Tingling in Feet: 11 Common Causes & What to Do

Clinical review: Marcelle Pinheiro
Physiotherapist
February 2022
  1. Poor body positioning 
  2. Herniated disc 
  3. Peripheral neuropathy 
  4. Panic attacks, anxiety and stress
  5. Multiple sclerosis
  6. Beriberi
  7. Fractures
  8. Diabetes 
  9. Guillain–Barré Syndrome
  10. Animal bites
  11. Atherosclerosis

Tingling in the legs and feet can occur simply due to poor positioning of the body, but it can also be a sign of a herniated disc, diabetes or multiple sclerosis. It can also occur with a fracture or an animal bite. 

It is important to seek medical attention if the tingling happens frequently or if it associated with other symptoms like back pain, weakness, decreased or lack of sensibility and cramping. 

Once the signs and symptoms are assessed, the doctor can determine whether further testing is necessary to help identify the cause of the tingling. From here, treatment can be initiated, and it can involve the use of medication or surgery in some cases. 

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1. Poor body positioning 

One of the most common causes of tingling in the feet or legs is sitting, laying or standing in a prolonged position. Tingling can happen when sitting on top of your foot, for example, due to decreased circulation and compression of the local nerve. 

What to do: Ideally you should change positions frequently and stretch at least once a day to stimulate circulation throughout the day. You should also take breaks to walk or stand if you are sitting for long periods, such as at work or on a flight.

2. Herniated disc 

A herniated disc consists of a weakness in the intervertebral disc. It causes symptoms like back pain and spinal numbness, which can radiate to the legs and toes and cause tingling. 

What to do: It is important to see a doctor to indicate appropriate treatment, which may involve the use of analgesics, muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and inflammation. Physiotherapy and surgery may be used in more severe cases. 

3. Peripheral neuropathy 

Peripheral neuropathy is characterized by changes to the nerves in the body. It can result in severe pain, tingling, weakness and decreased sensitivity to some specific parts of the body. 

What to do: Treatment is usually aimed toward relieving the presenting symptoms and treating the underlying illness causing the neuropathy. It may consist of pain relief through medication use, and physiotherapy to rehab the affected areas. 

4. Panic attacks, anxiety and stress

Stressful situations and extreme anxiety can cause symptoms like tingling in the hands, arms, tongue and legs, cold sweats, palpitations, chest pain and abdominal pain. 

What to do: In these cases, you should try to remain calm and deep breathe to improve blood circulation. If this is not possible, you should see the doctor for more specific treatment. You can also try some home remedies to treat anxiety at home.

5. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that is characterized by inflammation. It results in the destruction of the myelin sheath that covers and protects neurons, which interferes with the transmission of electrical impulses. This can affect body movements, like talking or walking, and the patient eventually becomes bedridden. In addition to feeling tingling in the extremities, this condition can also cause twitching in the muscles and difficulty walking. 

What to do: Multiple sclerosis does not have a cure and treatment is often life long. It can consist of medications that decrease the progression of the illness like interferon, fingolimod, natalizumab and glatiramer acetate. Corticosteroids can reduce the intensity and time of flare-ups. Other medications that can also help with associated symptoms are analgesics, muscle relaxants and antidepressants.   

6. Beriberi

Beriberi is an illness caused by low vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels. It can cause symptoms like muscular cramping, double vision, confusion and tingling in the hands and feet. 

What to do: Treatment of this condition consists of vitamin B1 supplementation, elimination of alcohol in the diet, and increasing the intake of food with B1, like oatmeal, sunflower seeds and rice.  

7. Fractures

When treating a fracture, the affected bone must be immobilized for some time, making it prone to a mild compression from the case. This compression can cause some tingling in the area. Tingling in the legs occurs more frequently with hip fractures. 

What to do: One thing that can help reduce the sensation of tingling to keep the affected bone slightly elevated. If it is very uncomfortable, you should see your doctor. 

8. Diabetes 

Diabetes can cause poor circulation, especially in the extremities, like the hands and feet. Tingling can be a sign of the development of a wound or ulcer in the feet or hands. 

What to do: In these cases, it is important to manage you blood sugar levels adequately. You should be cautious with your diet and walk for at least 30 minutes per day to promote circulation throughout the body. 

9. Guillain–Barré Syndrome

Guillain–Barré syndrome is a serious neurological illness that is characterized by nerve inflammation and muscle weakness that can lead to death. In most cases, it is diagnosed following a viral infection, like dengue or siza. One of the most common symptoms is tingling and loss of sensibility in the arms and legs. 

What to do: Normally, treatment is is done in the hospital by filtering the blood to remove antibodies that are attacking the nervous system, Antibodies can be injected to fight the antibodies attacking the nerves to reduce inflammation. 

10. Animal bites

Animal and insect bites from bees, snakes or spiders for example can cause local tingling. Bites can also cause symptoms like swelling, fever and burning.

What to do: The first thing you should do is to try to identify the animal or insect that bit you. Wash the area well and proceed to the hospital as soon as possible. 

11. Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is characterized by the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arterial vessel linings. It occurs gradually over time and can block blood flow, causing an infarct or a stroke. Most symptoms only occur when the vessel is totally blocked. Symptoms can include chest pain, difficulty breathing, leg pain, fatigue, tingling and muscular weakness in the area with poor circulation. 

What to do: To relieve symptoms of atherosclerosis and prevent the development of other cardiac illnesses, it is important to be cautious with your diet by consuming less fatty and sugary foods. You should also engage in regular physical activity. You are advised to seek medical attention as soon as you notice any symptoms. 

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Edited by Tua Saude editing team in February 2022. Clinical review completed by Marcelle Pinheiro - Physiotherapist in February 2022.
Clinical review:
Marcelle Pinheiro
Physiotherapist
Physiotherapist degree provided by the University of Estácio de Sá (Brazil). Licensed to practice under CREFITO #170751.