Tingling in feet and legs

Pain and Tingling Legs

(Keywords: TINGLING IN FEET AND LEGS, Tingling legs, chiropractic help, tingling in arms and hands )

Paresthesias, as they are known, are a sign that tissue is starved of either blood or nervous input. Sitting with your legs crossed, places pressure on the Femoral artery, starving the tissues in the lower legs of oxygen. The result? Tingling legs. The cure? Uncross your legs!

This website is not about vascular causes of tingling legs, but you might enjoy this short story from STONES IN MY CLOG by chiropractor Bernard Preston. Click on the picture.

Two main nerves supplying the legs...

More commonly, the source of the tingling is an irritated or frankly pinched nerve. It could be in the Brain or Spinal Cord, but more usually the site of injury is where the nerve emerges from the spine, in the buttock or the groin.


The sciatic nerve belongs the very lowermost part of your lumbar spine, coursing via the buttock to the leg and foot. SLUMP TEST for Sciatica is easy to do at home.


The femoral nerve on the other hand emerges from rather higher in the lumbar spine, and courses through the groin to the top of the upper leg, and inner lower leg. However, the pinched nerve test for the Femoral nerve, unlike the Slump test for sciatica, is not easily done at home.


S1 nerve root

It helps your chiropractor if you can tell him/her precisely where your tingling in feet and legs is. For example, does the tingling go to the side of your foot? However, whilst for 75% of people a sciatica from the L5-S1 joint will go down the back of the thigh and leg, and to the side of the foot, less commonly (see the yellow and green patterns) it may mimic a sciatica from the L4-L5 joint, and go down the side of the leg.

Part of the problem is that an intraforaminal disc extrusion at the L5/S1 level will affect the L5 nerve root, but a more medial herniation would impact on the S1 nerve root. So, the same disc can affect two different nerve roots.

Thus, one can not be certain of which disc is effected by the dermatomal pattern. A careful physical examination of the spine is in order.  That would include range of motion tests, orthopaedic tests, neurological tests, and at least an X-ray.

Sometimes, because not uncommonly degenerative change occurs at several levels, an MRI is necessary to confirm with absolute certainty at which level the offending lesion is to be found that is causing tingling in feet and legs.

MRI has one other not unimportant advantage: it's not ionising radiation. But the cost is huge. About ten times as much as an X-ray.

All these symptoms are common:

  • tingling
  • pain, and
  • possibly weakness in the legs and feet.

How reliable are X-rays? Very useful but in cases of severe radiating leg pain an MRI is mandatory. On a personal note, I recently suffered a severe disc extrusion into the foramen. But that disc, as seen on X-ray, was one of the best in my lumbar spine.

Irritated nerves in the lumbar spine may be affected by a

  1. slipped disk ...
  2. lumbar facet syndrome ...

The most common sciatica refers to the outside of the foot and the small toe. If there is weakness you will have difficulty standing on one foot and raising your heel from the ground.

Try it! Hold onto a chair, stand on one leg and raise your heel repeatedly. You should be able to do it without any sign of fatigue or shaking of the lower leg. An S1 sciatica may make this difficult.

In my opinion, everyone should be doing some gentle lumbar exercises, because we all sit too much, and almost the whole population will experience acute low back pain at some stage of their lives. But this is vitally important if you have tingling in the feet and legs. At CHIROPRACTIC TIPS you will find some suggestions on a few conservative exercises for your back. They only take 60 seconds, literally, in bed in the morning. For more information, click here: CHIROPRACTIC TIPS ...

Tapping on the Achilles tendon tests the integrity of the S1 nerve to determine if it could be the cause of tingling legs.

L5 nerve root

The L5 nerve root is most commonly affected by the L4-L5 disc joint, though the nerve emerges at one level lower. The tingling in feet and legs (and/or pain) is more commonly on the side of the lower leg, and the great toe, though it can affect the side of the thigh too.

If there is weakness, you will be unable to lift your great toe off the ground. This means that you may trip as you walk, as you foot isn't lifted properly in the swing phase. Is your leg tingling, and do you also have weakness?

L4 nerve root

The L4 nerve root is less commonly the cause of tingling in feet and legs and, when it does, it's a real bugger. In my experience it responds less well to manipulation, and better to flexion-distraction. It shares slips with both the sciatic and the femoral nerves.

The knee jerk reflex may be reduced, and weakness can affect the major flexor of the knee, the Quadriceps muscle. The result is a profound limp, and weakness on stair-climbing, as well as a leg tingling.


This page is quite long enough, so we will cover the FEMORAL NERVE on a different page. Less frequently troublesome than the Sciatic nerve, the Femoral nerve typically causes pain in the groin and front part of the thigh, and weakness of the Quadriceps muscle. So does hip arthritis, so careful examination is paramount. Femoral nerve damage ... an account of my own severe injury, successfully treated with chiropractic manipulation.

Meralgia Paresthetica

Then there are some lesser nerves from the lumbar spine. One such is the Lateral Femoral Cutaneous nerve. Irritated in the upper lumbar spine by a spinal subluxation, and pinched in the groin where it passes under the inguinal ligament, can cause pain and tingling in the upper thigh.

Whilst meralgia paresthetica is generally considered a "medical" condition, and a difficult condition to treat medically at that, I have had great success in treating MP.

Very occasionally it can be caused by an infection or mass in the abdomen. Fortunately rarely, the usual site is in the groin and jointly in the upper lumbar spine. Read more about Upper leg pain

Arthritis in lower back is no more uncommon than grey hair. In one sense it's a normal part of aging.

