What could be causing numbness in my thigh

Numbness leg - numb legs

Numbness of the legs - causes, treatment and prevention

Many people are familiar with the feeling of numbness in the legs, but only a few are aware of the very serious causes that can be behind this seemingly harmless phenomenon. The numbness in the legs should by no means be dismissed lightly and requires a medical examination, especially if it occurs repeatedly.

Numbness legs - an overview

There can be various underlying causes of numbness in the leg, many of which require therapeutic care. In order to enable a classification of the symptoms, here are the most important facts in advance:

  • definition: Numbness in the legs is a sensory disorder in the area between the hips and the soles of the feet, which can be associated with impairments in the perception of pain, pressure and temperature or with symptoms of paralysis.
  • causes: Circulatory disorders (for example in the case of hardening of the arteries, but also heart attacks), compression of the supplying nerves (nerve pinched; for example due to a herniated disc) or diseases of the nervous system (such as multiple sclerosis), an existing fibromyalgia, tumor diseases (which press on nerve tracts) or a stroke (one-sided numbness).
  • A doctor's visit is generally requiredif there is numbness in the legs. If accompanying symptoms such as headache, visual disturbances, speech disorders, hemiplegia, impaired consciousness, chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in the arm and tightness in the chest occur, contact the emergency services immediately, as it could be a stroke where every second counts.
  • treatment: Basically to be aligned with the causes of the complaints, in the case of a pinched nerve especially a combination of massage and physiotherapy, if necessary medication for pain and to relax tense muscles, but sometimes also an operation; in the case of nervous diseases often only limited treatment options and no prospect of a cure; in the case of circulatory disorders often with medication, but possibly also with surgical interventions.
  • Naturopathy and holistic medicine: For example, accompanying use of acupuncture and manual therapies for nerve compression, hydrotherapy and alternating showers for circulatory disorders or exercise therapy for various forms of numbness.

Symptoms

  • Numbness in the legs can occur locally, for example only in the thigh, or it can affect the entire leg.
  • The symptoms usually take an acute course, but the numbness can also turn into a chronic condition.
  • Not infrequently associated with a tingling sensation in the limbs and difficulty walking.
  • The numbness in the legs may also be accompanied by pain on the soles of the feet.
  • Often only occurs in certain positions (long sitting, crossed legs).
  • According to the different triggers of the complaints, numerous other accompanying symptoms can be observed, which also provide an indication of the cause of the numb feeling in the legs.

Causes of numbness in the legs

The numbness usually has one Impairment of the supplying nerves underlying. In the case of a herniated disc, for example, the nerve tracts in the spinal canal can become trapped. As a result, those affected not only suffer from severe lower back pain or back pain, but also often from pain and a numb feeling in the legs.

If a nerve is pinched, numbness, in addition to the typical tingling sensation (paresthesia), pain and paralysis, are one of the main symptoms. If the sciatic nerve is pinched, the symptoms often extend to the legs. Many sufferers complain of severe sciatic pain that radiates from the back to the legs. This is sometimes the case with both a herniated disc and acute lumbago.

The supplying nerves of the legs can also be pinched at other bottlenecks on their way through the body, whereby a corresponding nerve compression more often affects the nerve tracts that originate from the lumbosacral plexus (a network of nerves in the lumbar and sacral spine). These are, for example, pinched by the inguinal ligament as part of a so-called meralgia paraesthetica and those affected often suffer from pain in the hip and a feeling of numbness on the outside of the thigh. The so-called piriformis syndrome describes a narrowing of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle in the pelvic area. This compression can cause severe buttock pain, leg pain, and numbness in the legs.

But not only pinching of the nerves but also Nervous system disorders may cause recurring numbness in the legs. Examples include multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. A disease of diabetes or high blood sugar can also damage the nervous system and trigger corresponding complaints. The resulting so-called diabetic neuropathy relatively often brings numbness in the legs as one of the first symptoms. So-called polyneuropathies, which manifest themselves as a disease of several nerves of the peripheral nervous system, should also be mentioned as a possible trigger of numbness in the legs. The polyneuropathies can have extremely different causes - for example alcohol abuse, infectious diseases, vitamin B12 deficiency or rare diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and Churg-Strauss syndrome. Furthermore, acute poisoning can lead to impairment of the nervous system, which is accompanied by numbness in the legs.

Circulatory disorders are also a possible trigger for numbness in the legs. They can indicate general cardiac insufficiency, but they can also be an expression of an acute vascular occlusion (thrombosis) or, in the worst case, even a heart attack. If patients suddenly get fat legs or if symptoms such as chest pain, heart pain or a stinging in the chest, heart stumbling and racing heart are observed, a doctor should be consulted immediately. Chronic circulatory disorders in the legs are often caused by hardening of the arteries or diseases of the cardiovascular system such as coronary artery disease.

Another possible trigger of numbness in the legs is the so-called Fibromyalgiawhich, as an incurable chronic disease, affects the muscle fibers in different parts of the organism. The numbness in the extremities is one of the numerous side effects that fibromyalgia can bring with it.

A unilateral feeling of numbness in the legs may be the result of a stroke. In addition to severe headaches, visual disturbances and speech disorders, this often causes paralysis on one side, which can stretch into the legs.

