What Causes Leg Numbness?

Numbness or tingling in the legs—or a pins-and-needles sensation—is common when you’ve been sitting in the same position for a long time. This can reduce blood flow or put too much pressure on the nerves, and usually goes away once you’ve moved around. 

Long-lasting or unexplained numbness or tingling, known as paresthesia, may be an indication of vitamin deficiency or toxicity or be a side effect of medication, alcohol, or injury. In some cases, it may be a symptom of a serious issue, such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. The treatment you receive will depend on the cause of the sensation. 

This article discusses what can cause numbness or tingling in the legs, other symptoms that can accompany it, and how paresthesia is diagnosed and treated.

Person bending over holding their right knee and upper calf with both hands.

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Associated Symptoms

If you’re experiencing leg tingling and numbness, it may be accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • Aches and pains in the affected leg
  • Anxiety
  • Back pain that may or may not shoot down the leg
  • Burning sensation in the leg
  • Crawling feeling under the skin 
  • Itchiness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sensitivity to touch 
  • Trouble sitting upright or standing
  • Weakness of the affected leg

Common Causes

There are many potential causes of leg numbness and tingling. Sitting or standing in one position for a long time can temporarily cause this sensation, due to compression of nerves or lack of blood flow. Once you move, the sensation typically goes away. 

Leg numbness and tingling can also be a symptom of a wide range of health conditions that cause injury to the nerves or restrict blood flow. Potential causes of this sensation include:

  • Abnormal vitamin and mineral levels, including vitamin B12, calcium, potassium, and sodium 
  • Frostbite (damage caused by frozen skin and the underlying tissue)
  • Insect bite
  • Medications, such as chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Shingles (a painful rash caused by the chicken pox virus)
  • Skin rash
  • Toxins in seafood

Injury can sometimes produce the feeling of numbness or tingling, such as: 

  • Back injury 
  • Bone fractures in the leg 
  • Herniated disk (a bulging, slipped, or ruptured area between bones of the spine)
  • Injured nerve in the cervical spine (neck) due to trauma, such as a car accident or fall
  • Pinched or compressed nerve

Other causes generally fall into the categories of neurological injury or disease.  

Chronic Conditions

Some chronic health conditions cause leg numbness and tingling as a symptom. Examples of conditions that may cause this sensation include:

Diagnosis

Everyone experiences the feeling of numbness or tingling in their legs from time to time. Chances are you’ve felt it when you’ve been sitting in one position for a long time and felt better once you moved around. However, leg numbness and tingling can be a sign of a serious disease in some cases. If you’re experiencing ongoing or frequent episodes of leg numbness and tingling, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. 

When you meet with your healthcare provider, you will be asked about your symptoms and medical history, and you will undergo a physical examination. Share all of your symptoms, even if they don’t seem related to the sensations in your leg. Be sure to mention any recent injuries, vaccinations, or current medications and supplements you are taking. 

Your healthcare provider may order additional tests to provide a diagnosis. This may include blood work, nerve conduction studies, lumbar puncture (spinal tap, removing a sample of cerebrospinal fluid from the lower back), thyroid function testing, toxicology screening, and vitamin level testing, 

You may also undergo imaging tests such as a computerized tomography scan (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help your doctor give an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment

There are many causes of leg numbness and tingling, and your treatment will depend on the cause of your symptoms. If your symptoms are caused by a chronic health condition, treatment will focus on reducing symptoms and slowing disease activity. If your symptoms are caused by an acute (severe and sudden onset) condition or injury, treatment will focus on healing and rehabilitation. 

When to Seek Medical Help

In some cases, feelings of numbness and tingling in the leg can indicate a serious medical condition or injury. Talk with your healthcare provider about numbness and tingling if:

  • It lasts for long periods of time or occurs frequently.
  • It is accompanied by other symptoms .
  • It is accompanied by changes in the color, shape, or temperature of your leg.
  • There is no obvious cause.
  • You feel dizzy, have a rash, or muscle spasms.

Call 911 in These Instances

Seek medical care immediately if you have or are experiencing any of the following:

  • Injury to the back, head, or neck
  • Inability to move or walk
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • Feelings of confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slurred speech
  • Vision problems

Summary 

Numbness or tingling in the legs can be caused by many things, including sitting or standing in one position for too long, neurological injury or disease, or chronic health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia (chronic, widespread pain).

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have ongoing or frequent episodes of leg numbness or tingling. They will give you a physical examination and may order tests to determine the cause. Some causes of lower leg numbness can be managed with simple treatments, and others will require ongoing treatments and medical care. 

A Word From Verywell 

A combination of numbness and tingling in the legs is common, and often easily treated. When it becomes chronic or disrupts your quality of life, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. If you are experiencing numbness or tingling accompanied by other symptoms, or if the condition becomes painful or frequent, speak with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should you see a neurologist about leg numbness?

    Numbness or tingling in the leg can occur for many different reasons, some as simple as sitting in a way that presses on a nerve or cuts off blood circulation in the leg. If you experience ongoing or frequent numbness or tingling or if it comes on suddenly, it may be time to see a neurologist, a medical doctor specializing in conditions of the brain and nervous system. 

  • Will an MRI show nerve damage?

    Magnetic resonance imaging provides images of soft tissue structures in the body. Though an MRI cannot show nerve damage, it can help identify any structural changes or abnormalities in the body that may be causing nerve compression, such as a herniated disk. Nerve damage is typically diagnosed based on the results of a neurological examination. 

  • Can heart problems cause leg numbness?

    Numbness and tingling in the legs may be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD occurs when peripheral arteries that carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body become narrow. Edema (swelling) in the legs can be a symptom of heart disease. 

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Paresthesia information page.

  2. MSD Manual Professional Version. Numbness.

  3. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Numbness and tingling.

  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Peripheral neuropathy.

  5. American Heart Association. Peripheral artery disease.