Any degenerative changes in the joints in the lower spine can have a direct effect on the nerve roots emerging from the spine. Arthritis in lower back however is considered by many in the medical community to be an untreatable disease, except perhaps by anti inflammatory drugs or even more radical lumbar surgery.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In the case at the page above (arthritis in lower back) you can read how an elderly woman with advanced arthritis gained very significant relief of pain from Chiropractic Help.

Frequently the irritation of the nerve is in any case, due to a subluxation, and not arthritic at all.

However, prevention of tingling in feet and legs is obviously better than a cure. Everyone suffering from chronic lower back pain should spend two minutes EVERY morning before getting out of bed doing this simple spinal stenosis exercise ...

Piriformis Syndrome

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Google has gone through an enormous shakeup in the last year, giving webmasters much grief.

Meantime, use the search function near the top of the left column to find more information about subject material mentioned on the page where links have probably been removed.  There are over 360 pages at chiropractic help; it's become a veritable encyclopedia dedicated to better health.

A small muscle in the buttock can entrap the sciatic nerve causing a tingling in feet and legs. Because of its attachment on the sacrum there is often an associated sacroiliac joint subluxation...

Read more: Piriformis syndrome ...


Experts say that walking helps heal damaged nerves 

The pain and tingling in legs and feet experienced by up to half of diabetic patients is caused by high blood sugar which damages the nerve. Since walking, cycling, swimming etc improve the blood circulation in the lower limbs it helps the oxygenation of the nerves.

One profound study proved that diabetics who walk regularly don't get diabetic neuropathy. As long as they keep walking. That's big! The research also found that it slowed the progression of any existing neuropathy.

Walking also is one of the simplest ways of reducing blood sugar, that's key because it's the increased blood sugar that is the problem in the first place.

Walking benefits in the outdoors releases the feel-good endorphins from the pineal gland in the brain, increasing our tolerance of pain.

B vitamins, particularly B12, are also known to help nerve pain. Walking benefits ...

Insufficient blood 

All living tissue needs oxygen, nutrients and the removal of waste products. Yet another cause of tingling in feet and legs is a condition called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Yes, you guessed it. Very few smokers escape this nasty furring of the arteries, and it's far worse if their cholesterol is raised, or they are diabetic. Atherosclerosis is the reason why diabetic smokers lose toes and go blind - tissues starved of oxygen. Tingling legs is the norm...In the leg, atherosclerosis reduces the blood flow so that the muscles don't get enough oxygen. When called to exercise, the muscles begin to tingle and hurt due to a condition called Intermittent Claudication.

Tingling in arms and hands

Likewise, tingling in the upper limbs is caused by an irritation of the nerve somewhere along its course from the neck to the hand. The so-called DOUBLE CRUSH syndrome is now well recognised - in conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in which the nerve is trapped in the wrist, there is also an underlying impingement in the neck. How otherwise could chiropractic possibly help such conditions as CTS, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder ...


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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr B  came initially for a painful and stiff neck and then asked whether chiropractic could help the cold numb feeling running down the side of his thigh for six months. Meralgia paresthetica is a double crush syndrome with the nerve affected in the back and groin. He's 80% improved after five treatments.

2. Mrs C has a long history of severe, disabling migraine headaches since having her wisdom teeth removed. She clenches her teeth at night. After six treatments she has no migraines but some jaw joint discomfort remains; a bite plate is in the offing.

3. Mrs U has the trophy for the worst back this year. After major surgery with plates and screws two years later she still had paresis in the lower leg and severe disabling back pain. She's doing far better than expected, in no little part due to a lift in her shoe for a very short leg.

4. Mr V is 86 years old and hurt his back helping his wife into the car. Just one treatment of the sacroiliac joint and he's eighty percent better. It's not always like that.

5. Mr W lay on his back knocking down a pillar. Turning his head causes severe vertigo. He needs the Epley exercises, not pills, research shows. Update, he's fine.

6. Mrs X, a young mother has severe lower back pain, with numbness down the posterior thigh, calf and side of her foot. It started after a long drive in the car. After six treatments she is 60 percent better, but it's slow and is going to take the full 6 weeks to heal.

And now a setback, after lifting her child she now has leg pain. It's going to the be difficult.

7. This lady is a 70 year old woman, is on maintenance care for a nasty lumbar stenosis despite having to do everything at home. Her husband has a hospital acquired infection after a total shoulder replacement. After four operations he is incapacitated.

8. She is an 78 year old woman, is doing remarkably well with a bad sciatica. But over 200 pounds she is not losing weight; in fact, gaining despite my suggestions. She's high risk for a stroke. I have referred her to a dietician to crack the whip.

9. This man is a 73 year old engineer, still working, is doing fine after a long episode of lower back pain. Some pain on the side of the hip remains after five treatments. I reassured him it's not hip arthritis.

10. A 64 year old woman has had scheuermanns disease; it's left her with a spinal kyphosis and chronic middorsal pain. She responds well to chiropractic treatment provides she come every six weeks or so for maintenance treatment.

11. Mr C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mrs D, a middle aged woman with hip pain of one year duration, despite other treatment. Xrays reveal an impingement syndrome and early hip arthritis. There's much to be done.

13. Both Mrs E and I can't believe how much better her lower back and leg pain are. Surgery for a scoliosis and spondylolysthesis three years ago helped greatly for one year. But then her leg went lame and weak. He was responded extremely well despite all expectations.

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

Have a problem that's not getting better? Looking for a different slant on your pain? Want to pose a question?

Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.
You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70% of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there's a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong! Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what chiropractors do.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my ebooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful, from the life and work of a chiropractor, you'll love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the price without telling me.