Most of us have experienced arm or leg numbness at one point in our lives. Usually it involved sitting in a weird position on a hard surface, or maybe resting your elbow on your desk while making a phone call. Before you know it, your arm or leg is “asleep.” It may feel numb like your mouth does after going to the dentist and receiving novocaine, or all tingly like pins and needles all over your skin. Many people believe that this is the result of the circulation being cut off to that part of the body, but it actually has nothing to do with blood flow and everything to do with nerve flow. When your leg or arm falls asleep, it is the nerve that’s being pinched.
The examples of numbness that I listed above, sitting in a weird position or resting your elbow, happen when you put pressure on the nerve through the skin, and it’s pretty simple for people to realize what is causing the problem. They’ll move their leg or arm and the sensation will slowly return. It’s a little more tricky to diagnose when there doesn’t seem to be any obvious cause. The person may be sitting in a comfortable chair, or maybe even walking at a local store when all of a sudden numbness will set in. There are various reasons why this may happen, but all of them involve the nerve being affected.
In my experience, one of the most common reasons for unexplained numbness in an extremity is having a spine related condition or injury. There are many conditions that can be the cause, but the most common in my experience are subluxation/fixation, degenerative disc disease, and bulging discs. Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrate and in between them are fibrous discs that act as pivoting points for your spine to move and twist in all directions. It’s what gives our spine flexibility and allows us to do many of motions we take for granted in our daily lives. Unfortunately, it’s possible for these vertebrae to become misaligned, and also possible for these discs to suffer injuries or degenerate over time. In both cases, this can lead to symptoms like numbness and tingling because of how our body is built. The holes that the nerves exit our spines can change shape based on how our vertebrae are aligned and can irritate or put pressure on these nerves. Also, this nerve also has to pass right by the disc which can also put pressure on this nerve. In most cases, a nerve won’t be pinched 100% of the time, but only when you move in certain directions. This can cause many different symptoms, but in most cases you will feel one or more of the following: pain in the extremity that that nerve travels to, numbness in the extremity, tightness in the muscles of the extremity, or weakness in the extremity.
If you have a symptom like this, it shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to be examined by a chiropractor or physician to identify the source of this numbness. Based on the presentation of your symptoms, the doctor will be able to recommend a course of action to correct it. In some severe cases diagnostic imaging like an MRI may be needed to identify the problem.
In the 13 years I’ve been practicing chiropractic (dang I’m getting old), there rarely goes a day that I don’t treat a person with numbness or tingling in an extremity. This is because chiropractic has a great record for treating symptoms of numbness as well as other spine related conditions. Chiropractic adjustments can help remove pressure being placed on the nerve and restore it to proper function. If you have numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, it’s time you were examined. Give us a call at 912-691-0111 to set up your appointment.