It might be the number one unspoken rule of life: If someone tells you they’re experiencing numb feet, don’t playfully smack their legs – unless you want to risk losing a friend.
Foot numbness, also called paresthesia, is very common. Numbness is often accompanied by a tingling sensation, or the feeling of dull needles pricking the skin. While this “pins and needles” sensation is not necessarily painful, it’s very uncomfortable, and it can be a tad nerve-wracking. The feeling is universally known, but few people realize there are actually things you can do at home to alleviate the issue.
What Causes Foot Numbness?
There are many reasons your feet may become numb. Let’s dive in and look at a few.
1. One of the most common reasons for “pins and needles” is sitting or standing in the same position for too long. Or, similarly, crossing your legs for too long. 1
2. Another common cause of toe numbness is compression of the nerves (a “pinched nerve”) in the foot, usually due to poorly fitting footwear.2
3. People with diabetes are at risk of losing feeling in their feet if their blood sugar is not properly regulated.3
4. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, persistent numbness or tingling in your hands, face, or body can be an early indication of multiple sclerosis. In fact, it’s often the first symptom.4
5. Fibromyalgia is still a deeply mysterious, though common, condition that doctors are still battling to understand. It can cause muscle pain, unexplained exhaustion, and numbness and tingling in the legs and feet. It’s thought to be initiated by the brain amplifying pain signals, and if often brought about by stress, trauma, or infections.5
6. Peripheral neuropathy is basically damage to the peripheral nervous system. It is a condition that can cause numbness and tingling, pricking sensations (paresthesia), or even muscle weakness. Peripheral neuropathy can be inherited, caused by other diseases, or by injury-type trauma.6
7. Certain medications can also cause nerve damage, resulting in peripheral neuropathy. But this type of peripheral neuropathy will often go away when the drugs are discontinued. Such medications include: certain cancer medications, anticonvulsants, heart or blood pressure medications, and infection-fighting drugs.7
8. Alcohol-related nerve damage can be caused by the “poisoning” of nerve tissue or chronic poor nutrition that often occurs hand-in-hand with alcoholism. This often shows itself as numbness and tingling in the legs and feet, or other parts of the body.8
If your numbness isn’t a serious risk, then you can explore how to combat it at home.
Here are 12 effective home remedies for foot numbness:
Since foot numbness is often caused by poor circulation, getting up and moving can improve blood flow and help your feet feel better.9 Taking a brisk walk or jogging for a few minutes can help you get feeling back into your feet. Stretching your feet by flexing and pointing your ankles may also help.
Massaging your feet can help improve circulation and blood flow. 10 This is particularly useful for people who are physically unable to exercise. Some people like to use coconut or olive oil to more easily massage their feet.
3. Vitamin B12
People who are deficient in vitamin B12 may experience numbness in their hands and feet. 11 Vitamin B12 is essential to a healthy diet and can be found naturally in meat and dairy products. Adults need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily.12 If you’re not getting enough in your diet, try taking an over-the-counter supplement. Most multivitamins also contain Vitamin B12.
4. Sleeping Position
If numbness occurs when you’re sleeping (common for those suffering with peripheral neuropathy), try putting a pillow underneath your feet to elevate them when you’re in bed. If you’re experiencing swelling in your feet, elevating them will also help reduce inflammation. 13
5. Electrolyte Supplements
Electrolytes are important minerals in your body that carry a small electrical charge. If you have an electrolyte deficiency, your muscles may feel weak, and numbness can occur. 14 Some common electrolytes are calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. If you aren’t getting enough of these electrolytes from your diet, ask your doctor if you should take supplements.
6. Warm Compress
Using a warm compress on your feet can help them feel normal again. The heat will bring more blood to your feet, improving your circulation. 15 Make sure the compress is warm and not hot – if you don’t have feeling in your feet, you won’t be able to tell if it’s too hot, and the compress may burn your skin. To make a warm compress, simply wet a washcloth with warm water and wring it out. A heating pad could also be used.
Tingling hands and feet can be an indicator of moderate dehydration. Make sure you’re drinking enough water – men should have about 13 cups of water daily, including all foods and beverages. Women should drink a total of nine cups daily. 16
8. Wearing Properly Fitting Shoes
Too-tight or even too-loose shoes can cause a host of foot problems, including numbness. To ensure you’re buying the right size, have your feet professionally measured. High-heeled shoes can cause a painful condition called Morton’s neuroma. 17 This occurs when a nerve in your foot is constantly pinched, and it can cause your toes to become numb. Wearing comfortable, low-heeled shoes usually stops the numbness associated with this condition.
9. Epsom Salt
Many people enjoy soaking their feet in Epsom salt, which is the more common name for magnesium sulfate. This remedy eases tired muscles and may improve circulation. 18 To use therapeutically, add one to two cups to your bath, then soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
Turmeric has been used as medicine in India for over 4,000 years. One of the many medical benefits of turmeric is its ability to improve blood circulation. A recent study showed that taking turmeric can have the same effects on circulation as exercise in postmenopausal women. 19 Many people have used turmeric for nerve-related problems, including numbness of the feet.20
Cinnamon may be one of the most common spices, but it is also a powerful medicine shown to increase blood circulation, which may help stop foot numbness. 21 This spice also has the added benefit of regulating blood sugar for diabetics. 22
12. Healthy Lifestyle
Smoking can contribute to poor circulation, a major cause of foot numbness. 23 Alcohol can also negatively affect nerve tissue, which makes numbness more likely to occur. 24 Doctors recommend stopping smoking and alcohol intake to stop numbness and tingling. 25 Additionally, obesity may be the cause of foot numbness for some, so losing weight may be beneficial.
When to See a Doctor
Most numbness in the feet is harmless, but it could sometimes indicate a more serious condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek medical care immediately if your numbness comes on suddenly, if your whole leg is numb, if you’ve recently had a head injury, or if you also experience confusion, weakness, paralysis, or a sudden headache. 26
Foot numbness can be a common problem, especially for older adults and people with certain health conditions. Try these at-home remedies to get your blood circulating properly, and your feet will feel better soon!
Article updated: March 14, 2018
For more foot health tips, keep reading here:
5 Signs You’re Wearing Shoes Too Small
3 Flat Feet Exercises (that really help strengthen arches!)
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