What It Really Means When You Can't Feel Your Feet

At one point or another, you've probably experienced the tingling discomfort of your foot having fallen asleep after a few hours spent lounging on the couch. Waddling around trying to shake that foot awake in an effort to regain feeling can be awkward and uncomfortable.

According to The Center for Foot Care, this tingling sensation, known as paresthesia, is a result of prolonged pressure being placed on the nerve, which in turn limits blood circulation. In addition to blood flow, neuron messaging from the foot to the brain is also constricted. Without any information as to what the foot is feeling, the brain interprets this as numbness. While annoying, this numbness generally subsides once we resume regular movement. Paresthesia is temporary, but there are cases in which people experience regular ongoing numbness in the feet. What is the cause of chronic foot numbness, and are there ways to relieve the discomfort?

Certain health conditions can cause numbness in the feet

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), numbness in the feet can occur as a result of what's known as peripheral neuropathy. Often felt in the feet, this numbness can also be experienced in the hands, arms, and legs. Diabetes is one possible condition that can cause numbness in the feet. The American Diabetes Association reports that 50% of those diagnosed with diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy.

Much like when our feet fall asleep, cysts and tumors can also place pressure on nerves that can limit blood circulation to areas of the body such as the feet (via Medical News Today). However, it's not just the nerves in the feet that can cause foot-numbing sensations. Those diagnosed with sciatica, characterized by damage to the sciatic nerve located between the lower spine and the legs, may also experience numbness in the feet as a result.

According to Medical News Today, symptom relief methods can range from prescription medications to at-home exercises. For example, those diagnosed with diabetes may see improvement in symptoms through the use of medications such as gabapentin and pregabalin. Others may find relief from methods designed to prompt blood flow such as massage, epsom salt baths, or exercise, or by applying heat or ice to the affected area to release nerve pressure. If you find that you're experiencing ongoing numbness in the feet, particularly if accompanied by discoloration or changes in appearance, be sure to consult with a physician.