Numbness or Tingling

Numbness or tingling is an unpleasant sensation in which there is reduced or absent feeling in the skin or a "pins and needles" sensation. The most common reason for numbness or tingling is a problem with nerve function, either because the nerve itself is injured, something is pressing on the nerve, or an imbalance in the body's chemistry interferes with nerve function. Most causes are not dangerous, but when muscle weakness or paralysis is also present, numbness and tingling should be treated as an emergency.

There are rare causes of symptoms that will not be included here and would require more detailed evaluation than this guide can provide.

Please keep in mind that this guide is not intended to replace a face-to-face evaluation with your doctor. The goal of this guide is to provide information while awaiting evaluation with your doctor or additional information after you have seen him or her.

Certain symptoms suggest a serious cause of tingling and numbness that requires prompt attention. It's important to ask questions about these symptoms first.

Did your numbness or tingling begin after a significant injury, such as a fall or car accident?

Yes, the numbness or tingling began after a significant injury.

No, the numbness or tingling did not begin after an injury.

Good, that makes it less likely that your symptoms are due to certain serious causes such as a spine fracture.

Have you noticed any of the following:

  • inability to move one side of your face

  • difficulty talking or making yourself understood

  • difficulty walking

  • difficulty thinking?

Yes, I have one or more of those symptoms.

No, I do not have those symptoms.

Good -- that makes a serious or dangerous cause of your symptoms less likely.

Have you noticed that your tingling or numbness occurs after maintaining the same position for a long time or when you awaken from sleep?

Yes, it seems related to position and/or with sleep.

No, my symptoms don't seem position or sleep-related.

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