Numb Foot

When numbness occurs in the foot it is known as peripheral neuropathy. It is caused when proper blood supply is unable to reach the foot or because of damage to the nerves in the area. It can occur on a permanent basis or just happen temporarily. The numbness might feel mildly painful, create a prickling sensation or “pins and needs,” or feel as if it is burning. Chronic numbness can be a sign of a serious problem and should be brought to the attention of a medical professional.

Causes of Numb Foot

1. Posture

Most commonly, foot numbness is caused by remaining in a position that restricts blood circulation. This is an issue with posture or a positional issue with the hips, legs, or feet. Most people have experienced this type of numbness at one time or another. It is temporary and can be alleviated by changing your position to allow blood to flow toward the feet.

2. Diabetes

Diabetes causes numbness in the foot because it damages the nerves. When a person has diabetes, he or she experiences elevated, uncontrollable levels of blood sugar. The excess sugar damages the nerves and is irreversible. Numbness caused by diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. In addition to feeling uncomfortable, chronic numbness also means diabetics are unable to feel pain and extreme temperatures in the feet. Diabetics must visually inspect their feet to ensure cuts and sores are treated and heal properly.

3. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is another disease associated with foot numbness. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys the sheath covering peripheral nerves. It is this damage that causes the numbness. The damage is progressive, but still not reversible. Numbness is usually mild and sporadic at first, but eventually becomes severe.

4. Nerve Injury

If there is abnormal pressure on the nerves responsible for the sensation in the feet, it can cause numbness. This typically occurs because of an injury and it might seem unrelated to the feet, even though it affects them. For instance, a slipped disc in the back can caused foot numbness.

It is also possible for poorly fitted footwear to cause numbness. Tight, high heeled footwear can cause a condition known as Morton’s neuroma, which is the result of pressure on the balls of the feet. This is a chronic condition that comes from wearing tight or high heeled shoes for a long period of time. In many cases surgery is required to correct numbness from nerve injury.

5. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome pinches the posterior tibial nerve on the inside of the ankle, causing numbness to penetrate through the food. It is an easily compressed nerve because the area is so small. There are instances in which surgery is necessary to correct the problem but usually cold compresses, anti-inflammatory medication, and rest are enough.

6. Alcoholism

Over time, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol damages the nervous system. This can lead to numbness in the feet and hands.

7. Medication Side Effects

Medication can have a direct effect on the nerves affecting the feet. The numbness can be temporary or the medication can cause permanent damage. Some medications that trigger damage or numbness include: cancer medications, heart medications, antibiotics, and HIV treatment.

8. Vitamin B12 Deficiency

If a person is deficient in B12 he might experience a low red blood cell count. Long-term deficiency can lead to damage to the peripheral nerves affecting the extremities. Supplement with B12 can reverse the condition. However, it is better to recognize a vitamin deficiency before damage is caused. A person might also experience numbness if he is deficient in sodium, calcium, or potassium.

9. Poor Circulation

There are a number of things that cause poor circulation. Some diseases and conditions, such as Raynaud’s Syndrome and peripheral vascular disease, reduce circulation. When the blood is unable to circulate properly throughout the body, the extremities become numb. Numbness caused by poor circulation should be treated just the same as a temporary problem with circulation. Recognize if a position or action causes numbness and avoid that position.

10. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)

TIAs are sometimes compared to stroke, but there are some notable differences. TIAs temporarily block blood flow to the brain, which often results in unusual sensations throughout the body. One of the main symptoms of TIAs is numbness in the extremities. The numbness is a result of changes in the brain and might not be an actual problem with the feet.

Remedies for Numb Foot

1. Proper Footwear

Wearing shoes that fit properly might be enough to prevent numbness. If high heels seem to cause numbness, opt for lower heels or flat shoes. You might also want to add comfort insoles in some of your shoes.

2. Proper Exercise Activities

If you experience numbness during high impact exercises, you might need to opt for other activities. It also helps to stretch prior to a workout and wear proper fitness footwear. Losing weight can help you reduce numbness in your feet because excess weight can contribute to numbness. However, it is important to choose the correct exercise to achieve your fitness goals.

3. Better Posture

If your posture or certain positioning of your body causes numbness, work on sitting and standing in ways that allow blood to flow. Cross-legged sitting can impeded circulation by pinching arteries and blood vessels. If you are unable to sit properly, take frequent breaks to stand up and move around.

4. Compression Socks

Compression socks stimulate circulation and prevent numbness.

5. Massage

Massage of the feet and toes can ease numbness and stimulate blood flow.

6. Foot Elevation

Keeping feet elevated improves circulation and reduces swelling and thus can prevent numbness in feet from happening.

7. Less Alcohol

Reducing your alcohol intake can deter numbness as was discussed just now, alcoholism can cause foot numbness.

8. Warming the Foot

Use a heated blanket or heating pad to warm the feet to prevent tingling.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience any of the following you should contact 911 or go to the emergency room:

  • Numbness after serious injury
  • Weakness or paralysis in ability to numbness
  • Confusion, loss of consciousness, slurred speech, change in vision, or difficult walking, in addition to numbness
  • Inability to control arms, legs, bladder or bowels

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience:

  • Numbness without an identifiable cause
  • Increased urination
  • Pain in the neck, fingers, or forearm
  • Rash
  • Numbness in the legs that increases when walking
  • Dizziness, muscle spasm, or other out of the ordinary symptoms
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