When is Numbness or Tingling a Cause for Concern?

numbness or tingling

Numbness or tingling may be a sign of an underlying orthopedic condition. Learn more about common causes of these symptoms, as well as effective treatment options.

Do you have a feeling of numbness or tingling in your back, shoulders, or extremities? Typically, these sensations arise when the nerves are compressed or damaged, causing what is known as paresthesias. Symptoms include a sensation of pins-and-needles or a lack of feeling altogether.

Numbness or tingling may indicate an underlying degenerative condition or strike after a sudden trauma. With conservative treatment, the symptoms will often diminish, although in more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the condition.

What Causes Numbness and Tingling?

If you’re experiencing numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, or back, you’re likely dealing with one of the following four orthopedic ailments. Despite the discomfort they cause, each condition is generally treatable with conservative therapies.


The term sciatica, or lumbar radiculopathy, refers to a collection of symptoms that could be attributed to several different causes. Sciatica patients report pain in the lower back along with a tingling sensation radiating from the lower back to the buttocks and legs. The condition may also lead to numbness in your leg or foot. 

The most common causes of sciatica include lumbar spinal stenosis (a progressive narrowing of the spinal canal), disc herniation, and, less commonly, piriformis syndrome — a compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle that runs from the buttocks to the hip joint. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications can reduce pain, and depending upon the location of the compressed nerve, cortisone injections into the lumbar region of the back or the piriformis may be given. Surgery is rarely recommended for sciatica.

Herniated Disc

The vertebrae in the spine are held together by cartilage-filled discs. When a disc ruptures, it often irritates nearby nerves, causing severe pain in the neck or lower back, as well as numbness or tingling in the extremities. Herniated discs don’t usually result from a sudden trauma, but most often from twisting your back or even a cough that pushes a disc out of place.  

After a period of rest, herniated discs respond well to conservative treatments involving physical therapy to strengthen the core muscles in the lower back and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. More severe pain can be treated with an epidural steroid injection. If those therapies fail to bring relief, patients may undergo surgery to remove all or part of the damaged disc or a procedure to fuse the vertebrae together.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a progressive deterioration of the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae. As we age, the discs lose moisture and shrink, putting pressure on the nerves. Pain in the neck and upper back, numbness and tingling in the shoulders or arms, and muscle spasms rank as the most common signs of degenerative disc disease.

Treatment for degenerative disc disease aims to lessen the pressure in the back through physical therapy exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting your spine. A physical therapist also works with patients to correct posture. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers or medical massage may be recommended as well. However, surgery is rarely offered, except in severe cases to restore stability to the spine.

Broken Bone

Whether due to an accident or a sports injury, a bone fracture may protrude into surrounding nerves, resulting in tingling or numbness. The severity and location of the break dictates treatment. In the case of a broken leg, for instance, a splint is generally used to lock your leg in place as the bones heal. A more serious fracture might require surgery. 

Treatment for Numbness and Tingling

The experienced physicians and other staff at New York Bone & Joint Specialists are experts in treating a variety of orthopedic conditions. If you’ve lost sensation in your lower back, shoulders, or legs, accompanied by pins and needles, come to our office for a complete diagnostic work-up with imaging tests. We can find out the cause of your symptoms and design a personalized therapy plan. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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