Numbness, Tingling and Nerve Pain

Numbness, tingling and nerve pain are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your body, but are often felt in your fingers, hands, feet, arms, or legs.

There are many possible causes:

  • Injury to a nerve — for example, a neck injury may cause you to feel numbness anywhere along your arm or hand, while a low back injury can cause numbness or tingling down the back of your leg
  • Pressure on the spinal nerves, such as from a herniated disc
  • Pressure on peripheral nerves from enlarged blood vessels, tumors, scar tissue or infection

Your physiotherapist will help diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your numbness, tingling and nerve pain. If you experience any of the following signs or symptoms you should immediately attend a hospital emergency department.

  • Weakness or paralysis occurs with numbness or tingling
  • Numbness or tingling occur just after a head, neck, or back injury
  • You cannot control the movement of an arm or a leg or you have lost bladder or bowel control
  • You are confused or have lost consciousness, even briefly
  • You have slurred speech, change in vision, difficulty walking, or weakness

Acute nerve root compression

What is acute nerve root compression?

Acute nerve root compression refers to when a nerve leaving from the spinal cord is compressed by a structure within the back. The most common sites are at the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (low back).

What causes acute nerve root compression?

Acute nerve root compression most commonly occurs when an intervertebral disc prolapses. When this disc is injured, its contents may prolapse or bulge outwards into the spinal canal that contains the spinal cord and the nerves that lead on towards the legs or arms. This bulge, therefore, can compress these structures. The mechanism of injury can occur following a relatively simple movement such as bending forward or twisting the spine, as well as through a more complex and forceful movement of the spine.

If in addition to back and leg pain, you have numbness in the saddle region and are having difficulty passing water (urination) you should go to your nearest emergency department.

Management of acute nerve root compression and how to fix it

The assistance of a physiotherapist is important in the treatment of acute nerve root pain. Initially, they can assist in diagnosing the problem and determining its severity. This may require the use of imaging techniques such as X-ray, CT scan or MRI. Treatment may include activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications and traction of the spine. The physiotherapist will be able to provide you with a series of stretching and strengthening exercises designed to return you back to participation and to reduce the changes of the injury re-occurring.