescription medications. When sciatica pain does not clear up in a couple of months, doctors may then try surgery or steroid injections to help a person find comfort.

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the spinal cord and brain. A major symptom of MS is numbness in the back and in a person's hands and feet. People with MS also may experience fatigue, depression, bowel problems and muscle spasms. As of 2011, MS has no cure, but symptoms can be managed using medications, physical therapy and steroids. Some MS patients may experience numbness and other symptoms on a daily basis, while others may go through periods during which no symptoms are present.

Other causes of back numbness can include a pinched nerve, spinal stenosis and diabetes. A person suffering from any type of chronic back numbness or pain should contact a doctor if home remedies do not make the ailment feel better. Back pain and numbness can be caused by such a wide variety of issues that it is important for people to be evaluated by medical professionals. Catching the cause of back numbness early may help to prevent further complications.


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Post 3

@turquoise-- Don't assume that you have a herniated disc, get an MRI to know for sure.

When a spinal disc is herniated, spinal fluid inside the disc leaks out and applies pressure on the surrounding nerves. If the pressure is too much, it can prevent the nerve from sending signals to surrounding nerves. This is what causes numbness in the back.

It's actually very dangerous because if the nerves become damaged, it can even lead to partial paralysis.

It is usually treated with muscle-relaxers, pain relievers and rest to relieve the pressure on the nerves. In very serious cases, surgery may be necessary.

Post 2

I have a pinched nerve in my back. I did it while lifting weights at the gym. In the beginning I just had pins and needles and some tingling in my back. I assumed it was still okay for me to work out, so I continued to go to the gym but things got worse. My back become numb and I had trouble moving.

My doctor put me on strict bed rest for a week. I was also not allowed to do lifting or heavy exercise for another month. I alternated between heat packs and ice packs. I took an oral pain-reliever. It took me several weeks to recover. If I had been more cautious and had stopped exercising from the beginning, I would have probably recovered in just a week.

Post 1

I've been having lower back pain and numbness for the past week. I think I might have a herniated disc. How exactly does a hernia cause numbness? Is there a treatment for it?

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