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Causes of numbness in legs and feet

Often, a person's legs go numb temporarily because of their posture. However, chronic or long-lasting numbness in the feet and legs is almost always a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Conditions associated with feet and leg numbness include:

Posture

Postural habits that put pressure on nerves or reduce blood flow in the lower limbs are the most common cause of temporary numbness in the legs and feet. Many people say their leg has "fallen asleep," and the medical term is transient (temporary) paresthesia.

Habits that can cause the feet and legs to fall asleep include:

crossing the legs for too long

sitting or kneeling for long periods

sitting on the feet

wearing pants, socks, or shoes that are too tight

Injury

Injuries to the torso, spine, hips, legs, ankles, and feet can put pressure on nerves and cause the feet and legs to go numb.

Diabetes

Some people with diabetes develop a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet, and if severe, the legs as well.

Lower back issues and sciatica

Problems in the lower back, such as a breakdown or herniation of spinal discs, can cause compression of the nerves going to the legs, leading to numbness or sensory disturbances.

Sciatica is the name for irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the legs. If this nerve becomes irritated or compressed, a person may experience numbness or tingling in their legs or feet.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve that runs down the back of the leg and along the inside of the ankle and into the foot is compressed, squeezed, or damaged.

The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space on the inside of the ankle. People with tarsal tunnel syndrome tend to feel numbness, burning, tingling, and shooting pain in their ankles, heels, and feet.

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) causes the peripheral blood arteries in the legs, arms, and stomach to narrow, reducing the amount of blood they can pump and reducing blood flow. The legs are one of the most common parts of the body impacted by PAD.

Most people with PAD experience pain and cramping in their legs and hips when they are walking or going upstairs. Some people with PAD also experience leg numbness and weakness.

Symptoms of PAD typically go away after a few minutes of rest.

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