What are the causes of numbness in the legs & feet?

Updated November 21, 2016

If you are feeling numbness in your legs and feet, or elsewhere in your body, this is considered sensory loss. Numbness can result from simply sitting in one position too long or sitting in an awkward position and then realising, upon trying to get up, that your legs or feet are numb. This is a temporary condition that goes away, according to AARP. org. However, foot and leg numbness can also indicate that something serious is wrong.

Nerve Damage, Plaque

If you have suffered a nerve injury to your lower back, this can cause sensory loss in your feet and legs. If you have a herniated disk, which puts pressure on the spinal nerves, this can lead to leg and feet numbness. Vascular claudication occurs when there is plaque build up, which restricts the flow of blood to an area. It can cause a tingling sensation as well as pain and numbness. Atherosclerosis can result in plaque build up. Rheumatologist Dr. Nathan Wei explains that when arteries, which transfer blood from the heart to the legs, get blocked, pain and numbness will result. The affected leg may turn a shade of purple and will feel cooler to the touch than the unaffected leg.


Multiple Sclerosis, which is a progressive disease that results in neuro-degeneration (nerve damage), can cause numbness. Women are afflicted with MS more than men. This condition damages the protective covering, the myelin sheath, that covers nerve cells. Sensory impulses stop or slow down when damage is done to this covering, according to AARP.


If you have experienced a stroke this can cause numbness and tingling as well as loss of balance and coordination. When a stroke occurs, it interrupts the blood supply to a part of the brain.

Diseased Nerves, Pinched Nerves, Sciatica

If you have suffered nerve damage, generally, before the onset of numbness, you will experience a needles-and-pins, prickling or burning sensation, which is called paresthesias. Diseased nerves can also result in paresthesias and then numbness, according to Wrong Diagnosis. Dr. Nathan Wei explains that a pinched nerve or nerve entrapment can occur in lower back and this will result in leg and/or foot numbness, which is called lumbar radiculopathy. Sciatica, which is caused by damage to the sciatic nerve, is an all-too-common occurrence. It results in leg pain and numbness and lower back pain, according to Health Hype. A person may feel tingling, weakness and numbness in one or both legs as a result of sciatica.


Arachnoid cysts can cause leg and foot numbness and a tingling sensation. This condition is rare. It occurs when cysts that are cerebrospinal fluid-filled sacs develop between the cranial base and the surface of the brain.

Diabetes, Cancer

If you are suffering from diabetes, this can cause foot and leg numbness. Cancer of the brain can result in leg numbness, according to Wrong Diagnosis.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.