Numbness or Tingling

Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Numbness or tingling is an unpleasant sensation in which there is reduced or absent feeling in the skin or a "pins and needles" sensation. The most common reason for numbness or tingling is a problem with nerve function, either because the nerve itself is injured, something is pressing on the nerve, or an imbalance in the body's chemistry interferes with nerve function. Most causes are not dangerous, but when muscle weakness or paralysis is also present, numbness and tingling should be treated as an emergency.

At the end of this guide, you will be offered links to more detailed information about the most common causes of tingling or numbness; however, there are rare causes of symptoms that will not be included here and would require more detailed evaluation than this guide can provide.

Please keep in mind that this guide is not intended to replace a face-to-face evaluation with your doctor. The goal of this guide is to provide information while awaiting evaluation with your doctor or additional information after you have seen him or her.

Certain symptoms suggest a serious cause of tingling and numbness that requires prompt attention. It's important to ask questions about these symptoms first.

Did your numbness or tingling begin after a significant injury, such as a fall or car accident?

Yes, the numbness or tingling began after a significant injury.

No, the numbness or tingling did not begin after an injury.


Medical Reviewer: LeWine, Howard MD Last Annual Review Date: 2006-05-04T00:00:00-06:00