Numbness on One Side of the Body

Seek Emergency Care

Sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg is a warning sign of a stroke. Call 911 if you note this in yourself or another person. Other signs include vision problems, dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, and a sudden, severe headache.

Numbness on one side of your body can be caused by a wide variety of health conditions and may be a medical emergency. Causes include damage or compression of a nerve, stroke, and systemic medical concerns. Fortunately, the location of your sensory issues and any corresponding symptoms can help you hone in on their origins.

This article will outline the most common causes of numbness on one side of your body and discuss the typical symptoms and treatments for these conditions.

Person holding their wrist

Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

Symptoms of Numbness on One Side of the Body

If you are experiencing numbness on one side of your body, you may also experience other, corresponding symptoms. The following symptoms are commonly seen with single-sided sensory issues and can help identify the cause of the problem:

  • Facial, arm, or leg weakness
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Loss of vision
  • Dizziness
  • Paraesthesia (burning or tingling sensation)
  • Loss of pain or temperature sensations
  • Cramping
  • Muscle atrophy (shrinking in size)
  • Tremors
  • Unsteady walking
  •  Sexual, bowel, or bladder dysfunction

Regardless of the cause of your one-sided numbness, you should immediately speak to a healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms due to their potential seriousness.

Causes of Numbness on One Side of the Body

Many medical conditions can cause numbness on one side of your body. Among the most common are:

Strokes occur when the blood flow to your brain is blocked or interrupted, or there is bleeding in the brain. When this happens, your brain is not properly nourished with oxygen and loses its ability to communicate with certain areas of the body. As a result, sensory problems (like one-sided numbness) and movement deficits emerge over a short time.

Peripheral neuropathy arises when one (or several) nerves in the peripheral nervous system are damaged. This can happen from physical injury or trauma, osteoarthritis in a neighboring joint, chronic repetitive movements, diabetes, or vascular problems.

Depending on the nerve affected, peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness confined to a specific band of skin or spread throughout one arm or leg.

Spinal radiculopathy is compression or damage to a nerve root as it branches off from your spinal cord. When this occurs in the cervical (neck) region, it can lead to sensory and movement issues in one (or both) of your arms. In the low-back (lumbar) region of the spine, radiculopathy can cause numbness and strength problems in one (or both) of your legs.

Depending on the origins of the spinal radiculopathy, these symptoms may come on quickly or slowly get worse over time. The most common causes of this concern are disc bulges or herniations, degenerative disc disease, spinal arthritis or spondylosis, and bone spurs.

Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disease that occurs when the protective covering of your body’s nerves (called the myelin sheath) is damaged. This damage impacts the ability of your nerves to transmit signals properly and can lead to many symptoms, including numbness on one side of your body.

Depending on the type of MS you have, the disease’s symptoms can be constant and progressive or may be more intermittent.

Numbness From Medication

Several different classes of medications can cause numbness as a side effect. These include drugs for high blood pressure, cancer, seizures, infections such as immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and autoimmune diseases. 

How to Treat Numbness on One Side of the Body

The treatments for one-sided numbness vary greatly depending on the cause. In all cases, see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Strokes are a medical emergency, and you should be transported to the nearest hospital emergency room. A stroke is typically addressed with medications to relieve any blockages in your artery.

Drugs that reduce swelling in the brain and protect it from damage are also commonly administered. Surgery may be needed to remove a clot or repair damage to the blood vessels. Rehabilitation is needed after a stroke to regain body functions.

Peripheral neuropathy can be addressed in a variety of ways. Lifestyle modifications like maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and stopping smoking can improve nerve health and function. For neuropathy caused by diabetes, monitoring your glucose levels and maintaining a healthy diet can also be beneficial.

In addition, certain types of peripheral neuropathy can be managed with neuropathic or immunosuppressive drugs. In rarer cases, surgery may be needed to alleviate compression or strain on an affected nerve.

Spinal radiculopathy treatment can also vary widely. Physical therapy is often initiated to strengthen the core muscles and alleviate the strain on the compressed nerve root. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help reduce any inflammation that may be causing your symptoms.

Steroid injections into the spine are also sometimes necessary if more conservative treatments are ineffective. In advanced cases of radiculopathy, surgery may be necessary to decompress the nerve or fuse the affected spinal segments.

Multiple sclerosis is primarily managed with prescription medications. While there is no cure, a class of drugs called disease-modifying therapies (DMT) can help reduce flare-ups and delay the progression of the condition.

In addition, physical therapy is sometimes ordered to teach energy conservation strategies and to maintain muscle tone. Modifying your activity to avoid extreme temperatures, stress, and fatigue can also reduce the likelihood of an MS attack.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Numbness?

Depending on the diagnosis that your healthcare provider suspects, several different tests may be performed to confirm the condition. A physical examination, medical history, and neurological examination will be performed.

Imaging tests could include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Provides detailed images of structures like the brain, spine, and muscles and may be useful when assessing for MS, radiculopathy, or neuropathy
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: Used to take a clear picture of the brain when diagnosing a stroke
  • Electromyography (EMG): Used to assess the function of your nerves when diagnosing radiculopathy or peripheral neuropathy
  • Ultrasound: Used to assess the flow of blood in an artery when checking for a stroke

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Symptoms of a stroke warrant immediate emergency medical care. Call 911 and get transported to an emergency room.

If you are experiencing new or worsening numbness on one side of your body, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider immediately. This is especially true if the numbness is accompanied by any of the other symptoms detailed previously.

Failure to have your condition examined puts you at a higher risk of permanent disability and even death in some cases, depending on the origins of the numbness. Following a comprehensive workup, your healthcare provider can give you an accurate diagnosis and determine which treatments are appropriate for you.


Numbness on one side of the body can be caused by many different conditions, some of which are very serious. Most commonly, the potential causes include nerve damage, multiple sclerosis, or a stroke.

Many other symptoms, including weakness, dizziness, and difficulty speaking, could also accompany your sensory deficits. Individuals experiencing this type of numbness should be seen urgently by a healthcare provider. A physical examination and imaging tests may be performed to diagnose the condition. Treatment depends on the cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is my numbness caused by a stroke?

    The numbness caused by a stroke typically affects one side of the body and may be noticed in the face, arms, or legs. This sensory issue is commonly accompanied by difficulty speaking, loss of vision, trouble walking, and weakness. Stroke symptoms usually, though not always, come on fairly quickly.

  • How do I know if I have multiple sclerosis?

    Multiple sclerosis causes numbness and weakness in the arms, trunk, and legs. These symptoms often occur on only one side of the body and may be accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, difficulty walking, or bowel and bladder dysfunction. A thorough workup by a healthcare provider is needed to diagnose this central nervous system condition.

  • Can diabetes lead to numbness?

    One of the most frequent side effects of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy. This condition occurs when consistently high glucose levels cause damage to the nerves in the body.

    While the legs and feet are the most commonly affected areas, the hands and arms can also be impacted. This type of neuropathy can occur on only one side of the body or can be bilateral.

6 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. The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions. Warning signs of a stroke.

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Stroke.

  3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet.

  4. Penn Medicine. Radiculopathy (nerve root disorder).

  5. Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Multiple sclerosis.

  6. MedlinePlus. Neuropathy secondary to drugs.

By Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS
Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS, is a board-certified orthopedic specialist who has practiced as a physical therapist for more than a decade.