In rare cases, the compression of the nerves and the associated numbness in the legs is also triggered by benign or malignant tumors that press on the nerve tracts in the brain or the spinal canal.

Last but not least, bruises and broken bones, for example as a result of an accident, can also be associated with nerve compression. The same applies to persistent incorrect loads, such as the case report of a cross-fit athlete, which was described in the English-language specialist magazine “PM&R”. The man suffered from numbness in his legs for weeks.

diagnosis

A description of the symptoms, their intensity and the information on the situations in which the numbness occurs in the legs can often give an idea of ​​the underlying causes of the symptoms. A physical exam will provide additional clues. Palpation and a few simple movement tests can often narrow down the diagnosis relatively reliably. Supplementary blood tests in the laboratory provide information on inflammatory processes in the organism, a possible vitamin deficiency or diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Churg-Strauss syndrome.

Sensitivity and reflex tests are used to diagnose polyneuropathy. Measurements of the nerve conduction velocity are also used for this purpose. In order to determine compression of the nerves, imaging methods such as sonography (ultrasound), computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) or classic x-rays are also used. The combination of imaging procedures (especially ultrasound) and blood tests is also used to confirm the diagnosis of any vascular occlusions in the legs.

Treatment of numbness in the legs

The therapy is basically to be oriented towards the causes of the complaints and can accordingly be extremely different. In most cases of a pinched nerve, the combination of massage and physiotherapy is a successful treatment. If those affected suffer from pain as well as numbness, pain-relieving medication can be used, and a muscle relaxant for muscle tension. Under certain circumstances, however, the symptoms can only be eliminated with the help of a surgical procedure. For example, in rare cases of a herniated disc, surgery is required.

In diseases such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis, no cure can yet be achieved on the basis of the medical options available today, and the therapy therefore focuses on alleviating the symptoms and slowing down the course of the disease.

If the numbness in the legs is due to circulatory disorders as a result of an acute vascular occlusion, attempts are made to dissolve this with the help of medication. Anticoagulant and blood-thinning preparations are also supposed to facilitate blood flow. So-called compression stockings serve the same purpose. If the circulatory disorder is based on cardiac insufficiency, an operation may also be necessary here, in the course of which, for example, a bypass is placed or a pacemaker implanted.

For fibromyalgia syndrome, the current treatment guidelines recommend a combination of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, physical procedures, medication, psychotherapy and psychological procedures.

Benign ulcers, which constrict the nerves, as well as malignant tumors, are surgically removed in most cases. In the case of malignant tumors, the two other instruments of cancer therapy, radiation and chemotherapy, may also be used.

Alternative treatments

In addition to acupuncture, naturopathy relies primarily on manual treatment methods such as osteopathy, chiropractic or Rolfing for complaints caused by pinched nerves. According to their holistic approach, complaints in other parts of the body, such as neck tension, are taken into account and included in the treatment.

Various herbal medicinal products, homeopathic remedies and Schuessler salts are used to alleviate any pain that may arise from pinched nerves. Hydrotherapy (for example, Kneipp watering, treading water) is increasingly being used to combat numbness caused by circulatory disorders. Since muscle-related nerve compression and the associated numbness are also associated with the acid-base balance or over-acidification of the organism, naturopathic treatment often aims to achieve an appropriate balance.

Movement exercises from the field of yoga, tai chi or qi gong can positively support the treatment of numbness in the legs and develop a preventive effect. However, already irritated nerves should urgently be spared and not strained further.

For alternative treatment methods, however, there has been no evidence of their effectiveness against the complaints mentioned and naturopathy does not offer any promising therapeutic approaches for certain causes of numbness, such as cancer. The methods are therefore not to be understood as a substitute for conventional treatments, but rather as a supplement that generally requires a medical consultation before use. (fp)

Image 1: neurolle - Rolf / pixelio.de

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.

  • William S. David, Michael P. Bowley, William A. Mehan, John H. Shin, Elizabeth R. Gerstner, John C. DeWitt: Case 19-2017 - A 53-Year-Old Woman with Leg Numbness and Weakness; in The New England Journal of Medicine, June 22, 2017, nejm.org
  • Mendoza, Erika: Other leg diseases. In: Guide to varicose veins, leg swelling and thrombosis. Springer, 2016, pp. 89-102
  • German pain society: definition, pathophysiology, diagnosis and therapy of fibromyalgia syndrome, guideline fibromyalgia syndrome, 2nd update 2017, DGPPN
  • Michael Pourfar: The numb and the restless Peripheral neuropathy and RLS; in Neurology 72 (11): 950-1, April 2009, researchgate
  • Stephan Esser, Mckennan Thurston, Krishna Nalluri, Aurelio Muzaurieta: “Numb-Leg” in a CrossFit Athlete: A Case Presentation, in PM&R, August 2017, Volume 9, Issue 8, Pages 834-836, sciencedirect.com
  • Dan Ziegler, Jutta Keller, Christoph Maier, Jürgen Pannek: Diabetic Neuropathy; in Diabetology and Metabolism 2018; 13 (S 02), pages 230-236, deutsche-diabetes-gesellschaft.de

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.