What are Tingling and Numbness?
Tingling and numbness are unusual or unpleasant physical sensations, most commonly experienced in extremities like the toes, feet, legs, arms, hands, and fingers.
Tingling and numbness take two different forms:
Paresthesia: a feeling of “pins and needles” on the skin, or the insensate feeling of the hand or arm having “fallen asleep.”
Dysesthesia: a less common, more persistent sensation of itching or pain that can resemble burning, electric shock, or tightening.
What Causes Tingling and Numbness?
Paresthesia may result from a reduced flow of blood to the extremity. This can be caused simply by external pressure that constricts the blood vessels.
Injuries to the nervous system can also produce numbness and tingling, even in places on the body far from the actual injury. Neck pain through neck injury may cause feelings of numbness or tingling in the hand or arm. A lower back injury can result in tingling on the back of the leg.
Why the sensation of numbness and tingling?
Some kind of nerve impingement is a common culprit. Nerves could be pinched, “entrapped,” irritated, compressed, or severed by such conditions as herniated discs and diseases of the spine, such as arthritis, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.
Other possible culprits include:
- Enlarged blood vessels
- Tumors, scar tissue, or infection
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation that puts pressure on nerves in the wrist
- Migraines or other kinds of headaches
- Golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow
- Trigger points in the muscles
- Myofascial adhesions
- Thoracic Outlet syndrome
- Lesions on the spinal disc
- Calcium deficiency
- Liver or kidney disease
- Drug abuse or alcoholism
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Multiple sclerosis
Are Tingling and Numbness Serious?
While unpleasant and sometimes scary, paresthesia, the “pins and needles” sensation or numbness of your arm or leg falling asleep, is rarely serious. Dysesthesia is less common and may be a symptom of more serious nerve damage or a chronic inflammatory condition. Be wary of uncomfortable or painful numbness and tingling that persists and/or has no discernible cause.
Tingling and numbness around the back, neck, and shoulders are of particular concern. If the sensation lasts significantly longer than a few minutes, consider a medical assessment.
How Does a Chiropractor Help with Tingling and Numbness?
To determine the appropriate course of treatment, the cause of the tingling and numbness must be accurately diagnosed by a doctor.
If no diagnosis has been made, the doctor will begin with a thorough examination. Depending on the nature or severity of the sensation, the examination might include:
- Muscle tests
- Neurological tests
- Orthopedic tests
- Range-of-motion tests
The doctor may palpate the effective areas and order X-Rays if deemed medically necessary. If further testing is needed to diagnose the source of the sensation, the doctor may order an MRI or CT scan.
Once the underlying condition is diagnosed, a chiropractor can design a treatment plan to eliminate irritation, correct misalignments causing pressure, and restore proper nerve function.
Conservative treatment under the care of a chiropractor often provides significant relief of symptoms.
Exact treatment plans vary from case to case, but may include:
- chiropractic adjustment
- spinal manipulation
- application of ice
- deep-tissue massage
Typically, the goal is to relieve pressure on the nerves. Nerves that exit the spine or that pass through narrow or constricted passages within the body are particularly vulnerable.
Chiropractic adjustment can help reposition the vertebrae (spinal column bones), a necessary step to resolve herniated discs.
Deep-tissue massage can help release tensions and eliminate toxins that make the sensations worse.
Finally, chiropractic treatment improved circulation and relieves pressure on the neural pathways, a necessary step to restore normal neural signaling between the body and the brain.
In addition to targeting tingling and numbness, treatments from a chiropractor promote the overall wellness and health of the entire body.
What Evidence Supports the Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care in Treating Tingling and Numbness?
Plenty! Numerous case studies attest to the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment in the treatment of tingling and numbness.
One 24-year-old woman suffered from paresthesia in her right arm. The “pins and needles” sensation usually subsides after a few minutes. This sensation, however, persisted for two years, leaving the patient unable to sleep. One week under the care of a chiropractor completely eliminated her symptoms.
Another case study treated 162 people suffering from radiculopathy, a “pinched-nerve” condition that can cause pain (“radicular pain”), numbness, weakness, and loss of muscular control. After nine visits to a chiropractor, 85% of the test subjects experienced relief from pain, tingling, and numbness associated with their condition.