Why is my leg or foot numb: video
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What is a paresthesia?
Paresthesia is an often temporary loss of sensation in a limb (arm, hand, leg, foot or even toe) characterized by unpleasant sensations of tingling, numbness.
Paresthesia can be permanent or temporary and is triggered by activity: if it is temporary, it alternates periods of loss of sensitivity with periods of pain in the affected areas.
For example, you may feel pain on the outside of your foot and a few hours later feel nothing at all: the pain gives way to a loss of sensation or numbness and will return later.
Not particularly painful in itself, numbness in a leg, foot or toe causes an imbalance in posture and gait which in turn is responsible for limping and pain that can be felt just about anywhere between the lower back and the toes, (except in the numb areas).
If the paresthesia is the result of a herniated disc, the loss of sensation occurs in the right or left leg or foot, or may affect one or more toes depending on the specific area where the sciatic nerve is compressed.
Symptoms of paresthesia due to sciatica
The main symptom of paresthesia is the loss of sensation, tingling, permanent or momentary numbness that occurs in the leg, foot or toes.
If the numbness occurs in one foot, it is quite distressing since you can no longer feel the contact with the ground: this leads to posture and balance problems.
What causes paresthesia?
Tingling in the leg, numbness in the foot, tingling in the toes are often the result of compression of the sciatic nerve, but a numb leg or foot can also be the result of alcohol abuse, neurological dysfunction, diabetes, Lyme disease, side effects of chemotherapy, inflammation of the spinal cord.
In my case, the cause is the consequence of a double disc herniation that occurred in 2006 and that is why I am writing this post.
People who ride a bike can also feel tingling in their feet, especially after sitting on the bike for one or more hours. The position on the bike and the fact that you are pedaling are likely to cause a slight compression of the sciatic nerve which in turn will cause the feeling of tingling in the foot or toes.
Paresthesia: who and when to consult?
If the foot is numb or you feel constant tingling in the toes, leg or even the arm or fingers, you should see a doctor ASAP. The most appropriate doctor is a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon who know this type of pathology by heart and knows what to do to treat it.
Once you complain of loss of feeling, numbness, tingling or prickling in the foot, toes or leg and you have identified one of the above causes, the diagnosis of paresthesia is almost self-evident. It is especially important to assess the extent of the damage, to try to give the patient an idea of the chances of recovering the foot or leg and how quickly.
The doctor will do some sensitivity tests to try to understand whether the patient feels a little, a lot or nothing at all.
The doctor may also look to see if the patient is able to stand on his or her toes or heels or not at all.
If in doubt, the doctor may ask the patient to have an electromyography (test of the nervous system). Basically,, the sciatic or peripheral nerves are stimulated with what looks like small electrical discharges and the patient’s responses are observed.
This is the main question: how long will my foot remain numb, will I regain all my sensations, what do I have to do to achieve this?
Depending on the symptoms and the results of the electromyography, the doctor will be able to establish a treatment plan.
Typically it is rest, physiotherapy and if this does not work, an operation to eliminate the cause if possible and the problem is disabling: e.g. operating on a herniated disc should, in principle, remove the compression of the sciatic nerve and the affected limb should return to its original state if it has not been irreparably damaged.
This works in the majority of cases but it is impossible to give precise figures or recovery times on a case-by-case basis.
The vast majority of people who have had a lumbar disc herniation or a narrow lumbar canal operated on say that the tingling in the leg or numbness in the foot or one or more toes disappears immediately after the operation.
And one day, my foot completely woke up...
If you have browsed other pages of this blog, you will have noticed that in 2006 I was diagnosed with a double lumbar disc herniation, with disabling sciatica and a narrow lumbar canal.
After 5 or 6 years of misery during which the only possible way out seemed to be the wheelchair, things started to return to normal little by little, at least in my lumbar vertebrae and my right leg, and if today my lower back is still sensitive, I can live normally and even do sports without any problem.
On the other hand, my right leg and my right foot had lost feathers in the fight: my right leg was numb and my right foot was completely numb, asleep.
Not even tingling or numbness, just like gone!
But little by little, as the problem in the vertebrae was being solved, the sensations in the leg and foot started to come back.
In the end and until 10 days ago, I had recovered 95% of my right leg and 80% of my right foot.
And I was happy about that, and I was happy about the discomfort I was feeling on the top of my right foot, especially with some shoes that were a bit too much in contact with the top of the foot.
I, who have a weakness for beautiful shoes…
Antibiotics finished the job.
Early June 2017, I consult an ENT specialist to try to find a solution to chronic headaches and neck pain that doesn’t go away and she decides to put me on antibiotics for 10 days.
On the 7th day of treatment, I began to feel a clear improvement in my general state: less fatigue, less pain, I fell asleep in 5 minutes and for 8 hours in a row, in short, a quality of life that I hadn’t had for years since these pains had in fact taken over my back problems.
And icing on the cake, I realized that my right foot had completely woken up! No more tingling, no more pins and needles, no more discomfort with any shoe: even the ones I couldn’t put on anymore, now I can put them on (for how long, I don’t know yet if the antibiotics have solved this problem definitively or just temporarily and it will come back, but in the meantime, I guarantee you that I appreciate it.
Cet article est également disponible en : French